Statement on a Positive COVID-19 Case at Sofina Foods in Port Coquitlam

We have recently been informed that one of our members at the Sofina Foods poultry plant in Port Coquitlam has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Since March 12, the union has been working closely on improving safety standards at the plant in light of COVID-19 and Sofina has provided all employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including a mask and gloves, installed plexiglass barriers on production lines and in breakrooms to prevent transmission, staggered shift times and breaks to enable physical distancing, and created enhanced cleaning measures.

We will continue to monitor the situation at Sofina and are ready to offer support to all of our members at the plant. While our member was able to go into self-isolation quickly, this event reminds us of the importance for all workers to have access to paid sick leave whether they work part-time or full time, so they can prevent the kind of large outbreaks that have been seen at other industrial food plants.

UFCW 1518 is calling on employers and the provincial government to create paid sick leave provisions for all workers, now and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

The affected employee has been self-isolating since Friday evening.

The employees who came into contact with the affected worker are in self-isolation.

UFCW 1518 is working with management at the plant and with public health authorities to ensure the workers are safe and continue to receive the best protection from the COVID-19 virus. Workers needing additional support can reach out to their union representatives or contact the union at reception@ufcw1518.com.

Safe spaces for people leaving domestic abuse and violence during COVID-19

In response to the rise of domestic violence against women, children, and non-binary people during COVID-19, the provincial government is providing additional safe spaces across the province for people who are leaving unstable homes.

On Wednesday, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Mitzi Dean announced that the province had created these additional spaces for people leaving violent or unstable home situations. MLA Dean also promised the government would be creating more spaces in the coming months and pointed to over 100 transition houses and safe homes that people in unsafe home situations could turn to for help.

“Domestic and sexual abuse is not a private matter to be kept behind closed doors,” stated MLA Dean. “Violence should never be tolerated – not during this pandemic and not ever. It’s wrong, and we will be there for people who need our help and a safe place to go, day or night.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or abuse, please contact VictimLinkBC at 1.800.563.0808 or by email at VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca.

VictimLinkBC is available 24/7 in multiple languages to connect women, children, and non-binary people with available supports.

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Information on safe homes is also available on the BC Housing website

The following excellent resources are also available for anyone who is experiencing domestic violence and needs help:

April 28th, National Day of Mourning

On April 28, we take time to reflect and remember those who became sick or lost their lives due to something that happened at work. We think about the family members, friends, and coworkers whose lives forever changed.

We take this day to remember the dead and fight for the living.

This National Day of Mourning is observed from coast to coast to coast across Canada, and is an important time to re-commit ourselves to the fight to make workplaces safer.

This year, the COVID-19 crisis has reminded us that every worker is essential. Thousands of healthcare workers, grocery and pharmacy workers, and industrial food processors are battling on the front lines of this pandemic. They are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others, to keep us fed, and to get us necessary supplies and medicine. Far too many have lost their lives, and far too many are suffering the invisible effects of stress and worry on their mental health.

These workers are calling for extra protections and precautions to help keep them as safe at work as possible. It is more important than ever that governments, employers, and the public answer their call. Please remember these workers when you go to the grocery store and do your part to protect their safety, and join us as we demand protection and recognition for these workers.

To those who are lost: we remember you.

UFCW 1518 Calls on All Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave to Stop the Spread of COVID-19

The message from BC’s top doctor Bonnie Henry and other health authorities could not be clearer: stay home if you are sick. To flatten the curve on COVID-19 and get back to the way life was before the crisis, anyone who might be infected has been told to self-isolate so others can be protected from getting the sometimes-deadly virus.

But workers without sick pay have been confronted with an impossible choice if they start showing symptoms: go to work sick so they can pay their bills and feed their families, or stay at home and keep the virus from spreading.

No one should have to make that choice.

Yesterday, we learned that 28 workers at a poultry processing plant in Vancouver tested positive for COVID-19. Health authorities only discovered this outbreak after they tested a worker who told them that their co-workers were still coming to work even though they had symptoms of COVID-19. When they investigated, they discovered an outbreak so extensive that they had to shut down the plant and send everyone home.

Similarly, over the weekend news emerged of a massive COVID-19 outbreak at a beef processing plant in Alberta. Over 500 workers tested positive for the virus and one worker there has died. The authorities have been forced to shut that plant down as well, and the incident represents the largest single outbreak of COVID-19 in Canada since the pandemic began.

These workers were sick but could not afford not to go to work because they didn’t have paid sick days. The virus spread through these plants at a devastating rate, endangering the workers, their community, and the public at large. This has to change.

That’s why UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak has been speaking out on the airwaves to call on all employers to provide paid sick leave.

In British Columbia, the government has passed a law that ensures workers’ jobs will be protected if they have to take a leave to self-isolate or care for a loved one with COVID-19. However, as we have seen, financial pressures still force some workers to keep going to work when they don’t feel well or if they have a household member sick.

“We need to see all employers providing paid sick time for any worker who has any symptoms or is feeling unwell to prevent more extreme outbreaks like we saw at United Poultry,” said Kim. “Employers can make this change right now. It’s their responsibility to make sure workers are safe when they go to work.”

Click here to listen to Kim speaking on BC Today with Michelle Eliot about our call for employers to provide paid sick leave to all workers.


UFCW 1518 fights for fairness for over 23,000 union members across BC and the Yukon. Click here for information about joining UFCW 1518, or you can connect with an organizer to learn more.

UFCW 1518 statement on a COVID-19 outbreak at United Poultry Ltd.

Yesterday, we learned about an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at United Poultry Ltd. in Vancouver.

The health authority was alerted to the possibility of COVID-19 cases at United after a worker tested positive over the weekend, and reported that there may be other workers at the plant who are sick.

On Monday, Vancouver Coastal Health tested workers at United and closed the plant immediately. More than two dozen workers tested positive.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the workers who have tested positive and their families,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “We wish them a full recovery.”

While there is no union representing the workers at United, UFCW 1518 is calling on the employer to follow all recommendations of the public health office. We are also calling on them to compensate those workers who have been exposed at work for the time they are required to isolate.

UFCW 1518 represents workers at industrial food processing plants throughout British Columbia. At the poultry processing plants that UFCW 1518 represents, the union has worked closely with health and safety committees to ensure there is increased physical distancing between workers, increased sanitation practices, and time off for any employee who is sick.

UFCW 1518 would like to thank the provincial government for acting so quickly to protect the workers’ safety at the United plant. Without taking swift action, the spread of COVID-19 increases exponentially and no worker should be at risk to keep the business running through an outbreak.

In other areas of the country, we have seen extreme COVID-19 outbreaks in food processing plants. All levels of government must be involved, and employers must do their part to keep workers safe so the food supply lines can keep running.

Budtenders Become Essential Service Workers During COVID-19

In a remarkable departure from how the cannabis industry was treated in the past, British Columbia’s cannabis workers have been deemed essential service workers during the COVID-19 crisis. This means that BC’s cannabis stores are encouraged to keep operating as long as they maintain physical distancing measures and put enhanced sanitation procedures in place.

According to the Ministry of Public Safety, essential services are those businesses and services that are “essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.” They are “the services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives.”

British Columbia joins several other provinces and states, including Ontario, Quebec, and California in declaring cannabis dispensaries an essential service.

Unlike in the past, when you could be arrested and jailed for selling or buying cannabis products, the work of Budtenders is now on par with other front-line essential workers like grocery and pharmacy workers. They are performing an essential service that helps to maintain some normalcy during this crisis and provides needed medicine for medical cannabis patients.

Medical cannabis advocates have pointed out how important it is to keep the legal market open during the pandemic, as if dispensaries close medical patients may need to seek cannabis from illegal underground sources. These sources do not have the added scrutiny of the legal market in terms of health and safety protections, and it is difficult to imagine how physical distancing could be maintained for vulnerable medical cannabis patients.

In recognition for their work in helping to flatten the curve on the Covid-19 pandemic, unionized budtenders at Clarity Cannabis are receiving a $2/hour “hero” pay boost and a secure return-to-work benefit. Budtenders also have access to additional child care benefits granted to front-line workers.


UFCW 1518 fights for fairness for over 23,000 union members across BC and the Yukon. Click here for information about joining our Cannabis division, or you can connect with an organizer to learn more.

Staying safe during COVID-19: Best Practices for Cannabis Workers

As the COVID-19 crisis forces millions of Canadians to stay home to flatten the curve on the pandemic, many people are looking for ways to occupy their additional free time. For cannabis consumers, this can mean turning to their favourite strains to enhance their Netflix binging and make their canned food seem more interesting. At the same time, like other retail businesses, the cannabis industry has experienced increased demand as consumers worry about shortages and plan ahead so they can do their part and stay inside.

The COVID-19 situation has introduced new challenges for Cannabis workers, who have become essential service providers during the pandemic. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself, your coworkers, and your customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Physical distancing applies to cannabis stores, too

    According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, “Premises must limit the number of customers entering the store and advise customers in line to maintain physical distancing. When customers are waiting in line at the check-out they must stay 2 metres away from each other.” That goes for cannabis stores as well as grocery stores. Store management must ensure that physical distancing measures are observed in the store in order to protect staff and customers.

  2. Clean and sanitize commonly touched surfaces and wash your hands frequently

    Make sure to clean counters, jars, debit/credit keypads, and other commonly touched surfaces frequently. Now is not a good time to allow customers to smell strains in jars, as this can spread droplets. Wash your hands frequently with plenty of soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

  3. Encourage customers to have a plan.

    Minimizing time in stores is key to preventing transmission of COVID-19. If you have an online menu, mention it to your customers so they can figure out their order in advance and reduce the amount of time they spend in the store.

  4. Stay home if sick.

    If you are sick, even with just a runny nose, you must stay home. UFCW 1518 members receive sick days as part of their collective agreement. If you do not have sick days, here are instructions on how to apply for EI during COVID-19.

  5. Don’t share joints, pipes, bongs, or vaporizers.

    COVID-19 primarily infects people through the mucus membranes in the eyes and nose. If you touch a bong that someone has just used and then touch your eyes, you could potentially infect yourself. Now is not the time to share cannabis products. Encourage your customers not to share it, either.

  6. Consider replacing cannabis inhalants with edibles or drinks.

    There is some evidence to suggest that smokers are at increased risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19. Smoking can cause inflammation, irritation, and injury to the lungs, which can adversely affect your ability to recover from COVID-19. For the time being, consider using cannabis edibles or beverages instead of inhalants, including vaporizers.

  7. You have the right to refuse unsafe work.

    If your employer is not following physical distancing rules or implementing enhanced sanitation, you have the right to refuse to do work that puts you in harm’s way. However, refusing unsafe work isn’t as simple as just saying “no” – you must follow the correct procedure. Learn how to refuse unsafe work.

  8. Take care of your mental health

    Cannabis workers have been transformed into front-line workers in the COVID-19 crisis almost overnight. Serving the public during a pandemic can be a frightening and uncomfortable experience. Put your mental health first. Here are some free or low-cost resources that have recently been made available to all British Columbians during the COVID-19 crisis.
    Many people use cannabis products to help manage their mental health. Cannabis can affect anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs, in some cases making their effects stronger. If you feel the need to increase your cannabis use at this time, take it slow and be careful, making sure to monitor the effects on your mental health. Consider incorporating other techniques for improving your mental health like meditation, exercise, and calling/texting/zooming with friends and loved ones.

Resources for people experiencing domestic abuse and violence during COVID-19

Isolation at home during COVID-19 has led to increases in rates of intimate partner violence and domestic violence against children. If you are experiencing abuse, know that you are not alone and that there is help available. If you are in immediate danger, or if you fear for your safety, call 9-1-1.

Here are some resources for people experiencing violence and abuse. These services are free of charge:

Battered Women’s Support Services: https://www.bwss.org/
Ending Violence Association of Canada: https://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/
BC Society of Transition Houses: https://bcsth.ca/get-help-now/
End Violence Against Children: https://www.end-violence.org/protecting-children-during-covid-19-outbreak
Resources for Technology Safety: https://bcsth.ca/technology-safety-project-resources/
HealthLinkBC: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/te7721
Kid’s Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/ 1-800-668-6868

Community Health Telephone Town Hall Recap

Last night, UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak and Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson joined Vancouver Island Community Health union representative Ashley Campbell, and Special Guest Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy to call thousands of UFCW 1518 Community Health members for our telephone town. The panel was very excited to connect directly with UFCW 1518 Community Health members and hear their concerns during this challenging time.

Minister Darcy listened to Community Health workers concerns and promised to bring their voices to government. She spoke about her personal experiences representing Community Health professionals, as well as developing close relationships with those who cared for her father during his senior years. She offered Community Health workers “an enormous thank you on behalf of your clients, on behalf of your government, and an enormous thank you on behalf of a very grateful province.”

Minister Darcy also outlined several new mental health supports that are available to Community Health worker, who are facing additional burdens during COVID-19 that can affect their mental health and wellbeing. These supports include:

  • A Mobile Response Team (MRT) composed of front-line care workers supporting other front-line care workers. The MRT is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, exclusively to people working in front-line care, including Community Health.
  • Free virtual counselling with one of 200 volunteer clinical psychologists through the BC Psychologists Association. Anyone who works in health care can access this psychological counselling for free.
  • A new peer-support mental health program featuring UFCW 1518 Community Health members. These health care workers are receiving mental health first aid training tailored for people working in community health, home care support, and long-term care from the Canadian Mental Health Association. This new service will be available in early May.
    For more information on these programs and other mental health supports available to all British Columbians, check out our mental health resources page.

President Kim Novak spoke to members on the call about UFCW 1518’s joint campaign with the BC Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) to raise Community Health home care workers’ wages and ask for clear guidelines to be established and enforced around the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in home care. UFCW 1518 has been pushing for these changes at the bargaining table since long before COVID-19 came into our lives. The increase in compensation reflects the hard work Community Health workers do today and every day, not just during COVID-19.

To advocate for these changes, UFCW 1518 sent a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix at the beginning of April and created a petition for community members to add their voice to our call. Since launching the petition, 5,000 people have signed on to our letter. If you haven’t signed yet, please do so here and share the petition widely. Every time the petition is signed it sends our letter to Minister Dix and to local MLAs, which puts pressure on the government to recognize the incredible work of Community Health Workers.

President Novak also discussed the additional challenges that Community Health workers are facing during this difficult period and the supports available to them. For these supports, please check out our COVID-19 Resource Page, it has a lot of valuable resources on accessing government support, staying safe at work, helping out your fellow UFCW 1518 members, and accessing mental health supports. Members can also contact your stewards, union representatives, and our office – we are available 7 days a week to offer support.

Community Health members on the call asked a lot of great questions. Here are some highlights:

Question: Will Community Health workers receive a pay rise, and if they do, when will it come into effect?

Answer: While UFCW 1518 continues to pressure government to create pay rises for Community Health Workers, we don’t have an answer yet. We will continue to lobby government for Community Health Workers to receive a pay rise in recognition of their critical work, not just during COVID-19, but at all times. Our campaign is working—you can help us apply pressure on the government by signing our letter, sharing it widely with your friends and family and asking them to share with their networks. Every time someone signs the petition, an email is sent to government officials directly!

Question: Many Community Health workers are concerned that their clients have not been following physical distancing rules.

Answer: That’s why it’s so important that Community Health workers receive clear guidelines around PPE. There is always uncertainty when Community Health workers enter their client’s homes, so precautions must be taken. That’s why we’re pushing government hard to issue and enforce clear PPE guidelines. Additionally, Community Health union representative Ashley Campbell added that Community Health workers should always report concerning conditions to their management team and to case managers.

Question: Should we be wearing a mask at all times? Even if a client is not showing symptoms?

Answer: The BC Centre for Disease Control has advised that anyone going into a home should wear a mask, regardless of whether the client is symptomatic or not.

The panel enjoyed listening to our Community Health workers and hearing their concerns. UFCW 1518 will continue to push for solutions to these issues. In the meantime, the union is here to support members. As COVID-19 has changed the way that unions operate and communicate with their members, we will be doing more telephone town halls and Facebook live events to connect with members, share information about supports, and hear members’ concerns. Stay tuned to your email and make sure to follow us on Facebook to find out when the next telephone town hall event is happening.