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Opinion: Burnaby workers ‘threatened’ with firings for disclosing COVID-19 cases

Some businesses will do anything to keep things quiet
A positive swab test for COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

If there is one thing NOW readers really seem to want to know about it’s COVID-19 cases at Burnaby businesses – particularly retail businesses they might frequent.

That makes sense. You want to know what’s happening at your favourite stores and actions being taken.

Some companies – like Loblaw, which operates Real Canadian Superstore, and Sobeys, which runs Safeway – understand this and have been shining examples of transparency by posting daily case trackers detailing staff cases.

Other businesses, well, not so much.

There’s a long list of large retail businesses that are hiding behind privacy concerns to not keep the public informed. I've also been told about Burnaby food manufacturing firms that have keep COVID-19 cases hushed up.

And it’s not just a matter of not posting these cases online. I’ve been contacted by several workers in recent weeks saying their bosses have threatened them with being fired if they are caught telling the public the truth.

One worker detailed how the company they work for has reacted with paranoia to prevent anyone from finding out about staff cases.

“Their statement is we want to protect the individual’s privacy and anybody that threatens that will classified as harassment,” said one worker in Burnaby. “I can’t really lose my job right now. But I feel bad for all the stores mentioned because our company is in the same boat. We got cases too but nobody is talking about it.”

Another worker says the company they work for doesn’t want workers who test positive to even tell their co-workers. In fact, the company doesn’t share positive cases with other workers. Some employees just disappear for a couple of weeks and won’t discuss what happened when they returned from hiatus for fear of being fired.

“The company will never put anything in writing for fear we’ll share it with the media,” the worker said.

It’s ridiculous. As I’ve heard over and over, shoppers will stay loyal to companies that are transparent.

Too bad so many are unwilling to be truthful.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.