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UFCW 1518 calls on BC Government to take action to protect grocery and pharmacy workers

Today, UFCW 1518 sent an urgent letter to BC Minister of Labour Bains calling for several emergency actions to protect grocery and pharmacy store workers.

“Grocery store and pharmacy workers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” said President Kim Novak, “they are bravely facing extraordinary challenges to keep Canadians fed and get them the essential supplies they need. They deserve government action to help keep themselves and the public safe.”

The letter demands that the BC Government take action to help workers who may become sick as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. It asks for extra precautionary measures to prevent illness from spreading in grocery stores and pharmacies. Finally, it calls for urgent discussions to help workers with childcare needs including offering paid family leave.

The measures that UFCW 1518 is asking for include:

1. Make grocery and pharmacy workers eligible for presumptive workers compensation coverage.

UFCW 1518 is pushing the government to designate all grocery and pharmacy workers as eligible for presumptive workers compensation coverage when they find themselves having to file a claim as a result of illness due to exposure to this contagion. Workers in these jobs that are diagnosed with COVID-19 must receive workers compensation without having to prove their conditions were caused at work.

2. Apply limits to the number of shoppers allowed in retail locations.

The government should apply limits to the numbers of shoppers that can be present in a retail location so as to allow social distancing. At the current restriction levels, the number of shoppers frequently exceeds the measures set out by the province, and this is dramatically increasing the risks to workers and the public.

3. Encourage all retailers to supply workers on duty with masks, sanitizers, and paper towels.

Require all retailers to supply masks, sanitizers, and paper towels to staff on duty before selling any of these products, and ensure that all workers are informed of the process and procedures they need to undertake to eliminate risk to their well-being.

4. Extend EI benefits to at least 75% of insurable income and reduce barriers to EI

Extend Employment Insurance benefits to at least 75% of insurable income and reduce barriers to access EI. Many retail workers do not usually work enough hours to qualify for medical EI, and the reduction of hours to qualify is a necessary step to support many workers.

5. Provide solutions to workers’ emergency childcare needs

Immediately open discussions to provide solutions for workers’ emergency childcare needs including paid family leave.

6. Temporarily ban reusable bags

Enact a temporary ban on reusable bags in grocery stores and pharmacies. These bags can act as vectors for the COVID-19 contagion, spreading the virus from location to location.

Implementing these important measures will help front-line grocery and pharmacy workers to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.

Click here to read a a full copy of the letter that was sent to Minister Bains.


UFCW 1518 represents over 23,000 members working across BC & the Yukon. We are known as the leading experts on workers’ rights in the retail and industrial foods industries. If you want to learn more about UFCW 1518 and what a union can do to help bring positive change to your workplace please visit: ufcw1518.com/join-us

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