Friday, March 19, 2010


April 28, Workers' Memorial Day, is fast approaching, and like in years past Molly will be blogging extensively on this subject. Workplace related deaths are actually a far more common cause of mortality than any wars. In any given year 2 million people die worldwide of workplace accidents or occupational illnesses. I guess there are wars and then there are wars, and the war of the bosses against their workers is much more deadly than any other. Here's a potpourri of recent workers deaths in Canada. To say the least this is a mere snapshot. First from CTV Toronto a call from the Ontario Federation of Labour for a police probe into a construction accident in Toronto earlier this month.
Union demands police probe into worker's death
The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The Ontario Federation of Labour is calling for a criminal probe into the death of a construction worker in east-end Toronto last week.

The man was building concrete forms when he fell through a hole on the second floor, plummeting about 10 metres to the basement.

The victim, known to co-workers as Ali, died in hospital later that day.

Friday's accident occurred at the University of Toronto's new $70 million Instructional Centre.
OFL president Sid Ryan is calling on police to investigate the accident to determine if criminal charges should be laid against the employer.
He says the law allows for the prosecutions of company officials if they fail to keep workplaces healthy and safe.

Ryan says the March 12th death was the seventh fall-related fatality in as many weeks ( NB - Molly ) and "another preventable death."

"The carnage in our workplaces has to stop." he said.
Here's an item from the University of Toronto newspaper The Varsity that clarifies and expands on the incident mentioned above.
Site worker dies on Scarborough campus
Labour union seeks criminal investigation
Samya Kullab
A construction worker named Hilit Mutlu died last week when he fell through a hole on the second floor of U of T Scarborough’s new $70 million Instructional Centre, plummeting 10 metres to the basement. The accident occurred on Friday, March 12.

Mutlu, a recent immigrant from Turkey, died later that day when he was rushed to Sunnybrook.
“This is actually the second fatality with this group of companies and the second fatality as a result of a fall,” said a spokesperson for the Ontario Federation of Labour.

In June 2008, Petro, a co-worker of Ali, fell three metres from a cantilevered portion of a support beam at a condo site.

OFL president Sid Ryan called for a police investigation of the accident to see if criminal charges should be laid against Ali’s employer, Red 2000 Structures Inc., for failing to keep the workplace safe..
Ryan described the incident as “another preventable death.”

“All we’re saying is that we want a criminal investigation and only if evidence warrants should there be charges. What we’re looking specifically is for an investigation through the Bill C-35 amendment, which places a legal obligation under the criminal code around employer negligence,” said the OFL spokesperson.
Last December 24, another four Toronto construction workers fell to their deaths when scaffolding collapsed. The OFL called for a criminal investigation under Bill C-45.
The Bill amended the Criminal Code of Canada to allow for the prosecution of corporate executives, directors, and managers who neglect to uphold their responsibilities to make and keep workplaces healthy and safe.
The death of Ali coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Hogg’s Hollow disaster, commemorating the death of five Italian immigrant workers who died while constructing a tunnel in 1960. The death caused public outrage and mobilized the Italian community to change health and safety laws.

Ontario tallied 10 fall-related construction worker deaths in 2009, according to the Labour Ministry.

Tim Legault contributed reporting for this article.
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the name of the worker who died as Ali. In fact, his name is Hilit Mutlu. The Varsity regrets the error.
Here's another item from radio station VOCM out in Newfoundland about yet another incident.
Man Dies in IOC Industrial Accident; Union Questions Air Ambulance Delay
The Iron Ore Company of Canada says 56-year-old Eldon Perry is the victim of an industrial accident at their operation in Labrador City. IOC says 33-year-old Joshua Hayse also involved in the incident remains in hospital in serious condition. The RNC say the two men, both from Lab City, were working at the site when they fell off a piece of lift equipment Thursday afternoon around 2 p.m. They were brought to Captain William Jackman Memorial Hospital. The Constabulary and Occupational Health and Safety are investigating, and operations at the mine have been temporarily suspended.

Steelworkers' Union President George Kean says they are mourning the loss of their member, and hope Hayse will have a full recovery. He says Perry was a kind co-worker, dedicated family man and well known in the community.

Kean says there are concerns about the unavailability of an air ambulance yesterday. He says it finally arrived around 1 a.m. Friday morning. Kean says it's a two-hour flight from St. Anthony, so he is wondering where the air ambulance was Thursday. He says the individual could have been at the Health Sciences Centre last night with the proper care available. Kean wants something done about the issue, and he wants to see health care improved in Labrador West.
Here's a little reminder from the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) about what the situation used to be and what we have yet to achieve. The anniversary was mentioned above. Molly would add the warning about what could happen once more if the employers "win the war".
Labour movement commemorates 50th anniversary of Hogg’s Hollow disaster
(TORONTO) -- In 1960, the horrific deaths of five Italian immigrant workers who died while constructing a tunnel produced such public outrage, mobilizations in the Italian community, and massive union organizing that health and safety laws were forever changed.
Unaware of their rights and desperate for paid employment, the workers became victims of an employer who continuously violated almost every safety regulation governing the Toronto tunnel project.
“Today we honour the victims of the 1960 disaster and note that they have become a potent symbol of the importance of rigorously enforced health and safety laws,” says OFL President Sid Ryan.
“But while vitally important progress has been made, workplace dangers continue to exist for too many of Ontario’s more than seven million workers.”
Last December 24th, four workers fell to their deaths when their scaffolding collapsed. A fifth worker barely survived. The OFL called for an immediate criminal investigation utilizing “Westray” Bill C-45.
The Bill amended the Criminal Code of Canada to allow for criminal prosecutions of corporate executives, directors and managers who act wrongfully or neglect to uphold their responsibilities to make and keep workplaces healthy and safe. In the six years since it was passed more than 400 Ontario workers have been killed on the job and nearly two million injured, yet not one employer in Ontario has been prosecuted. ( NB - Molly )
“We are at another turning point in health and safety protection. C-45 must become routinely integrated into provincial responses to death and injury. Too many irresponsible employers and managers will only get the message when they too have their futures at stake,” said Ryan.
Sid Ryan
President, Ontario Federation of Labour
p: 416-209-0066 (mobile)
Finally, to give a little local reference to this topic here is a story originally from the Winnipeg Free Press about local NDP MP Pat Martin's long standing campaign to end the asbestos industry in Canada. This latest is simply about ending government subsidies to this killer industry. Martin is one of the few members of parliament who has actually ever worked for a living.
Feds should cut asbestos advocacy funding: NDP MP
Mia Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press: Thursday, March 18, 2010

OTTAWA — A New Democrat MP has challenged the federal government to cut its budget funding for the Chrysotile Institute, a Quebec-based advocacy group for the asbestos industry.
In the budget, the government affirmed its annual $250,000 in direct support for the institute, but Winnipeg MP Pat Martin said Thursday that asbestos is an unsafe product that the government should not be paying to promote.

"It's corporate welfare for corporate serial killers," said Martin.
At a Natural Resources Committee meeting he proposed a motion to cut the funding from the budget estimates. He has the backing of the Canadian Cancer Society, which wrote the committee this week asking for the institute's funds to be redirected to a strategy to phase out the use and exports of asbestos.
Canada is one of the last producers and the second largest exporter of asbestos in the world. About 200,000 tonnes of the fibre is still mined in Quebec and exported each year, mainly to developing countries such as India and Indonesia. It is used mostly to reinforce construction materials.

But the World Health Organization says all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, causes cancer, and it has been banned by the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and all countries in the European Union.

It is associated with a number of fatal lung diseases and is responsible for more than 60 per cent of the industrial-related deaths in the country each year.

Clement Godbout is a registered lobbyist who heads up the Chrysotile Institute, a non-profit organization set up in 1984 by the Quebec and federal governments to promote the safe use of Chrysotile asbestos around the world.

The institute has done a great job of protecting Canadian workers from the health hazards of asbestos, he said, and now the institute uses that expertise to educate developing countries on safe use of the product.
"Canada is a resource-rich country and we export all kinds of chemicals and natural products that are cancer-causing if used improperly, some more than chrysotile," he said, giving such examples as lead and uranium.
There is only one remaining asbestos mine in Canada. It is in the riding of Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis.
At the committee Thursday, Paradis said he has long been aware of Martin's criticism of the asbestos industry but said Martin cherry-picks facts from studies and ignore others.
"These studies show chrysotile asbestos is safe," said Paradis. ( "safer than" is not "safe" - Molly )

He said the position of the government to continue funding the institute is based on science and that it is safe as long as its risk is properly managed.
Paradis said that is the whole purpose of the Chrysotile Institute. ( I suppose that defending a profitable industry has nothing whatsoever to do with it - Molly )

"It is not an institute of lobbying," said Paradis. "It is there to promote the safe use of asbestos." ( cough, cough, cough - Molly )

Last year, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff came out in favour of banning asbestos exports after changing his position a few times. But the Liberal natural resources critic Geoff Regan said Martin's appearance at the committee was nothing more than a political stunt that took away from other important work the committee should have attended to. Martin is not a normal member of the committee but appeared Thursday solely to introduce his motion regarding asbestos. ( Martin actually once worked in an asbestos mine, unlike the other members whose "work experience" is probably entirely in legal finagling. I can imagine that he has a personal interest that goes beyond the protection of business clients- Molly )

"He was just using the committee as his soap box," said Regan. "I have no great affection for the Chrysotile Institute. Our leader has been very clear we believe chrysotile asbestos poses significant health risks."
But Regan said the response is to address regional economic diversification.

Regan said the NDP knows amending the estimates is a confidence matter that leads to election talk and that's not appropriate.

"I don't want any part of these NDP electioneering games," he said.
Martin called the response "spineless." ( I'd have different insult terms for it- Molly )

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