MONTREAL -- The Quebec government has been providing essential service workers with a few extra dollars per hour amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but one group feels left out – people who work in funeral homes. 

According to the Fédération du commerce (FC-CSN), employees at funeral homes – those responsible for transporting bodies, those who prepare them for burial and those who operate crematorium services – are exposed to the risk of contagion, as studies show the COVID-19 virus survives after a person’s death. 

The FC-CSN is asking the government to afford a $3 per hour risk premium for all funeral home employees, and that visors and N95 masks be made available to them. 

Though employers have put protection measures into place within the homes, workers are concerned because they’re handling bodies of people who may have had COVID-19 without knowing it. 

"If the diagnosis of COVID-19 was not declared by the doctor who noted the death, there is no way of knowing if the deceased was infected and there’s a significant risk of contamination,” said FC-CSN president David Bergeron-Cyr. “This is the disturbing context in which hundreds of workers go to work every day. These people are putting their health at risk in order to provide a service that society cannot do without.” 

The FC-CSN also mentioned administrative staff and those designated to assist families of the deceased are under a lot of pressure as they are still dealing with the public amid the crisis – the province’s physical distancing rules pose a whole new set of challenges for them. 

“The funeral industry is a difficult and highly emotional workplace,” Bergeron-Cyr said. “For many, it may seem less attractive. But we can’t end up running out of employees in this essential sector a time of pandemic, we must recognize their contribution. It has already been difficult to recruit in several regions.”