Canada Post tells 350 employees on same shift at Mississauga plant to go into isolation for 14 days

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Canada Post says 350 employees and contractors who work on the same shift at a Mississauga, Ont. facility were told to leave the workplace on Friday and go into isolation for 14 days.

Phil Legault, spokesperson for the Crown corporation, said Peel Public Health recommended the "precautionary measure" late Friday to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Employees who work on that shift but who were not at work on Friday have been told not to return to work for 14 days starting on the last day of work, he said. The facility is Gateway East, located at 4567 Dixie Rd.

Workers affected by the move include union members, team leaders, managers, support teams and cleaners on contract.

"We understand this situation has been hard on employees at the facility and we will continue to follow the guidance of Public Health and keep them informed," Legault said in a statement on Saturday.

"Given the significance of the Gateway facility within our processing network, we are evaluating and adapting our existing contingency plans to manage the impact on customers."

Canada Post is pledging to conduct rapid COVID-19 testing at the site next week of employees who have been working on another shift at Gateway East. The Crown corporation said employees who refuse to be tested will need to go into isolation for 14 days.

Legault said Canada Post will enforce all safety protocols, with an increased focus on washrooms, lunchrooms and locker rooms.

COVID-19 outbreak having an impact on mail delivery

Canada Post has been offering voluntary testing to all other employees at the facility and that testing is set to resume on Sunday. It said employees who develop symptoms outside the workplace must get tested at an assessment centre and follow instructions.

Rapid testing at the facility, done by the Crown corporation and Peel Public Health, has resulted in a total of 42 positive tests from Tuesday last week to Sunday, Canada Post says.

Canada Post has had 190 positive cases at the facility since Jan. 1.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Legault has said the corporation has been told by Peel Public Health that it can continue its operations at Gateway East despite the outbreak.

In an interview last week, he said: "The Gateway facility is central to our entire national delivery and processing network, and the COVID safety measures we have implemented nationwide are having an impact on our delivery service."

Union members sent home will be paid while in isolation

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers says it has taken steps to ensure that management is respecting quarantine line provisions in its collective agreement. That means union members who are sent home will be paid while in isolation and away from work.

Jan Simpson, national president of CUPW, said in a news release on Sunday that measures to curb the outbreak should not come at a cost to workers.

"Workers should not be penalized for needing to isolate and protect themselves, their families, their coworkers and their communities," Simpson said in the release.

"Unions have always fought for the health and safety of workers, and the pandemic has brought this issue to the forefront of society. In order for us to ensure safe workplaces, this must be a priority for everyone."

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Of the precautionary measure to send workers home, Simpson said: "We are pleased that public health authorities have finally made the right call, listened to the Union, and prioritized the health and safety of workers."

"Postal workers are on the front lines, helping people stay home and flatten the curve, but it should not be at the expense of their health and well-being."

CUPW said it continues to work with Canada Post and Peel Public health to make sure health and safety protocols are adequate and enforced to prevent future outbreaks.

That means the union is helping to ensure that the highest level of cleaning is done in the facility, proper protective equipment is available to all workers, and physical distancing is respected.

More than 4,500 people work at the facility.