Workplace death triggers protests vs Ford inaction

Community News & Features Oct 25, 2019 at 4:10 pm
Zenee Maceda (2nd from left), UFCW Canada and Workers Action Centre representatives.

Zenee Maceda (2nd from left), UFCW Canada and Workers Action Centre representatives.

By Mila Astorga-Garcia
The Philippine Reporter

TORONTO–Workers will hold a rally at Queens Park, Monday, Oct. 28, to once again ask Ontario Premier Doug Ford to sign the regulation of the Workplace Safety & Insurance Act stipulating the rights and safety of temporary help workers.

Only when the Premier signs the document can this safety regulation be enforced and the law enacted to the protect temp agency workers, says Alex Banaag, National Representative of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada.

Monday’s rally is a follow-up to a workers protest in front of Ford’s constituency office held Wednesday, Oct. 16, which was organized by UFCW Canada and supported by various workers’ organizations.

Enrico Miranda died at Fiera Foods

Enrico Miranda died at Fiera Foods

Specifically the workers want the Ontario Government to sign the regulation already made under Section 83(4) of the Workplace Safety & Insurance Act, so that this will take effect to protect workers.

The regulation stipulates, among others, that when a temporary agency worker is injured in the company he was referred to by the temporary agency, that company where he sustains the injury should be the one responsible for “the injury and the accident costs arising from the injury,” and therefore must compensate him. At present, the company where the temp agency worker gets injured is not considered liable for compensating him for his injuries, as he is supposed to be an employee of the temp agency.

Banaag said Ford’s office remained closed and guarded by policemen throughout their mass action, and did not issue any response.

The urgency of the issue of temp agency workers’ safety becomes pressing with the recent death of Filipino worker, Enrico Miranda, the fifth worker to die at Fiera Foods industrial bakery or one of its affiliates since 1999. Miranda, an engineer but is a temporary agency worker, was crushed to death while cleaning a machine.

fiera_foods“The objective of our rally is to inform the community how dangerous working in Fiera Foods is, and all other workplaces where you are a temporary agency worker, especially if there is no law that protects you. Agency workers are being exploited. Their work is precarious, minimum wage, and no benefits,” said Banaag.

Aside from UFCW, other labour communities involved in the rally at Ford’s office were the Migrants Resource Centre Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, Fight for $15 and FAIRNESS, Toronto and York Labour Council, Ontario Federation of Labour, UNIFOR, and the Workers Action Centre.

As for Fiera Foods, management had posted a letter to their employees that was critical of the union, and held a town hall meeting promising employees that they will have a health and safety advocate to train workers for safety and to prevent workplace accidents, Banaag said. “But up to now, the workers haven’t heard anything more.”

“This is not only about Fiera Foods, where almost 80 employees are temp agency workers, Banaag said. There are an estimated 1,700 temp agencies in the Greater Toronto Area alone, according to a Toronto Star report.

Workers are not given enough training, and yet many temporary workers, newcomers especially desperate for jobs to support their families, accept temp agency assignments and work in companies at minimum wage, without benefits, Banaag added.

“This practice has to stop,” Banaag said. “The regulation has to be signed… the law must be enforced.”

Chris Buckley (center), president, Ontario Federation of Labour

Chris Buckley (center), president, Ontario Federation of Labour (3 Photos provided by Alex Banaag)

From left: UFCW CANADA organizers Alex Banaag, Tania Liu, Nohora Castañeda, Zenee Maceda.

From left: UFCW CANADA organizers Alex Banaag, Tania Liu, Nohora Castañeda, Zenee Maceda.