Message to Members – 15 March 2020

Hello Fellow Members,

As you know the COVID19 novel coronavirus which was initially dismissed by many at the beginning of the year, has now been deemed a pandemic.

In January, multiple people rightly asked what protective equipment or precautions the employer would be providing.  Both the Health & Safety committees and the Union pressed our Employers for direction.  Staff routinely asked for facemasks, sneeze guards, and increased amounts of hand sanitizer.

At that time, the Employer stated that they were following the direction of the Health Unit.  That direction was:  to hand-wash frequently, to not touch your face, to maintain reasonable spaces between people, and to avoid places if you’re sick.

Admittedly, this wasn’t very comforting and certainly didn’t feel like enough.  However, after the Union double-checked with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, this direction turned out to be true.

As of noon on Thursday, the City advised the Union of steps that staff should take if they are required to Self-Quarantine, or they become sick. Those directions will come through your manager but the short version says that you will contact the Middlesex-London Health Unit (or Telehealth Ontario) and if you are advised to Self-Quarantine you must report this to your manager.  At that point you will be able to use Sick Time if you have it, or other options will be reviewed if you do not. (An example of this may be applying to EIB for Sick Benefits with the 0-day waiting period announced this week.)[i]

However, by late Thursday things had already changed again.   The biggest surprise, to Administrators and staff, was that the Provincial Government announced they were extending the March Break by another two weeks. This presents a whole new set of problems including childcare coverage for members with school-age children.  No one was expecting this, and early estimates indicate that it could impact approximately 30% of our members.

On Friday, the Union was again in contact with Management and we were informed that some Community Centres and Day Programs would be closing until further notice.[ii]

As a precaution, all managers were directed to post signage at all locations advising the visiting public to reconsider entering facilities if they are unwell.

As of today, Management continues to update their contingency plans and are keeping the Union informed.  We will continue to update our website as new information becomes available.

To recap: If you are feeling unwell, or you have recently returned from travelling abroad, please contact the local Health Unit or Telehealth Ontario.[iii] 

They will ask you a series of screening questions and provide you direction based on the results; you may be advised to Self-Quarantine.  Should that be the case, please notify your manager for further direction.

Going forward, we are trying to find more effective ways of communicating with CUPE 101 Members.  As we’ve discussed at recent monthly membership meetings, we are trying to find a software solution which would allow us to communicate off the Employers computer systems.

Since November, CUPE Local 101 has been developing a Communication Strategy which may include our own email and software system – subject to Members’ approval.

We cannot effectively send emails to members through the Employers’ email or computer systems.

Recently, there have been instances where some members have been verbally reprimanded for sending union related emails that management has deemed objectionable.

We have been restricting communication to private (non-work) emails, and updates to our website[iv] where appropriate to avoid further possible repercussions.

Last week we reached out to Stewards asking them to provide their personal email and text phone numbers. The Union will provide updates through Stewards to be shared with the membership.

The next step will involve the Stewards collecting your personal emails and text phone numbers – only if you wish to provide it – where you would like to receive Union messages.  All your information will remain confidential to CUPE Local 101, and will not be shared.

We intend to set up a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page where questions will be answered as updates and information becomes available. Please check back to the CUPE 101 webpage for the most current information.  Thank you for your patience as we navigate this rapidly changing situation.  As you can imagine, the sheer volume of phone calls and messages makes it impossible to respond in a timely manner.  We are triaging calls the best we can.

Should you have any additional questions, it may be more practical to reach out to your Steward, Unit Chair, or an Executive Member.  Contact details are under the About Us section on our website.[v]

Adam Brightling,

On Behalf of the Executive

CUPE Local 101.



[iii] Contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or the Health Unit at 519-663-5317 for further assessment and guidance.