Opinion: Burnaby workers unfairly left to police menacing anti-maskers

Chris Campbell

While many Burnaby businesses took too long to finally implement mandatory mask policies, they are a good thing.

Leaving the wearing of a face mask - to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 – to the whims of shoppers was never the best idea. People seem to need forcing to get them to do the right thing.

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T&T in Burnaby was the first big company to do it and slowly – too slowly – other grocery stores and businesses are adding mandatory mask policies.

It’s a good thing, as I said, but vulnerable Burnaby workers are the ones being left to enforce those policies and they are hurting.

I’ve spoken with seven different retail and grocery store employees in the past week who are tired of getting yelled at - or “menaced” according to one person – when they politely try and nudge a customer into putting on a mask.

“I don’t get paid enough to be put in this position,” said the worker who was “menaced” by a grumpy Karen at the end of August. “I’m glad my employer is doing this because it protects me. But sometimes I just don’t bother because it’s a little scary.”

The workers all feel that someone in management should be roving the stores enforcing the policy, or they should hire special staff who are perhaps trained in this sort of thing.

Some stores have been using existing security staff or hiring temporary staff to enforce the policies. That seems to be a good idea, based on what I was told.

We’ve all seen videos from the U.S. and, yes, Canada of anti-maskers freaking out on workers trying to enforce mask policies.

They are rude, belligerent and often terrifying. It’s unfair to put underpaid workers in this position. If you haven’t had to do this then don’t assume it’s easy, especially if English isn't your first language - that just adds another layer of difficulty.

From what I’ve been told it’s inducing great anxiety in local workers both before they start each shift and long after they have encountered an anti-masker.

I’m hoping this blog will reach some store managers as well as those people who refuse to wear masks. It's time to step up and make some changes.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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