Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The new coronavirus, known as CoViD-19, is not a strain of influenza nor is it SARS. The World Health Organization has outlined the similarities that do exist between the coronavirus and influenza: both cause respiratory symptoms and are primarily spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth. However, the coronavirus causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, but it can be contained - which is why we all must do what we can to contain it.

Anyone in direct contact with the public is at risk. The Public Health Agency of Canada is working with international partners, including the World Health Organization, to actively monitor the situation. However, in the context of March break, where many members may be travelling and in contact with large numbers of people in public spaces, the following information is critical.

The AJC, together with other bargaining agents, is now participating in weekly meetings with senior officials to discuss government-wide issues.  For example, bargaining agents have asked the employer to report back on whether employees who undertake self-imposed quarantine and who cannot telework will be considered to be on sick leave or administrative leave.

Here is the information we've gathered from the March 6th 2020 meeting:

Government Travel
The employer is receiving and following recommendations by Global Affairs Canada (updated on a daily basis) regarding places to which non-essential travel will be suspended.  

Department heads are responsible for exercising judgment and making decisions on both mandatory or discretionary travel.  

We have been advised that consideration will be given to accommodating employees who have particular concerns regarding travel, for example, those with compromised immune systems, on a case-by-case basis.  Members who find themselves in this situation can turn to the AJC for assistance in facilitating a dialogue with management while protecting employee privacy as much as possible.

Employees returning from affected areas should follow the advice that is posted here.  For more information on the latest travel health advice, you can click here for Coronavirus travel advice.

Sick leave
Members who feel unwell are advised and expected to stay home and take sick leave.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have established guidelines to departments for when "front-line employees" will be supplied with personal protective equipment (AJC members are not expected to be in this category).  

All departments have been tasked with the responsibility of actively promoting good hygiene practices in their workplaces. Deputy Heads have been asked to work with LMCCs and OSH committees on the issue of regional-specific and office-specific measures (for example, to encourage prudent personal hygiene and ensure proper office hygiene).

The bottom line is your management and your regional OSH committee are the decision points for these measures and are expected to communicate on their steps.  Your OSH rep and/or your regional GC rep are your points of contact.