Make workplace safety a top priority during COVID-19’s second wave

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is upon us and it is more prevalent than the first wave in the prairie provinces. GSU members passed through COVID’s first wave relatively unscathed as there were only a handful of reported instances where union members were required to take steps in response to potential exposure or risk of same. 

The second wave is another matter as the spread of the virus is beginning to make its presence felt in many communities and workplaces. The first course of action is prevention, and GSU members are urged to take the utmost precautions to avoid being exposed, contracting, or spreading the COVID-19 virus.

“We all know the steps to take and the things to avoid, but since most GSU members continue to be on the job providing essential services, the option of staying home or working from home is not in the equation,” said GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner. “We urge every union member to make workplace safety their top priority. Make sure your employer is sparing no effort to protect everyone at work all of the time.” 

Preventative steps only work as long as everyone in the community does their part. We know that not everyone is equally concerned about the very real risk the virus poses. As a result, there will be instances when GSU members are required to self-monitor, isolate, seek treatment, or care for a family member. 

Pay cheque uncertainty can add to the stress and worry of dealing with COVID-related health issues. GSU staff reps are available to provide assistance to union members who run into problems as they adapt to the curves the pandemic throws their way. 

“Our collective agreements contain a variety of pay protection measures for members, and governments have also introduced emergency measures to assist workers to weather the storm,” said GSU president Jim Brown. “However, there is no precise template that offers clear instructions on what to do if someone is confronted with missing work as a result of the pandemic. The response depends on the facts of the particular situation.” 

“GSU assisted a lot of members during the first wave and we encourage every member who encounters a workplace problem in the second wave to have a discussion with their employer and to follow-up by contacting GSU if they aren’t satisfied that the direction they’ve been given is correct,” Brown added. “Assistance and reassurance from your union are as close as the phone or email.”