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LETTER: Cashiers risk lives only to get coughed on and bullied

"I have had four customers cough in my face in the past few weeks."
Grocery shopping. File photo

Editor: Re: Some tool sneezed in the face of a Burnaby senior from Burnaby NOW

I just got “coronafired” for trying to bring up health and safety issues at work. I was a manager at a grocery store located in B.C.

Saw your article today. Really appreciate your bringing attention to the "other" front line.

Until recently, I have been serving health-care professionals, first responders and other working essential service employees. Some of us have been comparing notes. I am quite certain that those in the grocery business are probably interacting with more sick people in public than those in the hospitals. If half the cases in Canada are community transferred, then it is more than probable and most likely an uncomfortable fact.

Am seeing a lot of positive stories with regards to grocery workers, but there is a lot of nastiness and ugliness going on where I was at.

As there have been a lot of great comments and support from customers, there have been quite a few bad apples in the bunch - way more than there should be and they have been, and are, taking their toll on the grocery front line.

I have seen folks quit out of fear of getting sick. A new hire just quit from being bullied by customers. I work in a small store, too, so this sucks. It breaks my heart to have to see young cashiers taking turns to cry in our break room.

To see the anguish and fear etching on their faces when people do not follow their instructions to maintain two metres distance. Lots of people have just ignored them.

Some folks have been getting angry and citing a loss of their personal freedoms and rights - spouting conspiracy theories of the government trying to get rid of cash and democracy. My throat is sore from talking to these customers. Would ask them to separate, then as soon as I was gone, they went back to where they were. Blowing us all off. Very frustrating when we are trying to do our part.

There have been some great customers and most folks have been compliant, but there is a larger minority that is not on-side with everyone else. Both young and old.

Have heard lots of racist comments. Most after the fact. I have seen people whom I thought to be quite nice and friendly, turn a cold shoulder and say openly racist things.

Lots of dirty looks being given, mostly to Asian customers. Our cashiers have been outgoing and friendly to all. I made a point of at least saying hello and thanks in Chinese so that those who cannot speak English know that they have support in this time.

Was about to ask my boss for time off to self-isolate. I have had four customers cough in my face in the past few weeks. Quite openly, I might add. One customer said he just got off a plane as he coughed in my face. Another even laughed after he did the same. This was and still is unacceptable behaviour.

Sickening to ponder and I really hope I don't get sick as a result. I am not afraid but am more concerned for my spouse who is quite upset over this and my dismissal.

We have openly sick people coming in to shop. Ignoring signage which asks those who are symptomatic to avoid entering the premises. I have asked for uniformed security to help keep the sick out.

My suggestion was ridiculed and outright dismissed as being unnecessary and over-reacting. As I was getting on-shift, one of our cashiers was telling me of how a customer who was openly sick and could barely breathe was recently in the store shopping. Unreal and unacceptable.

Have been trying to address health and safety at work to an uncaring upper management. They are more concerned with dollars than deaths. I won't say much of what was said to me but I have been dismissed outright for my concerns.

Was heard and not listened to. Had the same answers repeated back to me and now I have been bear baited, tone-policed, and now, business-swatted.

I was not panicked or scared at work. I was angry and righteously so. I tried to voice my fellow employees' concerns and to voice my opinion that we should be more proactive with regards to our store's CV-19 response.

All fell on deaf ears and now I am out of a job for trying to do the right thing at all times. For trying to maintain my integrity of which I have spent a good part of my life to build and develop.

I was going to quit before the pandemic took root herem but stayed on to fulfill my sense of civic duty and obligation to look out for others. Am still thinking of all this.

I really hope my former teammates are going to be OK. Not to mention how much it sucks now to be looking for work in the worst absolute time to be doing so.

C.S. Horsnell

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