Standing Up for Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic

The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19, or coronavirus, a pandemicCertain reports in the press and on social media have given rise to considerable panic among the public, including the hoarding of basic foodstuffs and household supplies. These circumstances directly affect our members in their workplaces. 

We work on the front lines

UFCW Local 401 members work on the front lines of our country’s food, healthcare, and services systems, interacting with the public every day. They provide key services to our communities. 

While the risk of catching COVID-19 remains low in Canada, we must not underestimate the pandemic’s many impacts. 

UFCW Local 401 has been monitoring the development of COVID-19 and has been working with employers, policymakers, and community partners to ensure that the health, safety, and economic security of our members remain at the forefront of policy decisions and practices – in the workplace and in the public. 

We invite UFCW Local 401 members to visit our website for the most UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION we’ve been receiving from employers, resources from health authorities and government sources, and details on our continued advocacy efforts, both in Alberta and across Canada through our National Office. 

We must be heard

When decisions are being made about how to deal with the pandemic, the voices and interests of workers must be heard loud and clear. 

We are currently advocating for a number of immediate policy changes from governments and public agencies, including: 

  • the immediate provision of legislated paid sick days for all workers; 
  • the immediate extension of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to all who are advised to self-isolate by a public health official;  
  • increases to the EI maximums; and  
  • workers’ compensation policies that would include occupations such as grocery store clerks as eligible for compensation should they contract COVID-19 as a result of their work. 

We are also calling on employers to implement robust and proactive labour relations and health and safety policies, including: 

  • the immediate provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all employees who may be at risk;  
  • the waiving of waiting periods for short-term disability benefits;  
  • the immediate waiving of sick note requirements for employees;  
  • the immediate suspension of grievance time limits; and  
  • affirming of employees’ right to refuse unsafe work consistent with occupational health and safety laws. 

We need to act in solidarity

Right now, our communities need us, but we continue to call on employers and policymakers to work with us to ensure the health, safety, and economic security of our members.  

As we all work to contain and minimize the impact of COVID-19, it is important to care for one another. To help prevent and slow the transmission of the virus, we join health authorities and organizations in recommending the following practices: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill 
  • Stay home when you are ill 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, or sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces 
  • Follow the advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and reconsider any travel outside of Canada. 

The pandemic response is everyone’s responsibility, and we all have important roles to play. If you have any questions on this matter, please reach out to your Union Labour Relations Officer, or write to us at 


Thomas Hesse
President, UFCW Local 401

Richelle Stewart
Secretary-Treasurer, UFCW Local 401


With 32,000 members, UFCW Local 401 is Alberta’s largest and most diverse private-sector union. UFCW Local 401 members work in industries as diverse as retail, food processing, warehousing, healthcare, and education.