VICTORIA -- A union representing North American grocery workers is calling on British Columbia’s top doctor to make face coverings mandatory for all customers in the province’s grocery stores and retail outlets.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) delivered a letter Tuesday to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, urging her to require masks in stores as COVID-19 cases in B.C. continue to surge.

The letter cites a “double standard” in which many store operators require their employees to wear masks but not their customers, calling the discrepancy dangerous and unfair.

“It creates an expectation of safety for customers but does not extend the same expectation to workers,” says UFCW local president Kim Novak. “These policies contravene WorkSafe rules, which ensure workers an expectation of safety while on the job.”

On Monday, following the revelation that 817 new COVID-19 cases were identified in B.C. over the weekend, Henry said it was her “expectation” that masks would be worn in all indoor public spaces, but fell short of issuing a public health order enforcing mask use.

“We ask you to mandate that shoppers wear masks while indoors in order to protect retail workers and slow the spread of COVID-19 transmission,” Novak says. “These workers have stepped up for their communities. Now it is time that their government do what is necessary to keep them safe.”

The B.C. government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. This story will be updated if and when a response is received.

Cases of COVID-19 have been increasing in B.C. as Tuesday marked the seventh consecutive day on which more than 200 new cases were announced.

The UFCW represents 1.3 million grocery and retail workers in Canada and the United States.