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Construction worker airs concerns about unsanitary conditions in speech at Toronto site

Construction worker airs coronavirus concerns at Toronto site
WATCH ABOVE: A video appears to show a construction worker at a Toronto site airing concerns and telling other workers to think of their own safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Video of a construction worker expressing concerns about unsanitary conditions at a Toronto job site is making the rounds on social media as most sites continue to operate in Ontario despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“If I lose my job, I lose my job,” he 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.”

A group of coworkers listen to the man as he gives his speech.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario construction groups plead with government to shut them down

“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?”

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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!”

Labour union LiUNA confirmed to Global News that the man is Jack Da Silva, a business representative from Local 183, and the video was filmed Wednesday morning.

The specific location of the site was unclear and it is not known what company was managing the site.

“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.

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“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.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: All non-essential workplaces ordered to close in Ontario

The video comes amid mounting pressure from some workers and construction groups that are asking the provincial government to suspend projects on job sites because of concerns regarding unsanitary conditions.

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Earlier this week, Premier Doug Ford ordered the closure of “non-essential” workplaces in the province, but labelled most construction projects an essential service.

He said he has talked to unions and workers, and both want projects to continue.

A LiUNA spokesperson told Global News Radio AM 640 that is the case within their union.

Some Toronto construction workers worried about being on the job
Some Toronto construction workers worried about being on the job

When asked about the video, the premier’s press secretary, Ivana Yelich, referred Global News to remarks that Ford made Tuesday about construction sites.

He repeated many of the same talking points when asked Wednesday about designating construction an essential service.

“I want to make it very, very clear — and I said it yesterday, I said it the day before — if the workplace, the construction site is not safe, you can walk off the job,” Ford said.

“And I’ll have zero tolerance, zero tolerance for any construction site that doesn’t have the proper essentials to keep the workers safe and make sure the outhouses are clean, make sure the sanitizers are there.”

Ford said there are 125 site inspectors in Toronto alone, and added that 12 notices were issued on Wednesday.

Coronavirus outbreak: Ford says construction industry put ‘on notice’
Coronavirus outbreak: Ford says construction industry put ‘on notice’

When asked whether a worker would still qualify for employment benefits if they were to walk off the job, Ford said, “What I understand, they will be able to collect payment from the federal government. As a matter of fact, I’m positive they will because I asked the question to the federal government.”

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A LiUNA spokesperson also confirmed that is the case if a worker’s health or safety was at risk.

“Any union, any labour leader, no matter if it’s LiUNA or the carpenters or anyone else, if they want their members off the site, then they should be calling them off the site,” Ford added.

Ford has previously said that some projects are necessary, like the completion of new homes, as they bring Ontarians shelter.

Coronavirus: Only essential businesses allowed open in Ontario
Coronavirus: Only essential businesses allowed open in Ontario

On Tuesday, the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) released a “best practice guide” for working on sites amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Safety has and always will be the industry’s top priority,” Richard Lyall, the president of RESCON in a statement.

“Site safety is the builders’ responsibility and they must work with sub-trades employers to ensure all on-site workers and work sites are safe.”

The guide from RESCON includes seven recommendations:

1. Maintain good personal hygiene (construction or not)
2. On-site sanitation
3. Practice physical distancing
4. Communicate policies
5. Protect your family and roommates — workers should wash clothing.
6. Report illness
7. Track sick workers

Meanwhile, in Toronto, three workers on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project had either confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.

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— With files from Jessica Patton