Letter to Minister McNaughton: Health and safety of front-line workers must be a priority | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Letter to Minister McNaughton: Health and safety of front-line workers must be a priority


Hon. Monte McNaughton
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
14th Floor
400 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M7A 1T7

Dear Minister McNaughton,

RE: Health and safety of front-line workers must be a priority.

We are concerned about recent reports that Ministry inspections in response to work refusals related to COVID-19 are not being taken seriously.

We are concerned that many of these cases are not resulting in orders to protect front-line workers, whose health and safety must be top priority.

It appears the ministry’s enforcement branch is being sidelined during this pandemic, much as it was during the SARS outbreak.

Ministry inspectors play an important role to ensure that workers’ health and safety is protected. They are too often handcuffed by red tape and bureaucracy and should be allowed to do their work without interference and enforce the protections outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and related regulations.   

In his report “Spring of Fear,” Justice Archie Campbell’s examination of the SARS pandemic in 2003, concluded:

“The evidence reveals widespread, persistent and ingrained failures by the health care system to comply with, and by the Ministry of Labour to enforce, Ontario’s safety laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Ontario Regulation 67/93, Regulation for Health Care and Residential Facilities.” (Campbell, p. 850)

Minister, we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. There are too many lives at risk. Your ministry has a legal mandate to protect workers. The Occupational Health and Safety Act supersedes any public health directives when it comes to the health, safety and lives of workers in Ontario.

Calling front-line workers “heroes” does not give them special powers or protection from the virus. When employers fail to take reasonable steps to protect them, these workers turn to your ministry for help.

Minister, we must do better by these workers. We cannot fail them as we did with SARS in 2003.

Please take immediate action to protect health care workers, front-line workers, all workers.