Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Update March 24th

Changes continue at a fast pace at the Hamilton-Niagara TSO while management and our union work to implement telework for critical workloads. Today, an employee was informed that their asymptomatic spouse who works in healthcare tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. This employee works for the call centre on the 8th floor at 120 King St. W. Hamilton. This employee immediately informed management and went directly home upon learning this information. This employee was not exhibiting any symptoms of the virus. The employer contacted public-health for advice on how to protect employees from any transmission within the office. The employer will be doing enhanced cleaning on the 8th floor on March 25, 2020. Enhanced cleaning is happening 4 times per day throughout the office. To further protect employees, the 8th floor at 120 King St. W. will be closed. There will be signage and management presence redirecting employees to 55 Bay St. N to pick up equipment for telework. If you cannot telework, please speak to your manager or union representative.

Management has secured enough new equipment for all critical employees to be able to telework. The best way to protect yourself, your family, and the broader community from COVID-19 is to participate in telework. Local management and your union are working together to get almost all employees out of the office on telework by the end of this week.

If you are currently off work for any reason and have been deemed critical, please contact your manager or union representative in order to arrange telework. If you currently have a medical accommodation, please contact your manager and union representative to revisit the accommodation in order to prevent workplace injuries. Management has committed to working with employees to be able to use their ergonomic equipment if needed.

A message from management went to call centre employees this evening regarding telework arrangements. Management is asking for employees to bring their own bag to carry the equipment home. Contrary to the message from the management team, your union is advising that you DO NOT SHARE bags as this could transmit the COVID-19 virus. You may bring your own bag for personal use.

Please continue to participate in the recommendations put forth by health care professionals such as social distancing and hand washing in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you or anyone in your household are unwell, please do not come to work. Contact your team leader or union representative if you are unsure about how to report your time during this COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you again for patience as we continue to ensure the health and safety of all of our members.

In solidarity,

Executive of UTE 00014

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Dear Hamilton Niagara Employees:

As I mentioned in my last all-staff message, any specific messaging related to COVID-19 will come from the Commissioner’s Office, to ensure there is no conflicting direction and as the situation is quickly evolving.

I wanted to give a quick update on critical workloads that have been identified by the Agency.  This list continues to evolve on a daily basis.  For our purposes, I am focusing on those that involve Hamilton  Niagara employees.

Our biggest contingency continues to be our Call Centre (CC) agents, Resource Officers, Team Leaders and Managers.  Our primary efforts continue to be to get these folks working from home.  We currently have over 300 agents who are either working from home, or who are equipped to do so once their phones are deployed. We anticipate equipping another 100 agents today.  Our gaol is to have all of the CC employees work at home in order to maximize social distancing.

In addition, we have employees in our Refund Integrity program of GST/HST Audit, including High Risk Screening, as well as a number of CPP/EI Rulings officers and some Excise Duty officers, within our Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs division. These employees have also been equipped for telework, to minimize their in-office presence.  We also have on site presence in our Finance and Administration areas, including Security, Mailroom and Accommodations, as well as in our Information Technology area.  In the next week, there may be further workloads identified as critical, which could require additional HNTSO employees to be deployed.

For those who have been identified as critical services, it has been a challenge.   Leaving your families, encountering delays in transit, and dealing with the frustrations of our clients daily has been difficult.  These positions are critical to ensuring individuals and companies are able to maintain critical operations, and are able to access the necessary financial resources available to them during these troubling times.  The stories of the clients who contact us daily is a reminder of how important our work is in security the economic well-being of Canadians.

As with my last message , I would like to thank our union partners, for their continuing understanding and support of staff and our management team during this difficult time. If you have any specific questions, please reach out to your union or manager.  I am in regular contact with your bargaining agents and Assistant Directors and we should be able to honestly respond to your individual questions or concerns. I am currently exploring options to connect with you all through various social media platforms, including Zoom, and I hope to be able to do so in the next week. 

The health and well-being of my employees is always at the forefront of my actions.  It’s important that if you are a critical employee, and you are sick, that you stay home, and follow the advice of your health practitioner and Public Health to self-isolate where appropriate.

I hope you and your family are all safe and healthy.

With Appreciation
Rob Coelho
Director, Hamilton Niagara TSO