Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We wanted to reach out to all members to touch base about the current pandemic – COVID-19. We are receiving calls from members regularly, and we are trying to answer all your questions or concerns. We know you want to know what we are doing.

As you may know, CUPE Local 4705 is comprised of 10 bargaining units and have 6 different employers. We have been in contact with EVERY employer, and we are putting pressure in any way possible because your health and safety matters to us!

Some of the gains that we have been able to work with employers are:1- Closing the building to the public – When COVID-19 was announced, only a few employers closed their buildings to the public immediately. Due to the pressure we placed on the other employers (that were open to the public), we are pleased to say all our offices are now closed to the public. (With exception to a few essential services, due to the sensitive work they do – but those are by appointment only).2- Working from home - We heard members loud and clear, and we worked with employers to get members that can work from home to do so. For many areas, we have been successful in getting employers to get you to work from home. Unfortunately, not all positions allow people to work from home based on the nature of work they do.  FOR THOSE THAT MUST STILL COME INTO WORK DUE BEING CONSIDERED AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE- WE ARE COMMITTED TO ENSURING YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY IS FIRST AND FOREMOST! WE ARE WORKING WITH THE EMPLOYER AND UPDATING CITY COUNCIL OF ISSUES (FOR THOSE WITH A CITY COUNCIL). ADDITIONALLY, WE WILL CONTINUE TO RAISE YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS AND PRESSURE FOR NECESSARY CHANGES!  IF YOU HAVE ANY HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS PLEASE LET US KNOW!!!! Our Joint Health and Safety Committees are working extra hard right now for everyone’s benefit. For those who believe they can work remotely, please talk to your supervisor and explain to them how and why you feel this way- if you do not make any headway, please let us know, and we can see if there is any pressure we can do to make this happen. 3- Transit Buses - We have been able to work with the employer to ensure that any member operating the bus is protected. Therefore, members of the public now enter the bus from the rear of the bus and fees are waived. We are currently working on trying to get the employer to limit the number of passengers- this is also for the safety of the riders, not just our operators (Social distancing).4- Childcare issues - Since many of our members are parents with young children, when the government announced that they would be extending the March break, many didn't know what to do. Therefore, we worked with employers to either allow people to work from home, have paid time off, use vacation or bank time, additional vacation credits, etc. - anything that can help!! Unfortunately, this is only a short-term fix, and every employer had a different approach.However, not all employers have been reasonable in this regard and we will continue to try to make changes and put pressure.5- Social Distancing - We heard many concerns from members about having to share a vehicle with 3-4 people. Within the City of Sudbury, we have been successful in limiting each vehicle to 1 person per vehicle. With the exception to 1 area. BUT safety measures will be put in place for them!!!6- Conference calls with employers - Since this has begun, we have been very active. We are in regular communication with all employers. We regularly have conference calls with the employer so that we can discuss decisions before they are made. We look forward to working with all employers moving forward. MAYOR AND COUNCIL HAVE ALSO BEEN CONTACTED.7- And MORE! – It is hard to put everything we’ve done in writing because things are so fast-moving. So, this message is to inform members that we are committed to ensuring members are represented. There are many more great things we have achieved through discussions with our employers. Please trust us when we say we are working hard for you!!! We are committed to working the extra hours to ensure safety measures are in place.

Unfortunately, we are at a time of uncertainty, and many things are fast-moving. Admittedly we do not have all the answers but if questions come in that we don’t have answers to, we will look into them. Many employers have advised us that their commitment is to keep members whole is until April 6th. We are working with employers to try to find ways of getting that date extended and that people be given meaningful work! However, the employer has advised us that they do intend to redeploy people in areas that they need help in (Essential Areas). Unfortunately, if you are directed to do so, unless you have health or justifiable reason not to do the work – although members may not like it, they will have to.

Some employers have taken the approach that ESA 50.1 applies, and they can lay people off temporarily without providing notice. Please know that we are currently seeking a legal opinion on this and will hopefully have answers soon! In addition to this, we have contacted MPP Jamie West. 

Lastly, the Canadian government has just announced a “Canada Emergency Response Benefit” of $2000 a month ($500/week) for a period of 4 months for those who need it. This benefit will cover those who have lost their job, people who are sick or quarantined, and parents who must stay home without pay to care for children. This also covers workers who have no income due to COVID-19 slowdown, but who haven’t officially been laid off. This will cover employees, contract workers, and self-employed workers. To qualify applicants must have had $5,000 in employment income, self-employment income or maternity or parental leave benefits in 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day they make the application. Applications will be made available April 6thand backdated to March 15th. If you have already applied for EI, you do not need to also apply for this benefit, your claim will be automatically moved over to the CERB and you will receive the 16-week benefit.

To all members, we are a call away, if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate!

We are committed to working with every single employer- but please know that YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY IS IMPERATIVE AND WILL HOLD EVERY EMPLOYER ACCOUNTABLE!

Please note that this message is sent on behalf of the executive at CUPE LOCAL 4705.

As President, I would like to thank the entire executive and health and safety committees for their leadership and hard work during this pandemic,

In Solidarity,

Mike Bellerose
CUPE Local 4705

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