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.

Employees Complain of Bed Bugs at 24-7 Intouch, a call center in Clearwater, FL

January 25, 2016 | by Evan Lambert | Fox 13 News

CLEARWATER (FOX 13) – Former and current workers at 24-7 Intouch, a Clearwater customer service call center, say they’ve been working for a week while the business deals with a bed bug problem.

24-7_Intouch

The company handles customer service calls for major brands like Netflix, Walmart, and Airbnb.

Jeff Fettes, chief operating officer, tells FOX 13 employees did spot several dead bed bugs on January 14. He calls the incident isolated and says the business is not infested. But employees say they’ve seen live bed bugs near air vents and on furniture as recently as Saturday.

Fettes says the company has hired several pest control companies to treat the building.

 

Employees say they are uncomfortable with the working conditions. They describe several workers dealing with repeated bites. Many fear speaking up about the issue will lead them to lose their jobs.

“I feel bad for the people that still have to go to work and then if they are allowed to go home it’s without pay. So if you’re a single person and you’re the sole income you have no choice,” said Celeste Smith, a former worker.

One current worker, who asked not to be identified, said many of her coworkers continue to work because they worry if they complain they’ll be punished by managers.

“One of my friends actually had to go to the emergency room for getting so many bites on one of his legs,” she said.

Fettes says 24-7 Intouch is allowing workers to go home if they feel unsafe. He says the company is advising workers on how to reduce the risk of spreading bed bugs while the company continues to investigate the issue.

According to Fettes, several workers have made complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He says 24-7 Intouch has responded to the complaints by provide documents it is handling the problem.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Which Big Law Firm in New York Is Dealing With A Bed Bug Infestation in the WorkPlace?

January 21, 2016 | by Staci Zaretsky | AboveTheLaw.com

Working in a big law firm in any capacity is difficult enough, but when you add positively nauseating things on top of an already stressful environment, it can make the situation even worse.

Raise your hand if you’re afraid of bugs. You may claim that you’re not, but we’re not talking about any old kind of bug — we’re talking about bed bugs. Bed bugs are likely to bite you repeatedly, suck your blood, and leave you with red, itchy welts all over your body. Bed bugs are also nearly impossible to get rid of. We suspect that you’d be deathly afraid of those kind of bugs.

One law firm is currently dealing with a bed bug problem, and it’s not looking pretty. According to our tipsters, partners at the New York office of Hogan Lovells are attempting to calm the hysteria breaking out at the firm after bed bugs were discovered in several offices at the firm. Here’s an excerpt from an email about the situation sent last night to all New York employees by administrative partner Christopher Donoho:

bed bug bedbug smallYesterday, we received notice that there was a bug discovered in a paralegal office on the 24th floor. We suspected it might be a bed bug and took it seriously. Last night, we had bed bug locating dogs in the office to search every office, work station and room on the 24th floor. The dogs found some evidence of bed bug presence in the managing clerk’s office, the paralegal’s office, one attorney office and one secretarial station. There was no other evidence of bed bugs on the floor. They also searched parts of other floors and found no evidence of bed bugs there either. The exterminators will be back tonight and will be treating the entire 24th floor.

HoLove’s got no love for bed bugs. While Donoho went on to say that the presence of bed bugs was “not the fault of any employee or contractor,” you know everyone is going to be looking sideways at those who work on the 24th floor, especially the managing clerk.

As an FYI, if you see someone scratching themselves incessantly while busy billing hours at Hogan Lovells, you may know who to blame for the firm’s bed bug problem.

#SayNOtoPESTICIDES!

Bedbugs take bite out of worker’s income…

(@Work Advice) |  November 5, 2015

Reader:  I work for a medium-size family-owned company. I recently discovered my apartment was infested with bedbugs and arranged for pest control to exterminate them.  I informed my boss that I would need two days off to prepare for the treatment.  I was immediately sent home from work and told I could not return without written assurance from my landlady that there are no bedbugs in the unit.

My workplace had a bedbug infestation a few years ago and spent $7,000 on treatments. My boss says the company cannot afford to risk another infestation and insists that the company has the right to keep me out of the office. My state labor hotline told me the company has the right under “employment at will.”

The treatment will take several weeks. I am not being paid during this absence and cannot afford to stay out of work. I am applying for unemployment benefits for this period, but don’t know if I’ll qualify.

My manager has been asking intrusive questions, demanding to know what type of treatment I am having done and whether I have bought a new bed (I have, but don’t think that’s anyone’s business). Do I have any recourse?

Karla:  Unfortunately, your employer seems to be within its legal rights in treating you like a kid with cooties — even though bedbugs, like head lice, are more stigmatized nuisance than health hazard. And worse, if you don’t have paid leave you can use and can’t work remotely, your employer has no obligation to pay you (different rules might apply to exempt workers).

It’s understandable that your employer would be bugging out. Aside from the treatment cost, the company could be liable if it knowingly allowed employees to be exposed to itch-hikers through the workplace or a carrier co-worker.

Since you’ve identified yourself as a potential vector, your best recourse is continued transparency. Documentation from pest control and a receipt for your new mattress would show you have nothing to hide. Online information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and some state health departments might arm you with facts about how bedbugs spread and whether there are workable alternatives to a home quarantine. And in addition to seeking unemployment benefits, you might research your state’s apartment leasing laws or your rental contract to see if the owner of your building bears some responsibility.

I’m sorry I don’t have better news, and I hope your ordeal ends quickly. And now if you’ll excuse me, I feel a sudden need for a scalding shower.

Thanks to attorney Richard I. Greenberg, Jackson Lewis (New York).