Statement from UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak on Mask Mandate

UFCW 1518 would like to thank Dr. Bonnie Henry for instituting a mandatory mask policy for anyone entering a grocery store, coffee shop or retail location in British Columbia. This much needed public safety measure, which Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth will roll out in the coming week, will go a long way towards keeping frontline grocery and retail workers safe. These workers are doing an incredible service for their communities, keeping everyone supplied during a pandemic, and they deserve strong health and safety protections and recognition for the work they are doing.

Now that there is a mask mandate, and most restrictions in place by the public health office, we ask the public, employers, and public health authorities to remain vigilant against this disease. If you are entering a grocery or retail store you must wear a mask correctly, but you must also still maintain two metres of distance from workers and follow directional arrows while shopping. You must still stay at home if you are sick. Please shop alone if you can, and don’t linger in stores longer than you need to.

Employers must still restrict the number of people allowed in stores to the level that the Public Health Office deems acceptable. And we expect all Employers to comply with the directions of the Public Safety Minister regarding the enforcement of mask-wearing and any other Public Health orders that keep workers safe. And as always, there must be zero tolerance for any abusive behaviour towards workers.

Yesterday’s orders from Dr. Henry recognize what UFCW 1518 has been advocating for months: steps must be taken by government to protect workers in this pandemic.

We also continue to advocate for all frontline workers by calling on all Employers to recognize the important work their employees are doing by paying pandemic pay – because all frontline workers deserve to make a living wage.

While we are grateful to Dr. Henry for issuing this order to protect grocery and retail workers, we are still calling on the Public Health Office and all healthcare employers in British Columbia to require anyone coming into contact with in-home care workers to wear a mask. In-home care workers from our union have been telling us that they frequently encounter family members and visitors who do not wear masks. These situations put in-home care workers and their other clients at risk. We will continue to call for appropriate protections and recognition for workers in in-home care as they continue to help keep the most vulnerable cared for in the comfort and security of their homes.