Hamilton workers cite safety as they return to work

News Aug 27, 2020 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Hamilton District Labour Council president Anthony Marco says Hamilton workers are tentatively returning to work, but remain concerned about the health and safety measures established by their employers.

“All of them want to go back to work,” said Marco, during an Aug. 25 virtual meeting as part of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Recovery. “But all of them want to go safely back to work.”

Marco, who held a virtual panel with other union leaders recently, said during the pandemic there were workers who were identified as essential and had to continue working despite safety concerns.

Some employees in health care, retail and manufacturing sectors saw their salaries raised, but after a few months, employers eliminated the pay premiums.

“Manufacturing workers who got premiums working through the pandemic have had that that pay taken away,” he said.

For instance, in June, Maple Leaf Foods workers had their pay hike eliminated, even though the pandemic remains a safety issue. Their pay was increased by an extra two dollars per hour.

Maple Leaf Food officials told Hamilton Community News at the time that the company would continue the bonus payments through the end of April. The company then extended it through May and then added another month to the end of June.

Marco said at health-care facilities, some workers received the premium pay, while others did not because they were not considered essential.

Tim Deelstra, media relations strategist for locals 175 and 633 of UFCW Canada, who took part in the panel discussion, said his union has “worked diligently throughout the pandemic to keep workers and the public as safe as possible,” advocating for safety measures. He said the union fought to have interim wage increases for specific workers, but the emergency pandemic pays were ended by employers.

“We are continuing to run a campaign asking for public support to return and make permanent these increases in all workplace sectors,” he said in an email to Hamilton Community News.

Marco, a high school teacher preparing for the upcoming school season, also has four children returning to school in September. He said how and the number of children returning to school will have a “huge impact” on what’s going to occur with the workforce.

He said there are expected to be about 5,000 students opting to stay at home and learn during this school year.

Over 300 workers across Ontario have exercised their right to refuse work citing safety issues related to the coronavirus. Only one case has been upheld by the labour ministry.

“The ministry will not accept such work refusals unless it is demonstrated that the virus is present in the workplace,” said United Steel Workers Ontario Director Marty Warren. “If we don’t get this reopening right, workers, their families, friends and communities will be the ones who pay dearly for the cost of denial and inaction.”

The union has condemned the provincial labour ministry for dismissing nearly all coronavirus-related unsafe work refusals.

Asked by Hamilton Community News about employees returning to work, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said when he attended a recent announcement at McMaster University that the ministry is “protecting the health and safety of workers in the province.”

He said if workers have health concerns, he recommended they consult with the employers’ health and safety committee first and “try and resolve the issue” with the employer.

If the issue can’t be resolved in the workplace, the employee can call the ministry, he said.

“We have told businesses they need to have a safety plan in every single business to protect workers to prevent COVID from coming into that workplace,” said McNaughton.

He said the ministry has increased the number of inspectors where there are about 1,000 on the ground. He said the ministry has conducted 17,000 workplace investigations, and more than 10,000 orders have been issued.

“Most businesses are going above and beyond spending huge resources to keep workers and the public at large safe,” said McNaughton. “There are a few bad apples out there and we will find them.”

The mayor’s task force members, who are crafting a final report with recommendations on how to boost the city’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, found that businesses had a difficult time finding the correct information about health and safety protocols for employees returning to work.

Rob McCann, founder of Clearcable Networks, and a member of the task force, said a few key issues employers had talked about during his group’s discussion include providing adequate and safe workplaces; potential costs for employers to make sure the workplace is safe; problems with finding the right information; and the need for reliable transit.

“(Employers) didn’t know where to go for the various (coronavirus-related) issues,” he said. “They had to find it on their own.”

Various task force members voiced similar needs that the city must have a safe and reliable transit system for their workers to get to their jobs.

“HSR must return to normal service as soon as possible,” said McCann.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the city’s transit system is expected to “rebound quickly” after the city reduced service and limited the number of people able to use buses. Service frequency is being increased and people are required to wear masks, he said.

But, said Eisenberger, as additional buses are allocated to routes, there hasn’t been enough passengers, with some buses “essentially empty.

“It is now in the hands of the province,” he said. “I wish I had an answer.”

Hamilton workers eager to return safely to work, say labour leaders

News Aug 27, 2020 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Hamilton District Labour Council president Anthony Marco says Hamilton workers are tentatively returning to work, but remain concerned about the health and safety measures established by their employers.

“All of them want to go back to work,” said Marco, during an Aug. 25 virtual meeting as part of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Recovery. “But all of them want to go safely back to work.”

Marco, who held a virtual panel with other union leaders recently, said during the pandemic there were workers who were identified as essential and had to continue working despite safety concerns.

Some employees in health care, retail and manufacturing sectors saw their salaries raised, but after a few months, employers eliminated the pay premiums.

“Manufacturing workers who got premiums working through the pandemic have had that that pay taken away,” he said.

For instance, in June, Maple Leaf Foods workers had their pay hike eliminated, even though the pandemic remains a safety issue. Their pay was increased by an extra two dollars per hour.

Maple Leaf Food officials told Hamilton Community News at the time that the company would continue the bonus payments through the end of April. The company then extended it through May and then added another month to the end of June.

Marco said at health-care facilities, some workers received the premium pay, while others did not because they were not considered essential.

Tim Deelstra, media relations strategist for locals 175 and 633 of UFCW Canada, who took part in the panel discussion, said his union has “worked diligently throughout the pandemic to keep workers and the public as safe as possible,” advocating for safety measures. He said the union fought to have interim wage increases for specific workers, but the emergency pandemic pays were ended by employers.

“We are continuing to run a campaign asking for public support to return and make permanent these increases in all workplace sectors,” he said in an email to Hamilton Community News.

Marco, a high school teacher preparing for the upcoming school season, also has four children returning to school in September. He said how and the number of children returning to school will have a “huge impact” on what’s going to occur with the workforce.

He said there are expected to be about 5,000 students opting to stay at home and learn during this school year.

Over 300 workers across Ontario have exercised their right to refuse work citing safety issues related to the coronavirus. Only one case has been upheld by the labour ministry.

“The ministry will not accept such work refusals unless it is demonstrated that the virus is present in the workplace,” said United Steel Workers Ontario Director Marty Warren. “If we don’t get this reopening right, workers, their families, friends and communities will be the ones who pay dearly for the cost of denial and inaction.”

The union has condemned the provincial labour ministry for dismissing nearly all coronavirus-related unsafe work refusals.

Asked by Hamilton Community News about employees returning to work, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said when he attended a recent announcement at McMaster University that the ministry is “protecting the health and safety of workers in the province.”

He said if workers have health concerns, he recommended they consult with the employers’ health and safety committee first and “try and resolve the issue” with the employer.

If the issue can’t be resolved in the workplace, the employee can call the ministry, he said.

“We have told businesses they need to have a safety plan in every single business to protect workers to prevent COVID from coming into that workplace,” said McNaughton.

He said the ministry has increased the number of inspectors where there are about 1,000 on the ground. He said the ministry has conducted 17,000 workplace investigations, and more than 10,000 orders have been issued.

“Most businesses are going above and beyond spending huge resources to keep workers and the public at large safe,” said McNaughton. “There are a few bad apples out there and we will find them.”

The mayor’s task force members, who are crafting a final report with recommendations on how to boost the city’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, found that businesses had a difficult time finding the correct information about health and safety protocols for employees returning to work.

Rob McCann, founder of Clearcable Networks, and a member of the task force, said a few key issues employers had talked about during his group’s discussion include providing adequate and safe workplaces; potential costs for employers to make sure the workplace is safe; problems with finding the right information; and the need for reliable transit.

“(Employers) didn’t know where to go for the various (coronavirus-related) issues,” he said. “They had to find it on their own.”

Various task force members voiced similar needs that the city must have a safe and reliable transit system for their workers to get to their jobs.

“HSR must return to normal service as soon as possible,” said McCann.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the city’s transit system is expected to “rebound quickly” after the city reduced service and limited the number of people able to use buses. Service frequency is being increased and people are required to wear masks, he said.

But, said Eisenberger, as additional buses are allocated to routes, there hasn’t been enough passengers, with some buses “essentially empty.

“It is now in the hands of the province,” he said. “I wish I had an answer.”

Hamilton workers eager to return safely to work, say labour leaders

News Aug 27, 2020 by Kevin Werner Stoney Creek News

Hamilton District Labour Council president Anthony Marco says Hamilton workers are tentatively returning to work, but remain concerned about the health and safety measures established by their employers.

“All of them want to go back to work,” said Marco, during an Aug. 25 virtual meeting as part of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Recovery. “But all of them want to go safely back to work.”

Marco, who held a virtual panel with other union leaders recently, said during the pandemic there were workers who were identified as essential and had to continue working despite safety concerns.

Some employees in health care, retail and manufacturing sectors saw their salaries raised, but after a few months, employers eliminated the pay premiums.

“Manufacturing workers who got premiums working through the pandemic have had that that pay taken away,” he said.

For instance, in June, Maple Leaf Foods workers had their pay hike eliminated, even though the pandemic remains a safety issue. Their pay was increased by an extra two dollars per hour.

Maple Leaf Food officials told Hamilton Community News at the time that the company would continue the bonus payments through the end of April. The company then extended it through May and then added another month to the end of June.

Marco said at health-care facilities, some workers received the premium pay, while others did not because they were not considered essential.

Tim Deelstra, media relations strategist for locals 175 and 633 of UFCW Canada, who took part in the panel discussion, said his union has “worked diligently throughout the pandemic to keep workers and the public as safe as possible,” advocating for safety measures. He said the union fought to have interim wage increases for specific workers, but the emergency pandemic pays were ended by employers.

“We are continuing to run a campaign asking for public support to return and make permanent these increases in all workplace sectors,” he said in an email to Hamilton Community News.

Marco, a high school teacher preparing for the upcoming school season, also has four children returning to school in September. He said how and the number of children returning to school will have a “huge impact” on what’s going to occur with the workforce.

He said there are expected to be about 5,000 students opting to stay at home and learn during this school year.

Over 300 workers across Ontario have exercised their right to refuse work citing safety issues related to the coronavirus. Only one case has been upheld by the labour ministry.

“The ministry will not accept such work refusals unless it is demonstrated that the virus is present in the workplace,” said United Steel Workers Ontario Director Marty Warren. “If we don’t get this reopening right, workers, their families, friends and communities will be the ones who pay dearly for the cost of denial and inaction.”

The union has condemned the provincial labour ministry for dismissing nearly all coronavirus-related unsafe work refusals.

Asked by Hamilton Community News about employees returning to work, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said when he attended a recent announcement at McMaster University that the ministry is “protecting the health and safety of workers in the province.”

He said if workers have health concerns, he recommended they consult with the employers’ health and safety committee first and “try and resolve the issue” with the employer.

If the issue can’t be resolved in the workplace, the employee can call the ministry, he said.

“We have told businesses they need to have a safety plan in every single business to protect workers to prevent COVID from coming into that workplace,” said McNaughton.

He said the ministry has increased the number of inspectors where there are about 1,000 on the ground. He said the ministry has conducted 17,000 workplace investigations, and more than 10,000 orders have been issued.

“Most businesses are going above and beyond spending huge resources to keep workers and the public at large safe,” said McNaughton. “There are a few bad apples out there and we will find them.”

The mayor’s task force members, who are crafting a final report with recommendations on how to boost the city’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, found that businesses had a difficult time finding the correct information about health and safety protocols for employees returning to work.

Rob McCann, founder of Clearcable Networks, and a member of the task force, said a few key issues employers had talked about during his group’s discussion include providing adequate and safe workplaces; potential costs for employers to make sure the workplace is safe; problems with finding the right information; and the need for reliable transit.

“(Employers) didn’t know where to go for the various (coronavirus-related) issues,” he said. “They had to find it on their own.”

Various task force members voiced similar needs that the city must have a safe and reliable transit system for their workers to get to their jobs.

“HSR must return to normal service as soon as possible,” said McCann.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the city’s transit system is expected to “rebound quickly” after the city reduced service and limited the number of people able to use buses. Service frequency is being increased and people are required to wear masks, he said.

But, said Eisenberger, as additional buses are allocated to routes, there hasn’t been enough passengers, with some buses “essentially empty.

“It is now in the hands of the province,” he said. “I wish I had an answer.”