Toronto – April 14, 2020 – New data from the federal government reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to the Canadian labour market, with millions of workers either losing their jobs or working reduced hours due to significant interruptions to business operations.
America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Also Releases New Poll Results of Grocery & Food Worker Top Concerns & Fears
New Initiative Launched Amid Increase in Food & Grocery Workers Exposed to Coronavirus
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union which represents over 900,000 grocery workers, launched a new national initiative to help protect America’s food and grocery workers. The new national campaign, entitled #ShopSmart, will target American grocery shoppers and is in response to the growing number of food and grocery workers who are becoming exposed to the coronavirus and the direct threat this growing outbreak poses to our nation’s food supply.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone said:”The coronavirus pandemic represents the greatest health and safety crisis that America’s grocery and food workers have ever faced. Since the beginning of the outbreak, these workers have been on the front lines of this terrible pandemic. While tens of millions of Americans were told to work from home for their safety, grocery store and food workers have never had that option. More must be done to protect them and our food supply now.”
The new nationwide public safety effort, which includes a new #ShopSmart ad campaign with digital and TV commercials, is being announced as the UFCW estimates that 30 UFCW members have died from COVID-19, and nearly 3,000 UFCW food and grocery workers have been directly impacted by COVID-19.
The estimated number of deaths and exposed workers is based on reports from UFCW local unions and includes those who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, have been hospitalized, or are symptomatic.
“Grocery workers are deeply concerned. The fact is that this pandemic represents a clear and present danger to our nation’s food supply and all grocery store workers. The “Shop Smart” campaign will help save lives by making clear that all members of the public can take key safety steps to help protect these workers and each other from the coronavirus,” Perrone added.
To highlight the growing concern of food and grocery workers, the UFCW also released results from a survey of more than 5,000 grocery and food workers (sample of 5,000 UFCW members/1 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence level).
The key survey results, which are included below, highlight the real fear and concern of food and grocery workers, and the need to take a more dramatic series of action to protect workers.
- Customer Support for Workers
- 29 percent said customers treated them somewhat poorly or very poorly.
- Top Customer Safety Issues:
- 85 percent said customers are not practicing social distancing.
- 81 percent said customers are hoarding supplies or groceries.
- 62 percent said customers are blaming employees for shortages
- 43 percent reported instances of customers shouting at employees
- Safety Priorities for Grocery Stores:
- When asked what grocery stores should do to improve customer safety and treatment of workers:
- 72 percent supported a limit on the number of customers in stores
- 49 percent supported stores banning unruly customers
- 41 percent supported stores hiring more security
- 26 percent supported stores hiring more workers to meet demand
- 23 percent supported advertisements with customer safety tips
- When asked what grocery stores should do to improve customer safety and treatment of workers:
For more information about UFCW’s customer campaign, please visit http://www.ufcw.org/coronavirus/customers/.
The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.
Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org
TORONTO —Unifor is calling on Chartwell Retirement Homes to immediately rescind the creation of a new job classification in their Long Term Care Homes that requires a minimum public school education to work in their facilities.
“This move is a new low even for Chartwell who has consistently devalued and taken advantage of workers,” Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “In a time where we need to be respecting health care workers and treating them like the essential service they are, Chartwell’s approach is to ignore the intent and spirit of the directive from the Ontario government and instead use it as a free-for-all to further increase profits at a substantially reduced pay for its workers.”
The Ontario government introduced the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act giving hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes the ability to identify staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Once the order was implemented, the union was advised by Chartwell that the employer is creating a new classification of workers with minimum qualifications or credentials required for applicants who will be providing health care.
“Chartwell is taking advantage of the act and treating it as if the collective agreement is non-existent,” said Nancy McMurphy President of Unifor Local 302. “I understand and support the need to ensure adequate staffing levels during this pandemic, but hiring new employees who lack the essential skills needed to prevent the spread of infection is utterly irresponsible.” McMurphy said the focus must be on the health and well being of the residents and the union is recommending increasing the hours of all current casual and part-time employees.
Unifor is not aware of any recent staffing issues at Chartwell and will be raising the concerns related to unqualified hires with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Toronto – April 11, 2020 – UFCW food retail members are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and are doing their part to make sure that everyone gets the food and supplies they need as safely and efficiently as possible.
Traditionally One of the Biggest Grocery Shopping Weekends of the Year, the UFCW Calls on Americans to Take All Necessary Safety Steps When Shopping
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Kroger Co. and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in food and retail, called for customers to exercise caution when grocery shopping for Easter this weekend. Ahead of one of the biggest grocery shopping weekends of the year, the union urges shoppers to stay safe as the coronavirus outbreak continues to put both customers and workers at risk.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:
“As millions of Americans shop for groceries this holiday weekend, we urge all customers to exercise caution as the coronavirus continues to put both shoppers and workers at risk all across the country. Grocery workers are on the front lines of this outbreak and have been working around the clock to make sure families have the food and supplies they need to stay safe.
“To help reduce the spread of this killer virus, it is absolutely critical that all Easter weekend grocery shoppers wear a mask while shopping, practice social distancing throughout the store, safely discard gloves and masks in trash cans, limit the number of trips and shoppers to an absolute minimum, and respect special shopping times for seniors.
“All Americans have a responsibility to help protect these essential workers and their fellow shoppers. Working together, by taking simple safety steps, we can help protect countless lives and keep our nation’s food supply strong.”
With the number of COVID-19 infections for frontline workers increasing, the UFCW sent a letter to the CDC this week calling for mandatory guidance specifically for grocery stores, pharmacies and food processing facilities, during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This week, the UFCW partnered with Albertsons Companies, one of the biggest grocery chains in the country, on a new national campaign to designate grocery workers as first responders to ensure that they have access to the testing, personal protective equipment, and other assistance they need to keep grocery stores open and running during the outbreak.
UFCW International and UFCW local unions across the country have been working with top companies in the grocery and supermarket companies to secure the protections these frontline workers need to stay safe and continue doing this essential work during the pandemic.
Grocery Store Safety Measures:
- Working with Kroger and Safeway/Albertsons, UFCW secured new protective measures for 710,000 grocery workers across the country who work at these stores. These protective measures include:
- Additional Cleaning and Sanitizing protocols which include allowing associates to wash their hands and sanitize their registers every 30 minutes.
- Shortened Store Operating Hours to provide ample time to allow restocking, cleaning, and to provide appropriate rest and relief for associates.
- Installing Plexiglass partitions at check lanes, pharmacy and Starbucks registers across each store.
- Adding Floor Decals to promote physical distancing at check lanes and other counters.
- In Stop & Shop stores across New England, New York, and New Jersey, 70,000 grocery workers received an additional 2 weeks of paid sick leave to ensure they are able to stay safe and healthy on the job.
- Click here to read more about how UFCW is keeping grocery workers and customers safe.
The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.
Coldstream, B.C. – April 10, 2020 – Food processing workers at VegPro International are the newest members of UFCW Local 1518 after recently saying “Yes!” to joining the union.
As we head into the holiday weekend, here's a quick update on what we've been doing on your behalf as the COVID pandemic continues to unfold.
The proportion of Canadians who are “very worried” (32%) about losing their income is higher among women (36%).
Toronto – April 9, 2020 – With thousands of UFCW Canada members still on the front lines as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, more UFCW members have secured pay premiums and enhanced safety measures in recognition of their hard work during the crisis.
The MGEU launched a province-wide public information campaign today, beginning with a simple message: Manitobans can support our essential service workers by staying apart this weekend.
TORONTO —Unifor, working with a coalition of Ontario health care unions has succeeded in forcing the Ontario government to ensure health care workers within two meters of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient will have access to the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“We are only going to flatten the curve and beat the COVID-19 pandemic if health care workers are provided adequate safety tools needed to safely do their jobs,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We are relieved the Ford government listened to health care workers but this type of injustice should have never occurred in the first place. I am urging Premiers across the country to immediately implement similar measures.”
Today, the Ontario government revised “Directive #5 for Hospitals within the meaning of the Public Hospitals Act” to include all health care workers working at a hospital or long-term care facility to be able to perform a point of care assessment and, where there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, determine the appropriate PPE to utilize.
“Today’s victory brings a huge sigh of relief to health care workers in Ontario,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President responsible for health care. “Knowing they will be provided appropriate health and safety control measures such as N95 respirators and appropriate isolation gowns means health care workers can focus on providing the best quality of care to Ontarians.”
The revised directive will require hospitals and long-term care homes to continually asses their PPE inventory, provide training on correct usage and develop contingency plans in consultation with unions to ensure the safety of health care workers.
The revised directive also stipulates that retirement homes must take all reasonable steps to follow the required precautions outlined in the order.
“We will be closely monitoring retirement home employers to ensure similar protocols are taken to ensure the safety of workers and their elderly residents,” said Dias.
TORONTO—Unifor welcomes the federal government’s tentative approval of Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS) funds for Jazz Aviation to maintain its workforce levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Airline workers will be the backbone of the industry’s economic recovery in a post-pandemic world,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “It makes perfect sense to help cushion the impact of the temporary downturn with federal emergency funding.”
On April 8, 2020 Air Canada announced it would use CEWS funding to top up the wages of more than 3,000 workers on lay-off due to COVID-19.
Jazz, a regional Air Canada partner airline, recently announced it was putting nearly 1,300 Unifor members in airports division, aircraft maintenance divisions, and crew schedulers on Off Duty Status. Today, Jazz says it plans to access the CEWS to recall all employees on voluntary or involuntary layoff. Today’s announcement by the company is still subject to passing of the government emergency legislation. The company will allow employees to stay at home while receiving 75 per cent of their wages to a maximum of $847 weekly.
“Airline workers are one of the thousands of Canadian front-line workers in the global effort to contain the virus,” said Euila Leonard, President of Unifor Local 2002. “Although there are still details to be ironed out with the program, signing off on the deal was the right thing to do for our members. Jazz’s commitment to work with Unifor is a recognition of the role our members play in making the company a successful regional carrier.”
On March 28, 2020, Unifor joined with other Canadian airline unions in sharing concerns and providing solutions to help the industry return to economic health and prosperity. Unifor has called on the government that any financial aid package delivered to any industry, including air travel must be accompanied by strong, enforceable conditions that ensure financial aid is tied to maintaining income for current employees and creating employment.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.
For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias please contact Unifor’s Director of Communications, Natalie Clancy at Natalie.Clancy@unifor.org or 416-707-5794 (cell).