To All Low-Rise Residential Members of Local 27:

(Low-rise trim, roofing, exterior cladding and residential flooring members)

You have no doubt heard that the Government of Ontario has declared a state of emergency. At this time, the Government has indicated that this state of emergency does not extend to a shutdown of construction sites. The health and safety of our members is of paramount importance and we are sending this notice to provide you with the information we have at this time. As you are aware, this situation is rapidly changing and we will endeavour to keep you updated with developments as we become aware of them. Please know that we are considering all options at this time to best serve our membership.

It is important during this time to remain calm and to practice social distancing to the extent possible. If you are experiencing any symptoms (including cough, fever, difficulty breathing), take the precautions necessary to self-isolate and contact a medical professional for further instruction. If you have recently returned to Canada from another country, you must self-isolate for fourteen days. If you have been in contact with an individual who has tested positive, you may wish to self-isolate, even if you are not exhibiting any symptoms.

More than ever, it is important that we all do our part to “flatten the curve” and try to minimize the spread of the virus. This means avoiding contact with anyone displaying the symptoms of COVID-19 and avoiding gatherings. Practice heightened hygiene, including washing your hands regularly with soap and/or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

If you have any business with the Union, please contact your business representative. All business representatives will continue to remain available to speak with you via telephone.

Monthly Union Dues

We recognize that given the nature of the low-rise residential sector (including the amount of individuals who are pieceworkers and may not have access to EI), this crisis may disproportionately affect our members performing work in this sector.  For all Local 27 members operating on a piecework basis in the low-rise sector of the residential sector, the Union will cover monthly union dues for the work months of April and May 2020 for all members who are in goodstanding as of March 31, 2020. 

Monetary Assistance

During this time, if you are unable to work as a result of self-isolation or quarantine and you are eligible for EI sickness benefits, you should apply immediately. Service Canada has waived the one-week waiting period for new claimants who are quarantined (it is unclear to what extent this applies to self-isolated individuals). Contact the dedicated toll-free number if you are seeking to waive the one-week EI sickness benefits waiting period (Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 /Teletypewriter: 1-800-529-3742).

If you are not eligible for EI, your benefit plans are in the process of making concessions, which could allow you access to funds. At this time, we believe these concessions are as follows (this is, of course, subject to confirmation by the plans):

If you have an RRSP through the Union, you will be eligible to withdraw up to $5000.00 (if you have a sufficient balance in your RRSP) from that RRSP by applying through a simplified withdrawal procedure.

If your plan provides for a productivity bonus, the plans are waiving the administrative fee for early withdrawal of any productivity bonus you may otherwise be entitled to under your collective agreement.

As soon as we have any further information from the plan administrators, we will provide it to you. We would appreciate your patience so that the plan administrators are not overwhelmed and that the proper procedures can take place.

Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

While construction sites remain open, it has come to our attention that certain parts of some construction sites (including safety trailers) may be closed to workers. This could cause a health and safety issue, particularly if first aid stations are located in those areas.

Pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”), a worker may refuse to work or do particular work, in a number of specific situations, including where he or she has reason to believe that the physical condition of the workplace or part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is likely to endanger himself or herself (OHSA, s.43(3)(b)).

There is a specific protocol that must take place if you are intending to refuse unsafe work. More specifically, if you refuse to work (or do particular work), you must promptly report the circumstances of your refusal to your employer or supervisor. In a situation where you are a subcontractor, report the refusal to your main contractor. The individual you report to should then investigate the report in the presence of you and, if one is appointed, a health and safety representative or member of a Joint Health and Safety Committee representing workers (OHSA, s. 43(4)). During this time you are to remain in a safe place and available for the investigation (OHSA, S. 43(4)).

Following the investigation, if you have reasonable grounds to believe that the situation you complained of continues to endanger yourself or another worker, you may refuse to work or do the particular work and a Ministry of Labour inspector shall be notified (OHSA, s. 43(6)).

According to the protocol set out in the OHSA, the inspector will then investigate and decide whether the circumstance in issue is likely to endanger the worker or another person (OHSA, s. 43(7),(8)). You are expected to remain in a safe place and available to the inspector during this time (OHSA, s. 43(10)).

During this time, no worker shall be assigned to work in the workplace (or part of the workplace) being investigated unless in the presence of a health and safety representative or member of a Joint Health and Safety Committee representing workers AND unless any workers have been notified of the work refusal (OHSA, s. 43(12)).

If the inspector finds it necessary to do so, a work stoppage order will be issued, meaning that work cannot continue until such time as the issue has been corrected.

It is unclear, at this time, how the Ministry of Labour will handle work refusals during the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is important that you follow the protocol, as best as you are able, to ensure that you are in compliance with the OHSA, should you refuse to work in an area you believe is unsafe.

DUE TO THE TIME SENSITIVE NATURE OF THIS INFORMATION, PLEASE SHARE THIS DOCUMENT WITH AS MANY OF YOUR CO-WORKERS AS YOU CAN.