Justice for Injured Workers
Another Worker Killed at Fiera Foods: Safe and Healthy Workplaces Are a Right
– Christine Nugent –
Rally at Fiera plant October 2, 2019, demanding action after death of fifth Fiera Foods worker.
The death of yet another worker at Fiera Foods — the fifth since 1999 — has shaken the Jane and Finch community, which is part of the Humber River—Black Creek federal electoral riding where the company operates, and all of us who are fighting for worker health and safety in this city and across Canada.
As the Marxist-Leninist candidate in this riding, I offer my sympathy to the workers, who have lost yet another fellow worker, to the family, and to the families of the four other workers who have died.
The name of the worker killed on September 25, reportedly when the machine he was cleaning was accidentally turned on, has not been publicly released. He worked for one of some 30 temporary agencies which supplied workers to the bakery. More than 100 temporary agencies operate in the Jane-Finch area alone.
Fiera Foods is one of the largest industrial bakeries in North America, providing baked goods distributed to many countries worldwide. Temporary workers make up around 70 per cent of its workforce, according to figures from WSIB.
A $15 and Fairness Campaign 2018 backgrounder issued in the wake of the fourth death at Fiera Foods reported, “Fiera has been slapped with 191 orders for health and safety violations over the past two decades, for everything from lack of proper guarding on machines to unsafely stored gas cylinders. It has been repeatedly fined and convicted under the Health and Safety Act. Yet still, here we are in 2018 bearing witness to another death of a temp agency worker.”
We need to end workplace deaths. Workers have a right to safe and healthy workplaces. Companies must be required to provide the working conditions and training required to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all workers in their plants. The workers must have a say in the conditions of their work through mandatary health and safety committees at all workplaces.
Temporary agency workers are particularly vulnerable as companies are not required to pay them the same wage as permanent employees and there is no law that temporary workers need ever become permanent. These economic incentives for employers to hire temporary workers for the most precarious and dangerous work must be ended. At the same time, employers must not be allowed to violate with impunity those employment and health and safety laws that do exist and laws must be put in place and enforced to protect all workers.
Companies must not be allowed to hide behind temporary agencies, which operate with little or no oversight, to escape responsibility for the well-being of those in their workplaces. Companies and their accomplices the temporary agencies whose operations result in a worker’s death, must be required to cease operations, at no expense to the workers, until healthy and safe conditions exist. And the Criminal Code must be applied when warranted.
In Ontario and across Canada, handouts to employers from the compensation system must stop and be reversed. Funds must be put into solving these health and safety issues and ending the thousands of workplace-related deaths of workers each year.
Christine Nugent is the MLPC candidate for Humber River—Black Creek.
(Photos: RU, ONIWG)