Recent media coverage highlights a disturbing lack of progress on longstanding problems raised repeatedly by legal clinics, health and safety advocates and community groups regarding adequate worker protections and safety, compensation and rights.
Temporary agency workers – outrage continues over the death of Enrico Miranda, the fifth worker to die at Fiera and its affiliate companies since 1999. In response, advocates have called out the Ford government for cutting funds for the Ministry of Labour’s prevention office and for its repeal (Bill 47) of 2017 employment and labour law reforms intended to strengthen working conditions and protections for precarious workers.
Temp agency workers in industrial workplaces are, according to workers’ compensation data analyzed in Toronto Star’s investigative series, twice as likely to get injured on the job as their permanent counterparts – in part because they often receive less training on the job and are often also assigned the more dangerous work. Employers have an incentive to use these workers for more risky tasks when, under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s experience rating system, accident costs are attributed to the claims record of the agency, not the client employer such as Fiera.
- Paling, Emma. 2019 Oct. 10. “Enrico Miranda ‘Might Be Alive’ If Ontario Enforced Existing Law: Advocates.” HuffPost Canada
- Workers Action Centre. 2019 Oct. 8. Open Letter to Premier Ford RE: Urgent Action Required After Fifth Temp Worker Death at Fiera Foods.
- Toronto Star Editorial Board. 2019 Oct. 7. “The Ford Government Needs to Protect Temporary Workers.” Toronto Star
Migrant farmworkers – In an expose of the terrible cost of migrant work, the reporter follows the story of farmworkers Artemio Rodriguez and his widow Islas Perez, among Mexico’s rural poor who migrate every year under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), hoping to provide their family a better life. Although changes in 2018 made some improvements to the way health care for sick or injured temporary foreign workers is provided, they remain vulnerable to exploitation when the right to stay and work in Canada is tied to an annual work permit with a single employer. For the 24,000 migrant farmworkers in Ontario, speaking out about abuse or unsafe work and injury can mean losing the job and removal from the country, even when entitled to medical treatment in Canada. This month three Ontario temporary agricultural workers, with the help of UFCW to file the application, were among the first to receive open work permits under a new federal measure, setting an important precedent.
- (added) Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. 2019 Oct. 14. “Snakes, Rats, Bedbugs, Abuse. Complaints Filed by Mexican Migrant Workers Expose Underside of Canada’s Seasonal Agriculture Program
- Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. 2019 Oct. 10. “Every Spring, He Left Mexico To Pick Crops In Canada. One Year He Didn’t Come Home.” Toronto Star
- CBC News. 2019 Oct. 1. “Leamington, Ont. Migrant Workers Receive Open Work Permit.” [radio interview]
- Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. 2019 Apr. 16. Poorest Migrants and Refugees in Grave Danger in Ontario (following legal aid cutbacks)
Occupational disease claims – the WSIB’s Kitchener Waterloo rubber worker claim review concluded last Monday with just 31 of approximately 300 previously denied claims being accepted (and another 24 still under appeal). University of Windsor professor Jim Brophy responded that “the rubber worker stories really cry out for an open, public inquiry into what is happening in terms of occupational disease and the lack of recognition by the compensation system” …
- Jackson, James. 2019 Oct. 8. “Occupational Disease Expert Calls for Royal Commission on Worker Safety.” Waterloo Region Record.
Construction safety – Toronto’s building boom brings with it jobsite exposure to silica dust and the need for effective prevention. Identified by a 2017 study on occupational cancer as one of the workplace carcinogens with the highest number of Ontario workers exposed, crystalline silica creates respiratory hazards when concrete, bricks and other products containing it are subjected to grinding, sandblasting, crushing, chipping, jackhammering or drilling. While such hazards are one target of the Ministry of Labour’s upcoming safety blitz, opposition parties call out the government for cutting back on health and safety regulations and safety education .. And a new report from the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario calls for a closer look at numbers showing a reduction in lost-time injuries, suggesting they mask continuing problems and asking whether the decrease might be linked to employers’ claims-management strategies, or to contracting out to temp agencies…
- Vincent, Donovan. 2019 Oct. 9. “Toronto’s Construction Industry Is Booming – Creating A Lot Of Potentially Hazardous Dust.” Toronto Star
- Wall, Don. 2019 Oct. 8. “Building Trades Calls For National Health, Safety Strategy.” Daily Commercial News