OTTAWA — Canada Post has reversed its decision to dock pay from a Winnipeg mail carrier who attempted to wear a higher-quality mask due to a federal policy the Crown corporation says it still doesn’t comprehend.

OTTAWA — Canada Post has reversed its decision to dock pay from a Winnipeg mail carrier who attempted to wear a higher-quality mask due to a federal policy the Crown corporation says it still doesn’t comprehend.

"We are now working with federal authorities to seek clarification and understand this recent guidance," Canada Post spokesman Jon Hamilton wrote Thursday morning.

On Tuesday, Canada Post supervisors sent home Winnipeg mail carrier Corey Gallagher, whose pregnant wife is immunocompromised and his child too young to be vaccinated, because he insisted on wearing a high-quality respirator.

The Crown corporation insisted that a directive from Employment and Social Development Canada gave it no choice but to follow government guidance, which narrowly prescribed either a reusable cloth face-covering or a disposable surgical-type mask.

Gallagher said he wanted to do whatever he could to avoid the risk of taking COVID-19 home, so he purchased some better-quality respirators, similar to the N95 masks worn by front-line health workers.

Respirators, when fitted properly, prevent the wearer from inhaling airborne coronavirus particles, instead of the blue surgical masks that block people from excreting droplets.

Federal officials pointed fingers as the story gained national media attention, while Conservative and NDP critics argued the Trudeau Liberals had failed to address concerns raised weeks ago by union leadership.

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Letter-carrier Corey Gallagher was sent home earlier in the day from his work at Canada Post because his boss said he couldn’t wear a medical grade mask to work.</p>

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Letter-carrier Corey Gallagher was sent home earlier in the day from his work at Canada Post because his boss said he couldn’t wear a medical grade mask to work.

Late Wednesday, the Liberals blamed Canada Post, saying the agency misinterpreted government rules.

"Employers can go above and beyond what they are required to do," the office of federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan wrote.

His staff said a higher-quality mask or respirator is fine under the Canada Labour Code and federal safety regulations.

That came as news to Canada Post, which laid blame at the feet of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

"Given the complex and evolving nature of the pandemic, we have strictly adhered to the guidance and direction from the health experts responsible for protecting Canadians from COVID-19. We understood from the start that they were the experts, not us, and therefore following their lead was crucial to keeping our people safe," Hamilton wrote.

"Without exception, we have followed the guidance of the PHAC, worked closely with public-health officials at the local and regional level, and respected workplace directives from ESDC."

Gallagher had been put on a personal-leave day Tuesday, which a supervisor changed to a one-day unpaid suspension. That was reversed Thursday to a day of personal leave with no pay docked.

The local branch of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers handed out respirators to staff Thursday at the 400 McDermot Ave. mail depot, after a brief objection from supervisors.

Like many workplaces, Canada Post has reported numerous absences as the highly contagious Omicron variant takes hold.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Dylan Robertson

Dylan Robertson
Parliamentary bureau chief

In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"