March 17, 2020
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, we want you to know that your union is doing everything we can to support our members through this difficult time. FFAW is deeply concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 on our members and their livelihood. Rest assured, we have been working around the clock to advocate on your behalf to provincial and federal governments to ensure measures are in place to support workers. Please carefully read the updates below.
Federal and Provincial Assistance for Workers Impacted by COVID-19
To date, the federal government has announced measures to eliminate the wait-time for Employment Insurance sickness benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19 who are required to self-isolate. Further announcements from the federal government regarding support for workers are expected to come this week. We will pass along those details to you as soon as they are available.
FFAW is calling on the federal government to extend Employment Insurance benefits for all workers impacted by COVID-19, waive wait-times on claims, and increase the income replacement from 55% to 90%.
Additionally, the provincial government announced that, as of Saturday, March 14, anyone returning to Newfoundland and Labrador after traveling outside the country will be required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days after returning to Canada.
In light of these new measures, the provincial government will be providing compensation to private sector employers to ensure continuation of pay for employees affected by this decision. Details on the required documentation and processes for reimbursement to private sector employers will be released by the province in the coming days. Employees should retain documents regarding their travel (such as boarding passes) to facilitate reimbursement if you have traveled outside Canada and are required to self-isolate. Only those individuals who are scheduled to return to work within this period will be compensated. Anyone travelling outside of the country after March 14 will do so against public health advice and will not be eligible for this compensation.
Impact of COVID-19 on Fishing Industry
FFAW has been in communication with Newfoundland and Labrador Members of Parliament to ensure individuals who receive seasonal/fishing EI benefits are included in any new measures introduced by the federal government in the coming days.
While there is no doubt that the fishing season will be impacted by this pandemic, the extent of the impact remains unclear as the situation evolves quickly, from day to day. FFAW has been in communication with DFO regional managers and processing companies to outline our concerns about the impact of delayed openings to fisheries and processing plants and a lack of market access will have on the industry this year. These discussions are ongoing, and we will provide updates to our members as information becomes available.
Our recommendations to government and industry have included, but are not limited to, an extension of Employment Insurance benefits, increasing the EI income replacement from 55% to 90%, an immediate analysis of seafood markets and the impact on Newfoundland and Labrador seafood exports, and an expanded strategy for marketing of Newfoundland and Labrador seafood.
FFAW Operations and Upcoming Meetings
As of Tuesday, March 17, the FFAW offices in St. John’s and Corner Brook will be closed to the public. Staff will continue to work on your behalf remotely and will be available to assist our members by phone and email. We encourage our members to call our main office at 709-576-7276 or reach out to your staff representative if you have any questions.
All upcoming meetings hosted by FFAW have been postponed until further notice. This includes any fleet, committee or unit meetings as well as the Industrial-Retail-Offshore Council meeting scheduled for April 2-3. Further information on the status of meetings will be posted on our website.
Finding the Right Information
We recommend the World Health Organization’s website for further global updates. We also recommend visiting Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial health authority website for up to date local information. FFAW’s website will continue to be updated to include news and information on COVID-19 that is relevant to our members.
Our union will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure our members are not negatively impacted by COVID-19. We are committed to keeping you updated as this situation unfolds and encourage you to reach out to your staff representatives should you have any questions or concerns.