Member Spotlight, NSUPE, Workers' Rights

The New Normal

As Nova Scotia reopens offices, businesses, libraries, schools, and transitions into the new normal we want to feature the perspectives of our members. We asked Alex Hagen, NSUPE Secretary, and Shelby Kennedy NSUPE President, about their roles at the Halifax Public Libraries, which is represented by NSUPE Local 14.

Alex Hagen – NSUPE Secretary

I’ve been off-the-job since mid-March and furloughed/on CERB since June. Halifax Public Libraries began re-opening the libraries not long after furloughing most of its part-time staff. As it stands, I remain on CERB while many of my co-workers have gone back to work. I know not all of them want to be working again, and I don’t necessarily want to be working now either, but I have a strange sense of being left behind, while also wishing there was more I could do for my co-workers than just watch and worry about them from the sidelines.

It’s been 4 months since my last shift. I’ve been struggling to find meaning and purpose within the intervening time. I feel like I’ve run the gamut of expected reactions to being off-work during COVID – little arcs of drinking and sobriety, taking up old hobbies before and putting them down again, binge-watching television shows; periods of joy, depression, activity, and inactivity.

Every day I check my e-mail to see if I’ve been recalled to work, feeling a confusing mix of dread and desire – wanting the familiar structure that my job would give me, while also not wanting the many negative aspects and consequences that would come with it. Do I really want to be working during a pandemic? And after all of this is over, do I really want to be right back where I started? Isn’t there something more to be gained from the collective struggle we’re enduring?
There has been so little self-agency these last three months, so many changes forced upon us, that in the end, I am not surprised so many of us are asking – what do I really want? And what do I want the future to look like? I hope when I’m recalled to work – when some semblance of “normal” returns for me – that those questions keep burning in the back of my mind.

Shelby Kennedy – NSUPE President

Library life at the Central branch has changed quite a bit since the lockdown started in March. Now it’s the middle of July and we have been open for a couple of weeks. While we were in quarantine, my duties were to answer library questions over email and through telephone. I also hosted some virtual programs online. Now we’re back in the branch and while we’re still offering those distanced services, our branches are open mainly for borrowing/browsing and using the computer. I was very nervous to start work again in person because I thought we would be just as busy as before the lockdown but thankfully most people are still either staying away from the library or making their visits short. Staff are wearing face shields, customers are asked to wear masks (though it’s not required), and sanitizing wipes, gels, and foams are found around every corner. The risk is not eliminated, but staff are taking safety measures very seriously. If anybody is thinking about visiting the library, I would ask them to first consider using the online resources instead. If you need to visit a library branch, please keep your visit short and safe.

Photo: Samson Learn Photography via CALM

Member Spotlight, NSUPE

Update from Local 12

NSUPE represents blood collection and support workers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Canadian Blood Services is considered an essential service because the need for blood and blood products never goes away.

We spoke to some of our members of Local 12 in Nova Scotia to ask them about how things have changed while we navigate Covid-19. This is what they had to say:

Kelly Falle
Local 12 Vice President – Collections
Donor Care Associate
Halifax, Nova Scotia

As a frontline CBS employee, we’ve been strictly following the precautions implemented by CBS. Currently we have set up a pre-screening station before donors enter our clinics where donors are asked about their travels and how they currently feel health wise.

We have spaced out our donor beds and the chairs where our donors wait, all reading material is now one-time use and then put in a recycle bin. All staff clean beds and screening areas after each donor to ensure it’s properly sanitized for the next person. We want and need our donors to feel as comfortable and safe as possible coming in to donate blood, as it’s still in much demand.

I continue taking precautions after I leave work before heading home to my family. I keep hand sanitizer in my car and when I get home I shower and put my uniform in the laundry. We try to minimize our trips to the grocery store and other places, and of course practise social distancing where ever we are, we’ve also been calling a few of our older neighbours making sure they have the things they need. We all have a roll to play to try and stop this virus from spreading.

Alastair Galloway
Halifax, Nova Scotia

From a Driver’s point of view, its still business as usual with the following additions:

  • We are now sending 3 buses out to our mobile clinics, when we used to just send one. This gives staff the social distancing space.
  • We are no longer having staff stay overnight in hotels, so drivers are bringing staff back to Dartmouth everyday.
  • Our hospital delivery drivers have to answer questions on their travel history, before being allowed to enter the hospital to drop off blood.
  • Drivers are helping out on mobile clinics to pre-screen donors, asking questions on their travel history, and if they are feeling any symptoms before they are allowed to enter the clinic. Also, Drivers are helping by wiping down the tablet screens after each donor has used them.
  • Our ground run driver has to cross checkpoints at the NS, NB and PEI borders. So far we have not encountered any problems, or restrictions while accessing the province.

I am doing fine, but like my coworkers, I’m a little stressed right now.

Chadd Ketchum
NSUPE Treasurer
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Currently members of Local 12 are continuing to work as normal. We have seen a few mobile clinics close due to the clinic locations not being opened. They have put out a plea for blood, which the donors have answered and supported. I don’t believe anyone is working from home, but I could be wrong. Most of our Local is front line staff so we do not have the option to work from home. We have not been impacted by any layoffs yet. I do not see layoffs being something that will impact us as we are an essential service for the blood supply in Canada.  I am still working as a shipper/receiver out of our production and distribution facility in Burnside.

Kelly Falle at the beginning of her shift.
Alastair Galloway making a delivery.
Marc Doucette assisting at a mobile clinic.