Union demands action as bedbug problem spreads to new federal building

These are not isolated cases,’ says PSAC after bugs found at Tunney’s Pasture

Jeanne

As a Tunney’s Pasture tower becomes the latest government building in the National Capital Region flagged for bedbugs, Canada’s largest federal workers’ union is demanding a more proactive strategy to deal with the pests.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) says bedbugs have now been identified in buildings in Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Milton, Ont.

  • Signs of bed bugs spotted at 2 more federal buildings

CBC has learned that one office tower at Tunney’s Pasture — the Jeanne Mance Building, whose primary tenant is Health Canada — is the latest to be monitored.

“I would like to inform you of the activities that are taking place in the building in order to respond to an incident where one bedbug was found on the 12th floor,” wrote Stefania Trombetti of the Responsible Building Authority Thursday, in an email to workers obtained by CBC.

“We are making arrangements for high-heat steaming of the immediate area where the bedbug was found and we are considering additional measures.”

The insect was “eliminated,” Trombetti added.

This email sent by Stefania Trombetti on Oct. 24 outlines the steps being taken to stave off a potential bedbug problem at the Jeanne Mance Building. (Supplied)

Growing problem

It’s been a bad month for bedbugs in federal buildings.

Trombetti’s note came the same week Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), which manages government properties, told some Employment and Social Development Canada employees to work from home Friday.

That request was made so that a pest control company could deal with a bedbug problem at 22 Eddy St. in Gatineau.

PSPC also revealed bedbugs had been spotted on the 16th floor of the Jean Edmonds Tower at 300 Slater St. in Ottawa.

Hundreds of federal public servants also had to work from home earlier this month to allow for bedbug treatments at 70 Crémazie Street in Gatineau — an infestation that had gone on for more than a year.

Magali Picard, national executive vice-president of PSAC, wants the federal government to proactively fight bedbugs in their buildings by, among other things, letting sniffer dogs track them down. (CBC)

‘Not isolated cases’

“These are not isolated cases,” said Magali Picard, PSAC’s national executive vice-president.

  • Bed bugs found inside immigration offices at Guy-Favreau
  • Gatineau office building treated for bedbugs

“Employees have a right to feel safe at work, and they’re rightfully worried about bringing bedbugs home with them and affecting their families, which is having an impact on their mental health,” said Picard in a statement to CBC.

The union would like the federal government to start proactively inspecting its buildings with sniffer dogs, while also creating a registry of buildings contaminated by pests.

They’re also asking them to:

  • Cover fumigation expenses for workers in infested buildings who bring bugs home.
  • Give them the technological ability to work from home if pests become a problem at their buildings.
  • Allow workers stay home after fumigation until a follow-up inspection has been made.
  • Teach them how to identify and report a bedbug problem.

Finally, PSAC said it wants to see the government stop attacking the problem one floor at a time, and fumigate entire buildings when problems persist.

‘It’s worrying’

Some employees who read the note told CBC their biggest fear is bringing bedbugs home.

“It’s worrying,” said one woman as she left the building Friday.

“It’s hard to know if you’ve got some on you or [if] you’re bringing them home. I have small children — I don’t want my kids to be subject to bedbugs in my own home.”

Trombetti wrote in her email that the building’s property management team and the workplace health and safety committees were both “taking this issue seriously.”

“As a precaution, we have installed pheromone glue traps on the floor to monitor the situation,” she wrote.

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