Recommendations for “Essential” Workers

Provinces vary depending on which businesses and work sites are considered “essential” and must remain open, and which are considered “non-essential” and are either closed or moved to virtual settings. Check with your province’s guidelines here.

Essential workers are defined broadly as workers who must continue to report to work and maintain open hours for business due to their significant nature in aiding the community (e.g., health care, grocery, gas stations).

All essential workers are significantly more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 due to their frequent contact with others. As a result, any IWW member who is deemed an essential worker should work with their organizing committee or, in cases where none exists, agitate amongst their fellow workers to ensure they have the following:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
    • Disposable gloves to reduce contact with surfaces or items that may contain COVID-19.
    • Facial masks to protect from coughing, sneezing, and interacting orally with COVID-19. N95 masks are best, but cotton facial masks have also been effective at cutting down the risk of COVID-19.
    • Enforced social distancing between customers/patients and other workers. A six-foot rule is the stated guideline by the WHO to cut down on the risk of contracting COVID-19. While not all workplaces can effectively enforce this rule as well (e.g., in fast food restaurants), mandating some procedure for movements and transition in the workplace is critical.
    • Hand sanitizer that can be used freely by either customers/patients or workers. In most workplaces, extended hand washing is difficult after every interaction. However, WHO guidelines for hand sanitizers are fairly easy to make at home with simple ingredients.

Check our guideline for “essential” workers, broken down by Industrial Unions, for more information for specific industry guidelines and recommendations.

Guide for Unemployed/Laid Off IWW Members

Many of our fellow workers have lost stable employment due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The federal government recently passed a stimulus package, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), that will be sent out to all Canadian citizens.

The CERB will provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for any worker who loses their income due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who are wage earners, contract workers, and self-employed are all eligible for this benefit. Workers who are currently employed but not receiving an income due to workplace disruptions may also qualify for the CERB. CERB payments will be processed within 10 days of application and the form will be made available tentatively in early April.

If you applied for Employee Insurance (EI) already prior to the passage of CERB, you do not need to reapply. If you are already receiving EI, you can continue to receive these benefits. If your EI benefits end before October 3, 2020, you can apply for the CERB once your EI benefits cease so long as you are unable to work due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the time. If you are eligible for EI, you can apply for it here.

The full CERB bill can be read here.
If you are an unemployed freelance artist, writer, or media worker, this document provides resources for temporary employment, grants, agencies, training resources, and mental health resources.

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