The OFL sends condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the young woman killed when a conveyor belt caught her clothing on September 2, 2016 at Fiera Foods, in Toronto’s West End.
She was sent to work at the Fiera plant by a temp agency and had been on the job less than three weeks when she was killed.
It is not the first time a temp agency worker has been killed at a Fiera Foods operation.
In October of 1999 Ivan Golyashov, 16, was killed in an unguarded dough maker at Fiera Foods. He too was a temp agency worker. The company was charged by the Ministry of Labour (MOL) and received a $150 thousand fine.
Then in December of 2011, just after midnight, another worker provided by a temp agency was killed on the grounds of the plant by a transport truck as it was backing up. A lack of barriers and lighting were blamed for that death and Marmora Freezing Corporation (Fiera Foods) was fined 150 thousand dollars.
Workers should not be subjected to unsafe working conditions.
This week Ontario Federation of Labour President, Chris Buckley wrote to the Toronto Police asking for a criminal investigation into the most recent death. In 2004 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended by Bill C-45 and now provides special criminal negligence provisions for companies that disregard the health and safety of workers. The intent of the legislation is to hold employers criminally liable for the deaths of workers.
“Every worker who is killed at work deserves to have their death investigated through the lens of C-45. Their family deserves to know the police have done more than rule out foul play, that they have looked at criminal negligence by the employer as a possible cause,” said Buckley in the letter.
Too many employers treat temp agency workers as a disposable commodity, relegating to them the most precarious and dangerous work.
These employers deserve to be punished, but this government needs to do more to prevent the injuries and deaths of temp agency workers. The legislation is woefully inadequate in protecting these vulnerable workers and holding employers responsible.
Ontario’s labour laws were crafted a generation ago for workers who held full time jobs in workplaces that did not rely on a permanent temp agency workforce. Part-time, temporary and contract work is becoming the new normal in the Ontario economy.
This leaves many with precarious employment and open to employer intimidation and harassment. Exploitive temp agencies can leave workers feeling vulnerable and unable to speak up for fear of losing their jobs even when they are concerned about unsafe workplaces. There is also the question of who is responsible for workers’ health and safety – the temp agency or the company where they work?
The Ontario government is currently reviewing the province’s employment laws. This means we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring in sweeping changes and create the employment laws Ontario workers need, including holding all employers to account.
Ontario’s outdated labour laws are failing to protect workers. The OFL is telling the Ontario government that it is time to Make It Fair.