Toronto police say seven of protesters have been fined after occupying Premier Doug Ford’s constituency office Wednesday evening.
The protest started Wednesday afternoon after many people gathered in front of the office demanding changes to be made to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, which advocates say would ensure safety of temporary workers.
“It’s been sitting in Queen’s Park for a year now. It’s section 83 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act and it would give temporary hire agency employees more protection in workplaces,” Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said.
“We are going to be here as long as it takes … we will be here all night and we will be here tomorrow… ultimately, we want the premier of Ontario to stand up and tell the people of Ontario that every worker has the right to a healthy and safe work environment and every worker as the right to go home healthy and safe at the end of their work day to their loved ones.”
Buckley said this protest comes after a person reportedly died at Fiera Foods three weeks ago.
“Fiera Foods has a terrible history of workers dying in their facilities,” Buckley said.
“Since 1999 in the province of Ontario five workers have been killed working in a Fiera foods facility.”
Global News reached out to Fiera Foods for comment, but didn’t not receive a response before publication.
On Oct. 4, a press release from the company said it will lead “a comprehensive review into the health and safety culture and practices at Fiera Foods and its allied companies.”
Angel Reyes was employed as a temporary worker for several years and said he knows first-hand the dangers temporary workers can experience while trying to earn a living.
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“We had a very bad environment… We don’t have any training about safety and employers they don’t give us the training,” Reyes said, adding he hopes Ford signs legislation that will ensure worker safety.
“Give a little support to people who suffered in this situation.”
Organizers said they will plan on staying outside Ford’s constituency office until the necessary changes are made.
Deena Ladd, executive director of Workers Action Centre, said it’s a move that comes after many attempts to get in touch with Ford and his office.
“We’ve tried everything to get attention on this issue: letters, emails, phone calls, meetings,” Ladd said.
“They have just ignored us and we felt like we had no other choice, especially after another worker had died at Fiera Foods. We thought we can’t just keep be organizing vigils all the time.
“How many memorial services, how many candles do we have to light, and how many vigils do we have to organize before this premier realizes that he has a responsibility to the people to make sure they are protected when the go to work?”
Toronto police said seven people who were inside the building have been charged with trespassing and fined. They were escorted out of the building and released.
Ford spoke with reporters about the protest Wednesday evening in Kenora and before the arrests occurred.
“Our goal, not only for Fiera, but right across this province, the number one priority — I know this as a business owner here and in the United States — the number one priority as a company is to make sure we have a safe working environment in every single company. I don’t care if it’s a Tim Hortons or McDonald’s or a big manufacturing company,” Ford said.
“We’re going to make sure that employees go in there and have a safe working environment. That is absolutely critical. And I don’t know of a company out there that doesn’t feel that is their number one priority.
“We’re going to work hand in hand with the Minister of Labour and make sure that we have a safe working environment for everybody in this province.”