(Canada Post-Special To The News)

(Canada Post-Special To The News)

Ontario Canada Post worksite hit by major virus outbreak excluded from inspections

Just this year more than 300 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and one person has died

Ontario labour inspectors are homing in on warehouses and distribution centres, but the site of a major workplace COVID-19 outbreak isn’t included in the ongoing inspections: Canada Post.

More than 300 employees at the postal service’s Gateway facility in Mississauga, Ont., have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the year and one employee has died. Canada Post advised customers across the country to expect delivery delays as the outbreak impacted operations at the central mail delivery hub.

But because Canada Post is a federally regulated Crown corporation, its inspection falls outside provincial jurisdiction.

The president of the national union representing postal workers said consistent standards should be applied to all workplaces, noting that the outbreak has had an “enormous impact on all postal workers.”

“The virus doesn’t distinguish between provincial and federal workplaces and neither should inspections,” Jan Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, said in a statement. “Workplaces and workers in the Peel Region have been hit hard by COVID-19. It’s in everyone’s best interest that all workplaces be inspected to ensure the health and safety of workers.”

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said earlier this month that the ministry chose to focus on warehouses and distribution centres in Peel Region – the hard-hit region of the Greater Toronto Area – noting that such workplaces employ a high number of temporary and precarious workers.

“Every employer, I don’t care … who they’re owned by, knows the rules that they need to follow,” McNaughton said in an interview when the warehouse and distribution blitz was announced on Feb. 10. “There’s no excuses anymore.”

In the first week of the inspection “blitz” in Peel Region, inspectors visited 59 warehouses and issued issued 10 tickets and one order. They found compliance was just over 64 per cent, according to the ministry.

READ MORE: Canada’s ‘long-haulers’ without family doctor need primary care: medical association

However, McNaughton said the federal government has responsibility for the Canada Post workplace. He said all levels of government need to work together to make sure safety measures are in place.

“It’s all hands on deck, every level of government has to pull their weight,” he said. “I’m certainly ensuring that our ministry is doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of workers.”

Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed in a statement that the federal labour program “engaged” with the Gateway Canada Post facility “several” times between March 1, 2020 and Feb.12, including “to investigate refusals to work, to conduct an inspection into the (preventive) measures implemented, as well as to investigate the death of the employee.”

But it’s unclear what, if any, enforcement took place on those visits, or how many of them occurred and when. The department said information on specific findings including tickets issued couldn’t be shared publicly unless through an Access to Information request.

The department statement said it works with employers to help them fulfil legal obligations, but added that employers are “best positioned to determine the health and safety measures for their work environment in order to meet legislated requirements.”

“Therefore, the Labour Program does not prescribe specific measures to be taken in any federally regulated workplaces,” spokesperson Marie-Eve Sigouin-Campeau said in a statement.

Peel Public Health, which also supported Canada Post in managing the outbreak by ordering asymptomatic testing of all workers among other measures, also declined to share specific findings.

“As this is an ongoing, active investigation we are not in a position to disclose any further details,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, the region’s medical officer of health, said in a Feb. 17 statement. “Canada Post continues to co-operate with our investigation, and our joint priority remains protecting the health and safety of impacted employees and our broader community at this time.”

Tim Sly, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Ryerson University, said the “tangle of power struggle” between levels of government is a recurring characteristic of public health crisis management in Canada that can erode the public’s trust.

“It confuses everybody,” he said. “The city says one thing, the province says something else, the feds say something else, and the public is going around in circles saying that nobody knows what they’re doing.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 numbers in the Okanagan fall by more than 50%

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on back road in Nanaimo

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

News Bulletin file photo
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bike lanes inexpensive compared with roads

It is a myth that car drivers are subsidizing cyclists or pedestrians, says letter writer

March 8 is International Women’s Day. (Stock photo)
Editorial: International Women’s Day can inspire us to recommit to equality

Let’s call out sexism, amplify feminism and keep working toward equality

Police in Nanaimo are turning to the public for help identifying two men suspected of a break-and-enter attempt at a Nicol Street apartment building. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP looking for two men suspected of a break-and-enter attempt

Security camera snapped images in Nicol Street apartment building parking lot

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 case reported at Nanaimo’s Mountain View school

School district advises of March 2-3 exposure dates

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Island Health opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

A sports car crashed into a lamp standard and rolled down the hill behind Country Club Centre mall on Sunday night. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Sports car crashes into lamp post, rolls down hill behind Nanaimo mall

Driver uninjured in incident Sunday night on Norwell Drive

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Hannah Ankenmann, who works with k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation, winces as she received her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine administered by a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Family Health nurse. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Vancouver Island’s small remote towns to get community-wide vaccine clinics

Island Health to take a wholesale approach to immunization, rather than age-based appointments

Most Read