Ontario Construction News staff writer
A Labourers’ Union business agent’s video plea for safer site conditions in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic has been captured and broadcast.
Jack Da Silva, a business agent for Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183, makes it clear in the video that he isn’t satisfied with the working conditions on the unidentified site in downtown Toronto. The video, captured by a worker on the site, has been broadcast by Global TV.
If I lose my job, I lose my job,” Da Silva says says. “I’ve got an 86-year-old at home … My wife is crying every time I go home because she doesn’t know [if] I’m going to kill her father if I have something.”
“We don’t have six feet among each other here,” he says.
“When you’re in the work site there, you guys don’t have six feet around you. We’re all breathing on each other. Where’s your eating facilities? Are they sanitized? Do you have water to wash your hands when you eat your sandwiches?”
He then proceeds to get in a verbal argument with another worker who appears to be a supervisor.
“Where’s the washing facilities for these men?” he shouts. “They’re not here. You have it by your trailer. You want to protect yourself!”
“As the premier has deemed all construction essential, LiUNA has called for strict enforcement and improvements of safety standards which must be maintained and monitored,” a union spokesperson said in an email to the broadcaster.
“Deplorable conditions of some sites are completely unacceptable and jeopardize not only the safety of the worker, but that of their family as well. We must continue to work together with the Ministry of Labour and all employer partners to keep all workers safe.
“Despite the use of strong language, we stand by Jack Da Silva’s comments.”
In a statement posted on LiUNA Local 183’s website, business manager Jack Oliveira writes that union wishes to emphasize in the strongest possible terms that being deemed an essential service doesn’t mean that owners, contractors and employers can ignore health and safety requirements under the collective agreement or the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and elsewhere, that are at law owed to our members.”
“Many of our contractors and employers take the health and safety of our members seriously and, to those contractors, on behalf of our members and their families at this difficult time, we thank-you,” Oliveira writes.
“Other contractors and employers refuse to do all that is required under the law to protect our members or ignore our members health and safety rights. To all of these contractors and employers be advised, in the strongest possible terms, that we will find you and we will be vigilant in coming to your sites and workplaces to do everything legally permissible to hold you and the officers and directors of your corporations fully accountable for any improper practices or procedures or for any harm caused to our members including seeking significant monetary payments/damages for our members, sever sanctions against your corporations and monetary fines.
“This isn’t a time to cut corners or ignore legal obligations-if anything, all contractors and employers should be going above and beyond what they are required to do. Again, we thank those contractors and employers who take their legal responsibilities seriously, especially during times like these.
“The most important assets a contractor or employer can have are its employees, which in large measure involves Local 183 members, who provide the labour and skills to get the job done. They deserve your respect and attention now more than ever.”
In a separate letter to labour minister Minister Monte McNaughton, Oliveira calls for much more thorough inspections and enforcement of health and safety regulations at Ontario constructions sites.
LiUNA Local 183 is the largest union local in North America, with more than 52,000 members. Earlier, the union closed its North York offices when one worker there reported what turned out to be a false positive test result for the coronavirus. Four other workers were tested and found to be virus-free, but the offices remain closed, with union employees working from their homes.