LiUNA 183 COVID-19 scare: False positive test closes North America’s largest union local office

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

North America’s largest union local has reported a COVID-19 pandemic scare, which fortunately has resolved as a false positive. The office remains closed, even after the union reported late Thursday the final two of four employees awaiting test results were confirmed “negative”.

Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183 issued an urgent notice on Tuesday after a business representative at the union’s North York headquarters reported public health authorities had discovered positive test result for the COVID-19 virus. The employee worked in the dispatch area of the union’s office at 1263 Wilson Ave.

“Based on this information the Executive Board, out of an abundance of caution, made the decision to close down the office to ensure the health and safety of all employees and all members,” the union reported on a website bulletin.

Local 183 has more than 50,000 members in the GTA and Kingston areas. The union says the affected employee did not travel to job sites, and last worked in the office on March 13.

“After the closure was announced the Local was further advised that four other employees were self-isolating and three of those four confirmed that they had flu like symptoms. All four individuals have been tested. Only two of the four have been advised of their results, both were negative. Two test results remain outstanding.”

Late Thursday, the union published a memo saying it had received an “all clear on all the employees.”

“We are very pleased to announce that all staff who had been tested for COVID-19 have now confirmed to have negative test results,” the union announced.

“Our properties are free and clear of the virus give the positive test results. We must remain vigilant to stop the spread of this illness. All other personal safety measures remain in place including social distancing, wash your hands constantly, avoid face to face contact, sneeze or cough into your sleeve etc.

“This has been an important dry-run on our emergency procedures that may need to be invoked again, all to ensure the health and safety of our staff, employees and members.

“Thank-you to all for your cooperation, assistance and most importantly your patience. These are stressful times for everyone and we are comforted to know that our emergency response plans were measured and acted on quickly by all involved.

“We anticipate having the staff return to the office shortly, but we will provide notice to all employees as soon as we can.

“For the time being our offices will be closed to the public and members-however jobs will be posted in the window so they can viewed from outside. Members can still contact their Union Reps as required.”

Earlier, in announcing that the original employee’s positive test result was incorrect and that four other employees were awaiting test results, the union said:

“This same employee, who advised that they had been notified by Public Health that their COVID-19 test came back positive on Tuesday confirmed on Wednesday that Public Health had contacted them again to advise that they had, in fact, tested negative. The employee provided medical to confirm to the local that their test result was negative and not positive as previously advised. These findings have now been confirmed as a negative test result.”

“While the executive apologizes for any inconvenience or stress this situation may have caused, it based its decision on the first hand information provided by the employee in question which later proved to be wrong. It did not have time to second guess the information and did not wish to put anyone in risk. The Executive Board and the employee had, at the time, no reason to doubt the accuracy of what Public Health had told the affected employee.”

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