COVID-19 Concern Update

March 17th, 2020

To: USW Local 2009 members


We have been receiving 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. As a team, the Officers and Staff at USW Local 2009, are trying to respond personally to all inquiries and are seeking clarity from your employer when needed.

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. Follow us on our Facebook page and visit our web site frequently for up to date information.

Here is what we can report today:

1.    We are talking to employers daily to try and assess what the next move is for members, and who are most at risk. Everyone is important and everyone has a unique circumstance, but we are trying to prioritize our efforts to be most effective and efficient. Right now, we view the most at risk as the front line, public facing employees, such as workers in Long Term Care facilities, hospitals, taxi dispatchers, receptionists and anyone who is in close physical proximity with members of the public.

As well, we are working to support those with compromised immunity and health concerns, or those who have returned from a trip outside Canada. It is our understanding, as of right now, that there are no cases of COVID-19 within our membership and we want to keep it that way.

2.    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.

3.    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.

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.      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.

6.      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.


In solidarity,


The Officers of USW Local 2009


Al Bieksa:                    President

Georgi Bates:             Vice President

Scott McRitchie:         Financial Secretary

Mike Duhra:                Treasurer




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