June 7, 2021
Dr. Vera Etches, MD, CCFP, MHSc, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health
Ottawa Public Health
100 Constellation Drive
Dear Dr. Etches,
We are writing to you in response to last Monday’s shocking revelations about working conditions at the Amazon warehouse in Ottawa (“Amazon employee describes lax enforcement of COVID-19 precautions at Ottawa warehouse,” CBCNews, May 31, 2021). As we did in our letter to you in April, we are urging you to properly assume your responsibilities as Medical Officer of Health and to use your authority to ensure that everything that can be done is done for those most at risk from this dangerous disease.
It is clear from the reports of consistently lax enforcement at the Amazon facility that the safety of workers is being sacrificed in order to ease the burden on employers and that Ottawa Public Health has not been doing enough to prevent this endangerment. Reports of repeated outbreaks, a lack of transparency with workers, and a lack of remedial action to control those outbreaks are disturbing, to say the least. Other jurisdictions, here in Ontario and in other provinces, have taken a much more transparent approach to informing workers and the public of workplace outbreaks.
Employees have a right to know when their workplace safety has been compromised. You have an obligation to help them. We are asking you to intervene in these situations and ensure that:
- Employees are properly informed when an outbreak occurs;
- The public is made aware so that they may make informed judgements; and,
- The actions of employers are carefully monitored to ensure compliance with public health orders.
The end of COVID-19 is in sight. But that should not be used as an excuse for relaxing pressure on employers to behave ethically and responsibly when it comes to the health and well-being of their employees. Horizon Ottawa is urging you to apply yourself to this glaring and alarming problem. It is your duty to help Ottawa’s workers make it through this pandemic as untouched by illness and tragedy as is humanly possible. Your office has the authority to demand and ensure safe working conditions for essential and at-risk workers.
There are already enough voices speaking up for economic interests of employers. We need your voice to ring out loudly, clearly, and powerfully in support of Ottawa workers and their families.
The Membership of Horizon Ottawa
cc Members of the Ottawa Board of Health
Ottawa City Councillors