COVID-19 Update

March 31st, 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. Many of the questions are related to safety concerns and the inactions of their employers.

At a time of unprecedented concerns relating to health and worker safety it should be the Joint Health & Safety Committee that leads the charge in creating and maintaining a safe workplace, especially at the height of a public health crisis.

Just as Health Authorities should listen more carefully to the concerns of nurses and other front-line health workers, WorksafeBC would be well advised to listen more carefully to the reasonable concerns of unions which have enormous front-line experience in the actual problems of worker safety on the ground in virtually all sectors of the economy.

To maintain a calm and confident provincial culture and to support the essential services critical to our economy it is important for WorksafeBC to avoid any impression that they have adopted an adversarial or dismissive attitude towards any workers who voice their legitimate concerns of risk for all those who continue to work on the front lines in manufacturing, construction and other sectors.

Employers, workers and others in the workplace share the responsibility for occupational health and safety. This concept of the internal responsibility system is based on the principle that the workplace parties themselves are in the best position to identify health and safety problems and to develop solutions. However, when collaboration turns to discord, it is the role of WorksafeBC to act swiftly to investigate, educate and adjudicate any health & safety conflicts.

In order to be realistically independent, it is clearly illustrated by the current pandemic, that management and worker representatives on Joint Health and Safety Committees need to be provided with appropriate training and sufficient time away from their other duties to fulfill their Joint Health and Safety Committee obligations in a meaningful way, especially during a public health crisis.  This obligation cannot be a secondary consideration it must be and is paramount to the safety of every person in the workplace.

In discharging their duties, the Joint Health and Safety Committee must adopt the Precautionary Principle. The Precautionary Principle is defined as “Where there is reasonable evidence of an impending threat to public health, it is inappropriate to require proof of causation beyond a reasonable doubt before taking steps to avert the threat.”

The importance of the precautionary principle cannot be overstated. All reasonable efforts to reduce risk of exposure need be undertaken immediately and effectively. We cannot wait for scientific proof that an asymptomatic person cannot transmit the virus.  One worker being infected with COVID-19 in a workplace will likely lead to many others being infected which will lead to the cessation of the entire operation.  We must exercise discipline and the utmost caution.

We have many tools at our disposal to mitigate the risk of exposure in a workplace to COVID-19.  Our responsibility is to learn how to use the tools and how to use the tools effectively.

The responsibility of WorksafeBC is to support the legitimate efforts of a workplace.

For more information relating to protecting workers from risk of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace, contact your Union Servicing Representative.

Our deepest thanks to everyone that have taken a moment or two to send emails, texts and messages over the last few weeks asking questions on how you can better support your co-workers. Your support and actions have meant a lot to all of us in a time that is witnessing some pretty dark moments for our workplaces, our communities and the world in general.  You are all in our thoughts and we thank you for your dedication, courage and continued support!!

Stay Safe!


The Officers of USW Local 2009


Al Bieksa:                    President

Georgi Bates:             Vice President

Scott McRitchie:         Financial Secretary

Mike Duhra:                Treasurer


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