Since late March, at the request of workers, Bad Boss Report supporters have been contacting the Executive Director at Fife House to demand they provide their frontline staff with 1 mask and 1 medical gown, per worker per shift. Our network also engaged local MPPs and city councillors.
Fife House is a non-profit that provides housing to people living with HIV/AIDS. Residential Support Workers had been doing wellness checks and household chores without PPE. The ED justified this risk by pointing to the province-wide shortage of PPE and the (despicably low) standards set out by health authorities for mandated use of PPE. Obviously the policies were driven by the shortage, and not by what is best for everyone’s health.
By April 3, Fife House management was getting nervous. They disabled comments on their social media accounts. On April 6, the ED finally allowed workers to bring their own PPE from home. As of April 16th, workers have been provided with 5 homemade masks per shift.
This situation is an improvement, but is still inadequate. It reflects the government’s inability to provide sufficient medical PPE for frontline workers. The Fife House case also highlights the reluctance of bosses to do whatever they possibly can in order to protect their employees and clients. Here’s what we learned:
- Workers know exactly what they need in terms of workplace health and safety –before, during, and after the pandemic. Bosses need to follow their lead.
- Workers at the bottom of the labour hierarchy — precarious, temporary, feminized, racialized workers, and those who work with vulnerable populations — are being left behind. They need more money, paid sick days, PPE, and better health and safety conditions.
- Employers — not only corporate employers, but also non-profits — won’t prioritize workers unless they are forced to. Employers will wait for the state to force them to do the right thing, and even then, the state’s efforts are often inadequate.
- When workers speak up early on and consistently about their needs, and organize together, they see results.
Thanks to everyone who supported this action to achieve this partial victory! We will continue to monitor what is happening at Fife House and support frontline workers there.
Last update: April 21, 2020