Hon. Monte McNaughton
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development 14th Floor, 400 University Avenue
Toronto, ON M7A 1T7
Dear Minister McNaughton,
We are writing on behalf of our 163,000 members in Ontario.
We must express in the strongest terms that every portion of the Occupational Health and Safety Act must be upheld by your Ministry during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union representing women and men that work in many of Ontario’s sectors deemed as essential services such as health care, mining, retail, forestry and manufacturing.
Our workplace Joint Health and Safety Committees and Unifor Health and Safety Representatives are doing the best they can with the resources they have to ensure the physical and psychological safety and health of our members during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are occasions when they need the assistance of the MLTSD Inspectorate as the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) fails to deliver a safe work environment.
At a recent legal webinar, it was revealed that between March 11 and April 7, 2020, approximately 200 work refusals took place in Ontario. Apparently, not one of these refusals were upheld by your Ministry. When the IRS fails, it is the job of a ministry inspector to investigate the work refusal and make an informed decision on the issue of concern. Indeed the threat of calling the MLTSD inspector in the workplace is what drives the IRS and the workplace parties to work together!
Unfortunately, a lack of actual inspector visits during workplace investigations is highlighting a weakness in the MLTSD mandate and injustice to the workers of this province. An Inspector’s job is to protect the rights of all workers including front line workers. An inspector cannot
conduct a proper investigation or make an informed decision from a phone call. Inspectors must take on the same role as front line workers and physically attend the worksite of a work refusal.
Minister McNaughton, if a workplace is deemed unsafe for an inspector to attend, how is it that workers themselves are expected to be there?
We must not ignore previous lessons learnt from SARS investigations:
Ontario’s worker safety system needs a tune-up to ensure that the Ministry is not sidelined the next time we are hit by something like SARS. Workers are entitled to better safety enforcement than they got during SARS from the Ministry of Labour. Worker safety requires an independent inspection and enforcement arm and in Ontario, the Ministry of Labour is that arm. The public is entitled to expect that the government’s worker safety arm will be more aggressive next time in its protection of workers (SARS Commission Report).
Minister McNaughton, on the eve of the Day of Mourning, April 28th, you must act now and change the meek role your Ministry is exhibiting at this time when workers across this province need your protection more than ever.
We ask that you change the current weak approach in order to protect workers and their families in this time of crisis.
NAUREEN RIZVI SARI SAIRANEN
ONTARIO REGIONAL DIRECTOR DIRECTOR HEALTH & SAFETY