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Christmas Eve Tragedy Sheds Light on Dangers Faced by Migrant Workers

Updated on January 9, 2010

Four construction workers with precarious immigration status fell to their
deaths on Christmas Eve in one of the worst workplace disasters that
Toronto has seen in decades. The swing stage scaffolding they were working
on broke into two pieces, plummeting the four workers over 13 stories to
the concrete below at 2757 Kipling Avenue. A fifth man is in critical
condition and will need medical attention for the rest of his life.

We mourn the deaths of these workers. We are enraged that such injustice
can take place. Migrant workers take care of children, feed communities,
construct housing, clean offices, and take up many other occupations in
almost all industries but are treated like second-class workers and denied
even the most basic protections.

The workers who died were provided insufficient safety harnesses and
forced to work on a site where a cease and desist order had been issued.
Workers without full status work the most dangerous jobs in the country
and are systemically prevented from being able to assert their rights.
These workers died because Canada denied them full status.

Fifty years ago, five Italian construction workers including Pasquale
Allegrezza, Giovanni Correglio, Giovanni Fusillo, and Alessandro and Guido
Mantella, died while working in a dangerous tunnel near Yonge Street in
Toronto, remembered as the Hoggs Hallow disaster. Knowing that workers
without full status were facing flagrant workplace violations, negligent
employers and little legislative protection from occupational hazards,
workers across the city rose up, and carried out a series of actions and
strikes in a fight to organize the building trades.

Today, fifty years later, racialized communities, immigrants, migrants and
undocumented people continue to work in dangerous and sometimes murderous
conditions. Not having full status means lax enforcement of health and
safety legislation, absence of meaningful laws to protect workers, and
negligent employers and recruiters who sacrifice health and safety of
workers to gain further profit for themselves. This long-term negligence
reveals the lack of social and political will in Canada to ensure justice
and protection of all workers.

Workers without full status are often denied just compensation when they
get injured or ill due to their labour. They are prevented from access to
healthcare and translation services. They get deported because they are
considered a burden on the health care system, and their injury is named a
"breached employment contract." They are unable to access full care in
countries they are deported to. Like all injured workers, compensation by
Workplace Safety and Insurance (WSIB) is inadequate.

Four men died on Christmas Eve, but every day, countless workers are
killed or maimed on the job, while those responsible, employers,
recruiters and government officials, do not face media or public scrutiny.
In 2008, 488 workers were reported killed because of their labour in
Ontario alone. Many more deaths went unreported. Thousands more workers
were injured, many of whom have to learn to live with their injuries
permanently. How many will have to die or be injured before this
government ensures that our communities are meaningfully protected?

Government officials, recruiters and employers need to be prosecuted while
those precariously employed need to be protected at work! While we
commemorate and celebrate the lives of these workers, we also demand
justice for the workers, their families and all migrant workers across
this province. Broad and far reaching changes are needed.

Dilshod Mamurov, Aleksey Blumberg, Fayzulla, Vladimir Korostin, and all
injured and killed workers demand this.

This is the first in a series of actions, please keep checking:
toronto.nooneisillegal.org and
www.justicia4migrantworkers.org for updates.

Comments

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  • MercuryNewsOnline profile image
    Author

    MercuryNewsOnline 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    There is a ring of truth to your words. Undocumented workers are people who mostly left their country to find a better life for their families and children. Most of them were forced by historial and societal injustices to leave their home countries. Many of these undocumented workers juggle two to three jobs to make ends meet due to wage and labour exploitation by recruitment agencies and unscrupulous employers in First World countries like the US and Canada.

  • lmmartin profile image

    lmmartin 8 years ago from Alberta and Florida

    I find it extremely distressing that a human life is valued in accordance with his place of birth -- an accident of fate. This doesn't apply only to Canada, but most other places, particularly the U.S., where antagonism to undocumented workers runs strong. Isn't it strange that in two countries stolen by invading immigrants and settled by immigrants, the descendants of those very same immigrants say to the next wave "Thou shalt not come?"

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