September 15, 2016
September 15, 2016
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Re: Government investment in business must first consider health and safety records
I listened with great interest to the Speech from the Throne earlier this week as your government made the creation of good jobs a top priority for this session of the legislature. I am writing to you about ensuring that good jobs also mean safe jobs where considerations for workers’ health and safety are paramount.
I am also writing to you regarding a series of workplace deaths at the Fiera Foods group of companies and your government’s investment in Fiera Foods.
On September 2, a young temp agency worker was killed at the Fiera Foods plant in the west end of Toronto. She was the third temp agency worker to be killed at that location. The Ministry of Labour is currently investigating the incident, but has confirmed that it had written orders regarding the lack of proper machine guarding and emergency stop devices, the kind of tools that could have made a difference in saving this young woman’s life.
Regulations for guarding and emergency stops have been in place since 1979 and yet they have been ignored.
In September 1999, Ivan Golyashov, 16, was killed in an industrial dough maker at Fiera Foods. He too was a temp agency worker. The company was charged by the Ministry of Labour and received a $150,000 fine.
In December 2011, another temp agency worker was killed on the grounds of the plant by a transport truck that was backing up. A lack of barriers and lighting were blamed for that death. In 2015, Marmora Freezing Corporation (Fiera Foods) was fined $150,000 for that death.
In March 2014, your government presented Fiera Foods with $1.5 million to help with an expansion of the company. The Premier was at the announcement and is on record stating, “Fiera Foods provides good jobs for families here in Toronto…”
Sadly, this has been far from true, with the company relying heavily on temporary agencies to staff basic operations – on a permanent basis. Temporary agency jobs leave workers very vulnerable as employers often use temp agencies to staff the most dangerous jobs, outsourcing their responsibility for workers’ health and safety.
There can be no doubt that there is a serious problem with workplace health and safety at Fiera Foods. These are in no way, “good jobs.”
Early in 2010, the Ontario government announced an Expert Panel to review health and safety in Ontario. The panel was made up of representatives from labour employers and academia. It was chaired by former Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council Tony Dean.
Following a nearly year-long review of Ontario’s occupational health and safety prevention and enforcement systems, the panel presented the Minister of Labour with a report which included 46 recommendations including a list of identified priorities. The government committed to acting on all of the recommendations.
The report stated, “Government can significantly influence support for health and safety in the manner that it awards contracts and grants to public and private sector organizations.”
The Expert Panel report made recommendations regarding the government developing procurement policies that consider workplace health and safety as well as including it in the development of criteria for funding considerations.
Premier, we are asking you to act on these Expert Panel recommendations and apply them to all government ministries.
Further, in the ongoing Changing Workplaces Review, the Employment Standards Act must be changed to create a disincentive for employers who regularly cycle through temporary agency workers to back-fill permanent positions. All workers, whether they are part-time, temporary or contract workers, must enjoy the same pay, benefits and working conditions.
There must also be joint liability for all health and safety, WSIB and basic employment standards – a liability held by the client employer and the temporary agency to avoid outsourcing of responsibility for workers’ well-being and basic conditions.
With this new session of the legislature, there is the opportunity to act on the Expert Panel recommendations, as well as pass legislation that could curb the abuse of temporary agencies and vulnerable workers. I urge your government to make safe working conditions a cornerstone of what constitutes a “good job” for Ontarians.
I would be pleased to meet with you to discuss this further.
Ontario Federation of Labour
cc: Hon. Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour
Hon. Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
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