On Christmas Eve 2009 four immigrant construction workers were killed and another crippled when the swing stage they were working on broke in two and they plunged 13 storeys. This is the worst construction accident in Toronto since Hogg’s Hollow fifty years ago when five Italian immigrant workers were killed in a tunnel collapse.These latest victims were deemed as ‘subcontractors’ by their employer Metron Construction. There had been a Ministry of Labour stop work order on the site issued for weeks due to the unsafe swing stage setup.
The Good Jobs for All Coalition, representing 41 labour and community partners in fighting for good jobs for all workers in greater Toronto, is enraged with these senseless and preventable workplace tragedies. The Coalition is calling on the provincial government to provide meaningful protection to all workers in all industries. Through the Canadian history, succession of immigrant workers and refugees have have been exploited and abuse due to their precarious immigration status. There is a growing underground economy where vulnerable workers are made to do work that they cannot afford to refuse.
“What this tragedy has also demonstrated is that it is not enough just to have labour laws enshrined in paper to protect workers, we need a strong and pro-active enforcement system that will make employers accountable for their actions. Government needs to come up with a plan to provide support for workers in precarious jobs,” states Effie Vlachoyannacos. co-chair of the coalition’s Empowering Workers Group.
“This is an urgent wake-up call to our provincial government,” echoes Deana Ladd, coordinator of the Workers Action Centre, “We need our government to aggressively enforce the labour laws, such as OCH&S, WSIB, ESA etc and provide meaningful protection to workers who are vulnerable and non-unionized.”
The Coalition also joins the Toronto and York Region Labour Council in the call for a public inquiry on the unsafe working conditions that workers are exposed to in the underground economy. We also support the stance taken by Ontario Federation of Labour to pursue criminal charges against the company owner if negligence is proved.
“A good job is one which is secure with decent pay and safe working conditions.,” says Winnie Ng, co-chair of the Good Jobs for All Coalition. “This type of abuse must stop. No worker, whether immigrant or Canadian born, unionized or non-unionized, documented or undocumented, should be made to pay with their life.”
Media contact: Winnie Ng 647.291.3511
Effie Vlachoyannacos 416.706.4405
John Cartwright 416.999.5663