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Whose mask tab is it, anyway? Why pandemic protection is a touchy issue in the service economy

Whose mask tab is it, anyway? Why pandemic protection is a touchy issue in the service economyAt Bannerman Brewing in downtown St. John's, server Peter Lannon weaves in and out of people balancing multiple drinks in his hand with a finesse and skill as precise as a figure skater.From the moment a patron enters the establishment until well after they have left, Lannon is in constant contact with customers, from seating them and serving their drinks and food to handling payment, cleaning up and sanitizing every dish they have touched. This is the service economy in the era of COVID, where a public-facing job now comes with an undesirable side of potential exposure to coronavirus. This is also an example of a situation playing out daily in stores, restaurants and pubs across Newfoundland and Labrador, where employees are required to don a mask to do their jobs, but there not clear mandates on who must pay for them. Lannon said it's hard not to feel anxious, even though the prevalence of COVID-19 remains low in Newfoundland and Labrador. As of Monday afternoon, there were two active cases in the province. "There have been days I come home from work and I'm aggressively taking a shower … being kind of nervous about maybe who [I] had come in contact with," he said. "You see somebody at a table and they could have flu like symptoms and you still have to serve them because it's my job." Company sees mask as part of a uniformBannerman Brewing owner Phil Maloney admits it hasn't been easy to attract staff. He also says the company did not want to put a financial burden on its employees by requiring them to pay for masks. "We wanted our employees to feel safe, first and foremost, coming back to work," said Maloney. The company sees masks as part of the uniform, which the employer is responsible for providing, while the employee is responsible for its care. Bannerman Brewing has provided one reusable handmade mask to each member of staff, at cost of between $15 and $20 each. > We wanted our employees to feel safe, first and foremost. \- Phil MaloneyNewfoundland and Labrador does not legally require all employers to cover the cost of masks. In a statement to CBC News, the Department of Health and Community Services said that "individuals are encouraged to obtain and use their own personal masks for daily use. Anyone who is unable to obtain their own personal masks for use in the workplace should speak to their supervisor or employer to discuss possible solutions."Shouldering the cost of a mask can be an issue for both employer and employee. For small businesses in the service industry, the year started with a week of closures due to the Snowmageddon blizzard, following by a lockdown in March triggered by COVID-19. Reopening came with the necessity of extra cleaning supplies, procedures and labour, all while operating at 50 per cent capacity.For many employees in the service economy, any extra cost is always a challenge. Across Canada, the average hourly wage rate in 2019 in the accommodation and food services sector was $16.54. Some earn less. The minimum wage in Newfoundland and Labrador goes up Wednesday to $12.15 an hour, an increase of 50 cents.  'We're in this together'Colin LeGrow, who consults with companies on how to mitigate hazardous work environments, says provincial occupational health and safety legislation does set a bar for employers. "There is a general duty clause where an employer, where reasonably practical, shall ensure the health, safety and welfare of his or her workers," said LeGrow, president of Technical Rope and Rescue. Not all work environments, though, are alike. LeGrow says both sides need to co-operate. "Is the exposure any different [inside the employee's] home or the [employee's] workplace? If it's magnified at the workplace, then the employer has a general responsibility in order to protect against that and the employee also has a responsibility to be involved with that process and comply with what's expected of them," said LeGrow. "We're in this together."Even there is no mandate to provide employees with personal protective equipment, including masks, many employers do it anyway. Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers Council, said that the organization has found employers taking COVID-19 and its impact seriously."I've yet to meet [an] employer that wants to see one of their employees become ill from anything or get injured in the workplace," said Alexander.Back at Bannerman Brewing, Lannon said he appreciates a supportive and positive work environment, although the risks of working in the industry have weighed on him, including making him wonder about older individuals and the immunocompromised people in his life that he may be putting in jeopardy due to the nature of his work."I, personally, have found it hard sometimes on my mental [health] to feel stable in a work environment where, you know, I don't really know who I'm serving or who they could have been exposed to," said Lannon.Lannon added his mask does not merely reduce physical transmission of COVID-19 but also gives him a sense of mental security.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Canadian Museum of History facing crisis over current, past employee complaints

Canadian Museum of History facing crisis over current, past employee complaintsThe Canadian Museum of History has been hit by recent complaints of workplace harassment involving its CEO Mark O'Neill, and is facing questions over the handling of past allegations into his behaviour brought forward by other employees, sources say.According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, the complaint that led to the launch of a formal investigation into O'Neill in July was filed directly with the Office of Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Other complaints have since been filed against O'Neill, who was appointed to lead the institution in 2011.Sources said that in recent years, other employees had raised questions about O'Neill's behaviour and management style with the museum's board of trustees and its human resources branch. These employees subsequently told colleagues that they were displeased with the way their grievances were handled, sources said.O'Neill, whose mandate at the museum expires next year, is on leave until Nov. 2. He said on Monday morning that like other museum employees, he is not allowed to speak to the media on this matter.> It wears you down. It is an accumulation of incidents. \- Former employeeRadio-Canada has spoken with current and former employees of the museum, as well as other government officials, to obtain a clear picture of the current crisis facing the institution.Many of the sources called for a broad overhaul to get rid of a toxic workplace culture, adding the institution needs a plan to deal with the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.Unpredictable, ill-tempered, extremely angry: sourcesAccording to these sources, the complaints are related to O'Neill's behaviour with his employees, as well as his management style and his temperament.Former employees who worked with him directly alleged that O'Neill was unpredictable, ill-tempered and became extremely angry at times — akin to a volcano that could erupt at any moment. The sources said he has undeniable qualities that explain his rise to the top of the organization, but that he kept staff constantly on their toes. The sources said there was a high turnover rate in upper management, which they blamed in part on O'Neill. The sources added O'Neill frequently contacted them outside regular business hours."He is brilliant and has done exceptional things," said a former employee. "But you never knew what was awaiting you: the person who is pragmatic, strategic, intelligent, or the person who is spiralling out of control."Another former employee added: "It wears you down. It is an accumulation of incidents."According to Guilbeault's office, the investigation by outside lawyer Michelle Flaherty will have all the necessary leeway to get to the bottom of the matter. According to her mandate, she will also be expected to review the museum's handling of questions over O'Neill's conduct over the years.'Zero-tolerance policy' on harassment: museumSources also said the federal government is set to replace the chair of the board of trustees, Jim Fleck, by fellow board member Jean Giguère on an interim basis. Fleck's mandate expired last year.News of the investigation into O'Neill was first revealed by Le Droit on Sept. 17.The Canadian Museum of History joins other organizations facing turmoil over workplace issues, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Sources said a major problem facing the Canadian Museum of History is resuming operations after many projects, including long-term planning on exhibitions, were put on ice during the pandemic.Reached by phone, Fleck refused to comment on the situation.The museum has issued a statement saying that "the government of Canada and the board of trustees have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to workplace harassment."


Nova Scotia's new ultrasound college to work with private imaging clinics

Nova Scotia's new ultrasound college to work with private imaging clinicsNova Scotia's new college for ultrasound technicians is working to ensure non-medical ultrasounds are safe for mothers and babies. The efforts are being welcomed by the unregulated businesses that provide families with pictures and videos of their unborn babies. "I'm happy with the idea of any time you can be collaborative rather than adversarial. Everybody benefits, right?" said Julie Avery, president and registrar for the Nova Scotia College of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Professionals."I think this will be an example for the boards of other provinces to follow," said Tina Ureten, president of UC Baby, a private company with 28 ultrasound locations in Canada, including one in Halifax. Recreational, not medicalNova Scotia's Medical Imaging Act was proclaimed Sept. 9. It requires ultrasound technicians, also called medical diagnostic sonographers, to be licensed by their board in order to practice in the medical system. However, the act does not apply to non-medical ultrasound businesses. Those ultrasounds are not done for medical reasons, but to let expectant parents see images of their unborn baby and hear the heart beat. "The fathers, grandparents, siblings, they get thrilled in our ultrasound rooms. They jump from their seats, they kiss us, they kiss their wives, so it's always very emotional. A very, very happy environment," said Ureten.But now the college is working with the private sector to ensure the lines between celebration and medical care are not blurred. "Now that there's rules, you need to reach out to these people to make sure that they are aware, and to work with them, so that everybody's on the same page," Avery said. Serious possibilities Avery wants protocols in place in case a non-medical ultrasound reveals something of potential medical significance. For example, one of the private services offered is a sound recording of an unborn infant's heartbeat. "What if there is no heartbeat, how do you handle that situation?" Avery said. "How much information and how would they phrase that ...to ensure that they're not giving out information they shouldn't be?" Avery said both sides are working on a protocol for when a mother's doctor should be quickly informed of something an ultrasound shows. Avery said there will also be work on standard language to avoid confusion about what different types of ultrasounds do. Ureten said that's already standard protocol in her clinics. "We just tell them this is not a replacement of your medical ultrasound. And it's not our job to make measurements and to tell your baby's size, or check the organs," Ureten said. "These are offered by hospital ultrasounds and you should not skip those."MORE TOP STORIES


Nova Scotia should lift some COVID-19 restrictions to help businesses, group says

Nova Scotia should lift some COVID-19 restrictions to help businesses, group saysAs COVID-19 numbers remain low in Nova Scotia, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce is calling for the province to relax some of the restrictions to help businesses survive.Patrick Sullivan, president and CEO of the chamber, said Nova Scotia has some of the lowest case numbers in the country and continent."The reality is we need to relax a little bit to allow businesses to operate effectively in what has become a special place in North America," Sullivan said Monday.He noted that now is an ideal time to make some changes, given that as of Monday there was one active case in the province, no new ones had been reported for six days, and Nova Scotia is the only Maritime province with mandatory masking in public places.Restrictions have also been eased to allow groups of 50 people to gather without social distancing for performing arts and sports, as of this Thursday.Restaurants should have more capacityBut, Sullivan said restaurants still have to enforce physical distancing which cuts down on how many customers they can seat at one time.As patios start to close up for the year, he said it would make a big difference to allow more people inside eateries.He would also like to see physical distance rules lifted for elevators. Since some buildings still only allow two people in an elevator at one time, Sullivan said many businesses can't send their entire staff back to their physical office spaces.Earlier this month, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission estimated in an informal survey that only 20 to 25 per cent of the regular workforce has returned to working in the downtown.In the past, Sullivan has called for the Atlantic bubble to be burst. On Monday he said that even with Ontario's current spike, the numbers work out to statistically eight people per 100,000, but he's stepping back from a focus on loosening border restrictions."We've got a great thing going in Nova Scotia. Let's at least relax some of the requirements here," he said.He said that he would still like to see changes at the Nova Scotia border.It would be ideal to see the province spend some of the $77.3 million for more testing and contact tracking that recently came in from the federal government, Sullivan said, to allow travellers to move in and out of the province more quickly.Also, Sullivan said bringing in tests at the airport or land border right away would make a big difference in people's ability to travel inter-provincially.More testing for workers, business travellersHe suggested having people be tested in their home province before travelling to Nova Scotia, then isolating for a few days before a second test a few days later, so they don't have to quarantine for the full 14 days.New Brunswick allows those who work in other provinces to come back without self isolating, while in P.E.I. workers returning home only need to self-isolate until they get a negative COVID-19 test. Newfoundland allows rotational workers to end their isolation after one week if they have a negative test.In Nova Scotia, rotational workers still have to self-isolate for 14 days when they come home. Although the tourism season is winding down, Sullivan has said that shops and restaurants could still benefit from business travellers, who booked 500,000 room nights in Nova Scotia last year.MORE TOP STORIES


Tuesday 29th of September 2020 10:13:27

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