Workers Have a Right to a Safe and Healthy Workplace
Rally at Fiera Foods Demands Company Be Held Accountable for Worker’s Death
A rally took place outside the Fiera Foods plant on October 2, bringing together workers, activists, and community members to honour the memory of Enrico Miranda, a maintenance worker killed at the plant on September 25, and to demand the company be held to account.
The Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and the Workers’ Action Centre organized the rally to honour Enrico and offer support to his friends, family, and co-workers. Some 100 people participated, including activists from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Unifor, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation, $15 and Fairness, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups and the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization. Representatives of the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council were also present.
The inhumanity of large corporations like Fiera Foods is such that after Enrico’s death, production at the plant continued and workers were ordered to finish their shifts. Then, one week later, on the day of the rally to honour Enrico and hold the company to account, rather than have workers come to work and see the determination of fellow workers in defence of their rights and discuss with them a way forward, Fiera management cancelled two shifts and told workers to stay home, without pay.
The rally and its speakers demanded the Ontario government take immediate action to hold employers like Fiera Foods accountable for the safety of the trafficked temp agency workers they hire. Calls rang out for those in control of Fiera Foods to be investigated for criminal negligence causing death under the “Westray provisions” of the Criminal Code. Others denounced the Ford government for refusing to put into effect a provision in Ontario Bill 148, passed last year, which would make employers like Fiera Foods responsible for workers’ compensation payments when workers are injured on the job, whether they are permanent or temporary.
Fiera and other companies hide behind the façade of paying the agencies that supply them temp workers for the trafficked workers’ capacity to work. Workers’ rights advocates argue that the use of trafficked temp workers, who have no legal direct connection with the company where they actually work, drives down all workers’ wages and benefits, and weakens the possibility to unite and fight to improve their working conditions. Companies that use trafficked temp workers refuse to take any direct responsibility for their working conditions, often using them for the most dangerous work. They spout the fiction that temp workers are working for the traffickers and not for the companies where they actually work. This anti-worker farce and form of precarious work must not be allowed to continue, workers demand.
Workers also denounced the Ford government for using its Bill 47 to end proactive workplace investigations, reduce employers’ fines for labour code violations, repeal requirements that temporary and permanent workers be paid the same, and to cut $19 million from the Ministry of Labour’s Prevention Office budget.
Activists from the Workers’ Action Centre and Jane Finch Action Against Poverty leafleted near the Fiera plant on October 3 to talk directly to workers from the plant and offer their assistance. They are continuing such outreach actions, leafleting the night shift as they left the plant October 11.
(Photos: RU, $15 and Fairness)