The Government of Ontario today introduced a series of announcements regarding new lockdown rules for most sectors of the economy. While trucking remains an essential service, there will be some increased enforcement scrutiny on the classification of essential services. The Ontario Trucking Association has been in contact with Government of Ontario officials and has been assured that our sector will be engaged over the coming days on any further clarifications that may be forthcoming.
The new amendments to the emergency order (O.Reg 8/21 Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures) are effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.
Changes in Essential Workers and Enforcement
The Province of Ontario has introduced new measures that will provide police at all levels and other enforcement officials with more powers to stop Ontarians to check if they are essential workers. People travelling on the road for non-essential reasons may be subject to a fine. There will also be a lot more scrutiny on who is an ‘essential worker’ and enforcement of those who can otherwise do their jobs from home. It is not merely enough for a worker in the trucking industry declare they are “essential” simply because they “work in trucking”. The trucking company or employee of a trucking company, or employer/employee of an essential service in other sectors, must show/prove to enforcement officials that their physical presence onsite at the workplace is required in order to do the job or support the company’s ability to serve the customer or deal with certain commodities, which would be negatively impacted if they were not physically at the workplace. If members experience problems with police, provincial or municipal enforcement regarding this matter please e-mail [email protected].
However, in today’s announcement the Premier and cabinet ministers emphasized in the strongest terms to date that employees and employers must work from home if they can work from home.
Earlier this year, OTA hired Norton Rose Fulbright to provide OTA with successful arguments employers have used in tribunals with regards to employees needing to be in the workplace as opposed to working from home. This may be helpful for members in guiding them through the Government of Ontario policy announced today. This document is available only to the prime contact of OTA member companies. Please e-mail [email protected].
For drivers in their trucks, it will be obvious to authorities that the driver is conducting an essential service; however it could be more difficult for authorities to determine whether those in personal vehicles who are driving back and forth to work if they are travelling for essential purposes. This will be the same challenge for your essential service workers who must be physically in the office. Trucking companies who have employees using their personal vehicles to travel back and forth to work may want to carry a copy of an essential worker letter on company letterhead explaining that they work in an essential job classification that requires them to leave their home.
To assist in this, OTA has prepared two letters: One is a generic letter that states the trucking employee in possession of the letter is essential and must go to their workplace. The second letter is based on the first document and allows the insertion of job title and the rationale why that person must travel and be at the workplace. For copies of these letters, please click here and provide to your employees.
OTA also intends to issue a revised set of letters next week specific for each job classification members deem are necessary to be present at the office or workplace. To assist OTA in drafting these job classification-specific letters please email [email protected] a list of job titles, accompanied with descriptions of the job and reasons they need to be physically at the workplace. Please send this feedback to OTA by Tuesday April 20, 2021.
The government will also restrict non-essential travel between provinces and will set up border checkpoints at the Ontario-Quebec-Manitoba borders. The trucking industry will be exempt. OTA has received excellent input from Atlantic Province Trucking Association members who experienced a similar situation at the New Brunswick border. Based on the experience in the Maritimes, there may be increased delays as a result of the checkpoints. Consequently, OTA has recommended to the Province that it create a bypass lane for commercial traffic so that trucks crossing to and from Manitoba and Quebec. This process will require that commercial only lanes be clearly defined, long in length, monitored and managed.
Changes to Ontario Industry/Member Customer Base
Despite previous reports the province would restrict most construction warehousing and manufacturing operations, today’s announcement only singled out non-essential construction (office, hotel and high-rise buildings etc. construction) for further restrictions. There will, however, be increased and targeted enforcement at manufacturing and warehousing facilities to ensure workers on-site are indeed essential.
To read the entire Government of Ontario press release please click here.