A Manitoba postal worker and the union that represents him says Canada Post isn’t doing enough to protect workers from COVID-19 in the midst of an upswing of cases.
John Penny has worked for Canada Post for more than 10 years. Now 67, and suffering from a lung condition, the Winnipegger’s doctor told him his work environment must have a mandatory mask policy and enforced physical distancing because he’s at a heightened health risk.
Even with a note from his doctor, Penny said he hasn’t been approved for leave from his job.
“It keeps me awake at night. I’m really in a quandary as to what I should be doing,” he said, adding it’s especially concerning lately, as Winnipeg has 275 active cases of COVID-19.
“It’s about the worst possible timing now that we’re getting back to the indoor season and the schools are all back in there. This is going to ramp up severely,” Penny said.
The asthmatic man does everything he can — he wears a mask at work at all times and practices physical distancing — but he said many people at his work don’t wear a mask and sometimes people get too close for comfort.
Penny has contemplated quitting his job to go on short term disability, but he’s not sure he’d be approved.
He isn’t the only one concerned about unsafe working conditions.
CUPW health and safety officer Todd Jarema has heard similar complaints from other postal workers in Manitoba.
He’s also heard employees are worried that shared equipment like vehicles, carts and tubs aren’t being adequately cleaned when they pass from one worker to another.
Jarema said just a matter of time until a COVID-19 case shows up at Canada Post.
“I am concerned because you can only roll the dice so many times before you hit snake eyes,” he said.
“I’m just worried that if we don’t practice due diligence and we’re not on top of this, we’re going to have an impact on somebody and their family.”
Canada Post said it is working hard to ensure everyone’s safety, but is following the lead of the province.
“Every Canada Post employee has been provided with reusable face coverings. With regards to mandatory usage, we follow the directives provided by each jurisdiction across the country,” a spokesperson said in an email.
In terms of physical distancing, that’s up to team leaders to remind people of its importance, the spokesperson added.
Canada Post wouldn’t speak specifically about Penny’s allegations about not being approved leave for medical reasons.
In the meantime, Penny is mulling his next steps but said he feels powerless at this point.
“You’re at the mercy of everyone there, and there are people who don’t give a darn.”
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