Representatives from UNE met for a national consultation concerning Passport workers and critical work during the COVID-19 pandemic. National President Kevin King, Assistant National Vice-President for Human Rights, Kate Hart and Regional Vice-President for Outside Canada Rose Touhey represented the Union. Several new pieces of information came out of the meeting.
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship
The Union was advised that all Passport (PPT) offices have plans to deal with the emergency passports either by “weekend duty” style call-backs or limited staff going into work. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC) confirmed that the United States International Passport Service (IPS) and missions are all now deemed critical for evacuations, repatriations and requirements for working visas.
The processing centre in Gatineau will bring in a minimal number of employees on rotation to work on the backlog of IPS files. In Mississauga, the processing centre will send in minimal staff on rotation for the missions work. Additional employees will be trained to assist the call centre in answering COVID-19 questions. All offices will undergo enhanced cleaning and employees will be provided with safety kits, gloves and sanitizer. Mobility will be reduced so members can avoid touching doors.
Service Canada Centres
In regards to Service Canada Centres (SCC) critical work, the employer has said that their intake of benefits requests is over 600% higher than last year. Offices that remain open have enhanced cleaning standards and spacing requirements. Workers are provided with sterile wipes and gloves. Personal protective equipment training will be provided.
UNE asked about face masks and the employer replied that they are not recommended by health officials unless you are sick. UNE asked about installation of plexiglass and were told by the employer that they do not have plans to do this since they are working to shut down in-person offices completely. Members will no longer do medical screening. Instead, it is to be done by security at each office.
Critical work includes employment insurance, pensions and some social insurance and old age security work. The employer has created an online form to request certain services including passports.
UNE inquired about the nature of the work that would be asked of our members and it was indicated that the needs are different at each location and will be worked on with Locals. Such work could be back office, from home or in person. There could be a number of functions including working on calls for COVID-19, answering passport form inquiries, SIN lookups and any other critical duties if trained. UNE expressed that our members should only be asked to do critical and meaningful duties.
There are national calls scheduled every few days at ESDC and IRCC and in most regions there are calls every day.
For more information, contact a member of your Local Executive.