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May 31, 2018

During an all-candidates’ debate last week in Sault Ste.Marie, PC candidate Ross Romano suggested that a workplace injury sustained by NDP candidate Michele McCleave-Kennedy, was not significant because she was injured on the job “by children”.

By dismissing Ms. McCleave-Kennedy’s occupational injury, Mr. Romano not only showed his lack of respect for the work of education workers in his community, but also his disregard for the challenges faced by injured workers across Ontario.

Workplace injuries are significant, whether they occur in a classroom, on a construction site, or at the steel mill. Occupational injury, illness and disease has devastating consequences for many injured workers and their families.

Workers are injured at work far more often than Mr. Romano may think. Last year, approximately 240,000 workers filed a claim with Ontario’s compensation board, as result of being injured or made sick while at work. Many more injuries went unreported.

Anyone who has cared for children can attest that it is physically demanding work. Ms. McCleave-Kennedy is an educational assistant, a job with many distinct safety risks including being shoved, hit, jumped on, and sustaining bites that require tetanus injections.

Increasingly, education workers in Ontario are injured as result of violence in their workplace. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation struck a task force in 2015 to deal with this rise in violence against their members, occurring in our schools. Similarly, the members of Ontario’s English Catholic Teachers’ Association also report increasing incidents and injuries from violence at work.

A survey of over 70,000 education workers, released last year by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, found that over 70 percent of their members reported having personally experienced or witnessed violence in their schools in 2016-2017. Rates for kindergarten teachers and designated early childhood educators were even higher.

By minimizing the effects of occupational injuries on workers, their families and employers, Mr. Romano has done a great disservice to workers that have been injured on the job.

Election day is June 7. The week before, we’ll be coming together on June 1, Injured Workers’ Day, to show our commitment to creating safe and healthy workplaces across Ontario.

If you care about workers in this province, if you’re ready for change that works, if you want to build a stronger, more prosperous, and more caring Ontario, I urge you to start at home and cast your vote for Michelle McCleave-Kennedy and the Ontario NDP.

Chris Buckley,
President
Ontario Federation of Labour

The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in the province of Ontario. It is Canada’s largest provincial labour federation.

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