Bluewater Bridge workers refusing to work over COVID-19 issues

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The president of the Customs and Immigration Union says 11 of its members at the Bluewater Bridge are refusing to work over what they say are unsafe working conditions due to COVID-19.

In an email to The Independent, CIU National President Mark Weber says the members “exercised their right to refuse unsafe work due to management not following up-to-date public health rules and instructing employees to report to the workplace who should have been in isolation.” They have been off the job since Dec. 27.

Weber says the CBSA also isn’t doing any contact tracing such as telling employees when coworkers have been ill.

The union says in the last 10 days, 25 of the authority’s 200 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. “Many of these cases are due to workplace exposure as the members had no other exposures other than working with positive co-workers,” says Weber adding he doesn’t believe there are any people working at the bridge at this time that are COVID-19 positive.

“An unknown number of members are in isolation due to a COVID positive family member.”

And Weber says there is the additional problem of travellers coming across the border who are also COVID-19 positive.

“Officers who are working on the front line are dealing with an unprecedented number of COVID positive travellers on a daily basis.  Each COVID positive traveller is currently required to report to secondary in order for an officer to gather their documents and contact the Public Health Agency of Canada which increases the number of officers dealing with positive travellers.  Officer exposure to positive travellers has seen a significant increase in recent weeks,” he says.

Weber says the work refusal continues as the complaint is being investigated by a federal health and safety officer. That investigation is ongoing today.

The Independent is waiting for comment from officials with the Canada Border Services Agency.