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May 14, 2020

The proposal in a memo from the Ministry of Children Community and Social Services that workers in congregate care settings use cloth masks instead of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) violates the Occupational Health and Safety Act, says the Ontario Federation of Labour. 

“Instead of working to solve the PPE shortage, as workers continue to contract COVID-19 and lose their lives, the government is proposing that workplaces use insufficient protections. Shame,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates. “It is a clear violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to remove respiratory protection from staff, leaving them to risk their health every day at work while being paid low wages, and without paid sick days during a pandemic brought on by a virus with no cure, no effective treatment, and no vaccine. The Ford government must take action to enhance and improve personal protections for these workers.” 

Since the appearance of COVID-19 in Ontario, it has been widely reported that workers in care facilities have been told to ration masks. 70 per cent of COVID-19 deaths have been residents in long-term care homes.

“The health and safety standards in workplaces today are the result of years of advocacy by Ontario workers,” said Coates. “The labour movement in this province will not rest until every worker has the protections they need. In this case, those protections include all workplaces using the precautionary principle where workers are able to access N95 masks and change their mask as needed. 

The Ontario Nurses Association won a court case confirming their members’ right to adhere to the precautionary principle.

“This memo makes it easier for the government to shirk its responsibility to make sure Ontario’s supply of PPE is sufficient,” said Coates. “The shortage of medical grade personal protective equipment in this province can be easily remedied by a government order telling private manufacturers to retool their plants to produce N95 masks and other personal protective equipment,” said Coates. 

On May 14, the premier announced that 1,798 people have died of COVID-19 in Ontario. 

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

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For more information, please contact:

Meagan Perry
Communications Director
Ontario Federation of Labour
mperry@ofl.ca | 416-894-3456

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