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Fight COVID-19 by listening to frontline workers: Almeida’s Passionate Plea

Vice President Eddy Almeida speaking at podium
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TORONTO – OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says listening to the expertise of front-line workers is the only way to bring COVID-19 to its knees.

Almeida appeared on Toronto TV station CP24 on Tuesday and spoke passionately about the outbreak at Brampton’s Ontario Correctional Institute. He put the blame squarely on managers who are out of touch with what is going on in the facility.

Almeida, a Correctional Officer, is calling on all employers to learn a lesson and draw on the expertise of their frontline staff, whether it’s in correctional institutions, healthcare facilities, long-term care homes, community care or any other workplace.

“Premier Ford and his cabinet are doing a commendable job of trying to reduce the spread of this virus,” said Almeida. “But their work is being undermined by managers across all sectors who are out of touch with the frontlines. They spend their days Monday morning quarterbacking from their offices. They never get anywhere near the frontline workers who are putting their lives at risk, so how would they know what to do?”

Almeida says the COVID-19 infection numbers would be much lower if it weren’t for the bungling of managers who are detached from reality. In far too many instances, employers and their senior managers have ignored pleas for PPE, social distancing, appropriate staffing, limits on visitation and adjusted programming. Some have gone as far as to try to lay off workers or send those who may become symptomatic home without pay.

“The expertise and dedication of frontline public sector workers and their labour representatives is the key to controlling COVID-19 in Ontario,” said Almeida.  “We’ve seen some horrible and irresponsible decisions that should not have been made if workers had been listened to.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says Premier Ford was exactly right when he focused on front line workers as the heroes of this pandemic. It’s their know-how and expertise that will get us through this crisis. Just give them the tools and resources they need. 

“We appreciate that many employers are praising the risks and sacrifices we’re making, but enough of the tributes please,” said Thomas.  “What we really want is to be listened to. We’re the ones who best know how to protect Ontarians. During this pandemic that should be our primary focus.”

Almeida urges managers to take note. “Right now, it doesn’t matter whose side of the fence you’re on.  Let’s put union/management differences aside and lead through this crisis together – for the sake of our workers who rely on us both. If you can’t get with the program, then get out of the way.”

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For more information: Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, 289-439-2135