Canadian Manufacturing

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

Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said earlier this month that the ministry chose to focus on warehouses and distribution centres in Peel Region.

February 22, 2021  The Canadian Press

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.”

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“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.

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.

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.”

Peel Public Health, which supported Canada Post in managing the outbreak by ordering asymptomatic testing of all workers among other measures, 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.”