March 23rd, 2020

To: USW Local 2009 members


We continue to receive a great deal of emails and calls from our members with concerns and questions about individual employer actions and our support with respect to the spread of COVID-19. No question, this is an incredibly stressful time for all of us. The Union is doing our very best to ensure all of our members remain safe but also continue to earn a pay cheque. 500,000 Canadians have filed for EI last week. Safety is of paramount concern but at the same time we are considerate of financial challenges for families as well.

Obviously, things are changing fast. Reports and governmental recommendations are changing daily. We are working extra hard to keep up with what is real; what might happen tomorrow or the next day; and of course, what is just outright misinformation. Below is information that will help assist with all of the questions and concerns being raised.

1.      Every BC employer is required to develop an Exposure Control Plan and most have started doing so. The Union is ensuring that all of our employers are diligent in complying with Regulation 6.34 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. We are asking each of our employers for a copy of their exposure control plan including training records. If any employer needs help in developing an exposure control plan or doing the risk assessment the Union can help them. We have developed our own template.

2.      The Exposure Control Plan must include extra sanitization procedures particularly where there are high touch points. Protocols of employee physical distancing while working, taking breaks, arriving, departing etc. must be formalized.  A 2-meter safe zone must be maintained between all workers at all times of their shift. No person should be sharing tools or any equipment without a strict sanitization procedure. It is management’s responsibility to make sure every worker is provided training regarding the exposure control plan. If any worker feels they haven’t been provided adequate training on the exposure control plan or if there is doubt about the plan at all they should first ask their supervisor to address their concerns and if they do not comply contact the health and safety committee or the Union.

3.      Any worker always has the right to refuse unsafe work if the employer is not doing everything necessary to provide the health and safety of all its workers. This has not changed even in the light of the COVID-19 crisis. If they have reasonable cause to believe that they going to be exposed to an unsafe condition or undue hazard, here is what they need to know:

(a)        An individual must initiate their right to refuse unsafe work. This cannot be done by the union nor the joint health and safety committee. The individual should say to their supervisor that they are exercising their right to refuse unsafe work. They must be clear about what is the threat to their health and safety and should be as specific as possible.

(b)       The supervisor receiving the report must immediately investigate the complaint. If the supervisor determines there is a risk of exposure to an unsafe condition or undue hazard, they must remedy the situation and deal with the risk or exposure. They must also report their findings and actions to the person who makes the complaint.

(c)        If the issue is resolved, the worker will then return to work. If the issue is not resolved to the satisfaction of the worker, the worker who filed the complaint must state that they disagree with the position of the supervisor and are continuing their refusal.  

(d)       A subsequent investigation must be completed which now must involve a supervisor and a worker member of the OH&S committee in the presence of the complainant. If they can resolve it, they will. Once resolved, the worker will return to work.

(e)       If the supervisor and worker rep from the OH&S committee determines, through their investigation, that the work is safe, they will advise the complainant.

(f)         If the complainant still does not agree, they must say they disagree with the position of the supervisor and worker rep. and are continuing their refusal.  It is at this point that WorkSafeBC will be called in to determine if there is an unsafe condition or undue hazard. The Prevention Officer has many tools to help them with solutions including writing orders that the employer must follow.  

(g)        The law prevents anyone from being disciplined or treated negatively because they have exercised their right to refuse unsafe work.

We cannot rush these steps or jump to the end. We must follow them in this order. If you have any questions, or if your OH&S committee members are needing help to do the investigation, they can contact the Union Servicing Rep.


4.      Employment Insurance - Service Canada will support Canadians affected by COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, with the following support actions:

(a)      The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim

(b)     Establishing a new dedicated toll-free phone number to support enquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period

(c)      Priority EI application processing for EI sickness claims for clients under quarantine

(d)     People claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine will not have to provide a medical certificate

(e)     People who cannot complete their claim for EI sickness benefits due to quarantine may apply later and have their EI claim backdated to cover the period of delay

(f)       Contact the new dedicated toll-free phone number if you are in quarantine and seeking to waive the one-week EI sickness benefits waiting period so you can be paid for the first week of your claim:  Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free)

(g)      Up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits are available. The number of weeks of benefits you get depends on how long you’re unable to work for medical reasons. You could receive 55% of your insurable earnings up to a maximum of $573 a week. 

5.   The Federal Government is introducing a $10 billion Emergency Care Benefit (ECB) for quarantined or sick workers with COVID-19; those taking care of family members sick with it; or parents with children who require care due to school closures and are not able to earn income. 

·      Provides up to $900 every 2 weeks.

·      Max 15 weeks duration.

·      Administered through CRA.

·      Applications expected available April 2020.

6.   If any worker feels at risk because of underlying medical conditions affecting them self or their immediate family members, they may request an unpaid leave of absence. If any worker just wants to stay home and doesn't care about the money, but is concerned about being disciplined, advise them to immediately request an unpaid leave of absence. If the employer denies the request call your Union Servicing Rep.

7.   If any worker has symptoms or has close contact with someone with COVID-19 they must immediately self-isolate for 14 days and in such case will be entitled to either weekly indemnity (WI) or medical EI. Waiting periods and requirement of doctor notes have been waived for EI and some benefit plans.

8.   If you have returned from a trip outside Canada, you must call your supervisor prior to returning to work. As you have likely heard, regardless of if you are sick or not, you must self-isolate for 14 days prior to returning to work. You need to discuss your situation with your supervisor.

9.   Stay home if sick – no matter what the illness.  We know that many people come to work when they have a mild cold or symptoms that appear innocuous at the time. But with so much stress and coverage about the symptoms of COVID-19, which are in many ways similar to a cold or influenza, we are asking people to stay home if you are sick. We have sick leave, weekly indemnity, short term disability in most of our collective agreements which is meant for you to be at home when sick, so you can focus on getting better quickly. Some of our disability insurance carriers are waiving wait times and the requirement of medical certificates. Staying home on sick leave when you are not well will help keep your coworkers safe from whatever bacteria or virus you may have, and it will help stop some of the fear and worry that coworkers feel when they find out someone is at work and sick.  So again, if you are sick, please call your supervisor, let them know you are not well and stay home. If you suspect you may have COVID-19, please call 811 and self-isolate yourself from your coworkers, family and friends.

10.  Lay-offs – It is quite possible that some mills, plants, offices, sites may close down partly or entirely until the pandemic has ended. If you are laid off even temporarily the Employer must send out your Record of Employment (ROE) and you should apply for Employment Insurance immediately.

11.  Union Office Protocol - We are asking all members to refraining from attending the office if possible.  We are still taking appointments if a face to face meeting is necessary, and we are continuing all other means of communication. We have postponed all non-essential meetings, including Executive Board meetings, training, and crew talks, etc. for the present time Cell phone numbers for all Servicing Reps. are on our website at  The Union office number is 604-513-1850, and we can be reached Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 5:00pm, for general concerns and questions.  Emails can be sent to, which will be answered as soon as we can.


Most importantly, we are asking all of our members to remain calm.  The government's Health Ministry protocols that are being put in place are there for good measure. We need to focus on staying safe, practicing social distancing, stay at home whenever possible and help those that are most vulnerable and cannot help themselves.  Together we will survive this pandemic and together we will preserve our solidarity and unity that will enable us to manage the future.


If you can - STAY HOME



In solidarity,


The Officers of USW Local 2009


Al Bieksa:                    President                     (604) 842-2900

Georgi Bates:             Vice President            (604) 928-7584

Scott McRitchie:         Financial Secretary    (604) 817-9934

Mike Duhra:                Treasurer                    (604) 315-2280


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