For Immediate Release
8 June 2021
OTTAWA - Members of Horizon Ottawa, in a letter sent yesterday, have called on Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vera Etches and the Ottawa Board of Health to take stronger measures to protect vulnerable workers. Most notably, to answer the call of activists as well as follow the lead of Toronto and Peel’s Public Health Unit in publicly naming businesses where COVID-19 outbreaks take place.
The call from Horizon Ottawa is in response to a recent CBC article that detailed the deplorable working conditions at the Amazon Fulfillment Centre in Ottawa’s East End. The article detailed firsthand accounts from a warehouse worker who described an unsafe environment where the employer was not enforcing or following necessary COVID-19 protocol. According to the employee, there had been as many as 35 cases in the warehouse, with a dozen in January alone. Despite this, there was no call from OPH for it to close down.
“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.” Said Sam Hersh, a Board Member of Horizon Ottawa. “Ottawa Public Health has not been doing enough to prevent this endangerment especially when other jurisdictions in Ontario have taken a much more transparent approach to informing workers and the public of workplace outbreaks.”
In February and again in April, both Toronto and Peel announced that they would publicly name businesses where COVID-19 outbreaks took place. Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer and Public Health Unit continue their refusal to invoke similar measures, despite there being no legislation preventing them from doing so. Even the provincial government has said that disclosing the names of companies or workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks is within the purview of local public health units.
“We are urging Dr. Etches and the Ottawa Board of Health to use powers clearly within their jurisdiction to ensure the safety of precarious essential workers, such as those at the Amazon warehouse,” Said Hersh. “There is absolutely no reason for the level of hesitancy they are showing It is costing workers and our community the safety and security they deserve and could cost us even more lives.”
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