During the pandemic, Steven Craggs has been working double duty for the City of Oshawa to try and help in any way that he can.
Craggs, is the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 250 in Oshawa. He also works for the city as an operator where he is responsible for street sweeping, salt trucks and snowplows.
Due to COVID-19, Craggs has been working every day to sweep the streets and keep them clean. He says there is a minimum standard that has to be met by each municipality.
“In this day and age, and what’s going on with the pandemic, we want to keep it as clean as possible,” says Craggs.
Because of the impact COVID-19 has had on workers in Oshawa, Craggs says he’s been working closely with the mayor and council to make sure employees are safe. He adds he’s been extremely busy with phone calls, but he is grateful to be helping out the community.
“There’s a lot of people in the world that aren’t working right now and struggling to make ends meet,” he says. “So having this type of job is actually a blessing in my mind.”
With social distancing practices in effect, Craggs says the union can no longer meet as a group and has switched to virtual meetings.
“We have what’s called a membership meeting and we have yearly conferences with CUPE Ontario to update votes,” he says.
According to Craggs, the union has suspended business such as voting because of bylaws that govern that aspect of its operation, but other activities, such as filing reports and financials are still ongoing.
Any decision made by the union needs to be voted upon.
“Normally we would have to vote by paper ballot,” he says. “We’re on parliamentary procedure, right? So how referendum votes happen, you have to actually show up in person to vote and we can’t do that with social distancing.”
In Oshawa, Craggs says the union and city officials have been working together to help workers and it’s been going very well.
“Usually, we’re debating over a lot of stuff but with this pandemic, it seems that everybody wants to work together,” he says. “Because at the end of the day, we’re all people, right? No matter what title you carry, we’re all people.”
Throughout the pandemic, Craggs says the union receives direct information from federal and provincial government officials on how COVID-19 is affecting frontline workers.
“I get emails on a regular basis about updates on the coronavirus and how it’s affecting others,” he says. “Being the president, I want town hall to find out what’s going on in the public sector, especially health care.”
Craggs adds that in case of an emergency, city workers could possibly be re-deployed to help frontline workers and hospital staff. For example, they could be working at Assessment Centres providing screening for individuals in the Durham Region who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.