No evening shift for St. John's Canada Post workers, says union

The Canada Post mail distribution centre on Kenmount Road in St. John's will not reopen Wednesday afternoon as planned, says the union representing workers.

In a news release issued on Wednesday, Canada Post said the facility will remain closed until the Public Health Authority is able to confirm and assure the company that contact tracing activity is complete.

"Since closing on Monday, we have completed a second deep-cleaning and thorough sanitization of the facility. We will continue to follow the guidance of Eastern Health and are providing any assistance we can," the statement reads. "We are putting the safety of our people and the community first."

Canada Post said delivery of mail will continue to be suspended in St. John's and Mount Pearl for the remainder of the week. Delays should be expected elsewhere, the company said.

"We are also working on contingency plans to distribute provincial and federal socio-economic cheques."

Post offices outside the Kenmount Road facility remain open at this time.

The plant and its nearly 300 employees are in limbo and coping with an increased level of stress and anxiety since Monday morning, when Canada Post shuttered the busy facility because of concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

One Canada Post employee who works at the plant has tested positive, and 13 others, including Dyer, are in the midst of a two-week isolation.

The mail workers attended a wake and/or funeral at Caul's Funeral Home sometime between March 15-17 for a colleague who lost a family member, and it's believed someone with the virus also visited the home at that time.

We apologize if any employees heard it through other means as the news traveled fast and was beyond our control. - Canada Post

That incident set off a cluster of transmissions, though details are blurry because of privacy concerns.

Dyer said the Canada Post worker who tested positive is recovering at home.

Word reached Canada Post on Monday about the incident after Caul's posted an advisory on social media, cautioning people who visited the St. John's funeral home while two separate wakes were taking place.

The advisory from Caul's said the Department of Health and Community Services was advising people to self-isolate, and call 811 if they were feeling any symptoms.

Union concerns

On Tuesday, Canada Post apologized to employees who found out through social media.

"When we were notified of the positive presumptive case, we contacted local public health authorities and have worked with them and followed their direction," said a spokesperson for the corporation.

"We talked to the local health and safety committee, which includes the unions. We also talked to employees and called them back to inform them and send them home until further notice. We apologize if any employees heard it through other means as the news traveled fast and was beyond our control."

The incident raised concerns at the union level, with Dyer saying the corporation should have acted sooner.

A lot of people were in contact with the person diagnosed. - Craig Dyer

In an interview Wednesday, Dyer repeated his belief that "local leadership" continue to put "productivity ahead of the health and safety of workers."

Dyer said he was relieved the closure was extended into Thursday so workers can be assured that cleaning efforts and inspections are done to the highest of standards.

Dyer could not provide any numbers, but said more workers were taking the extra precaution of self-isolating, and the union is trying to gauge how many people are available for work.

"A lot of people were in contact with the person diagnosed," said Dyer, estimating the number at between 50 and 75 workers.

"That's a concern for them," he added.

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