Should Fiera Food Still be in Business?

When should a company lose its right to exist? 

When it runs out of money? When it damages the environment? How about when it murders 5 of its workers? Yes, you read that correctly. In a period of 20 years, 5 temporary workers were killed in workplace accidents, which could have been prevented, at Fiera Foods. It was a blatant lack of adequate training of these temporary workers that caused their deaths.

All 5 of these deaths were horrible workplace murders:

  • In 1999, a 17-year-old worker was crushed by a bread-making machine
  • In 2011, a worker got crushed by machinery while on the job
  • In 2016, a 23-year-old refugee worker was strangled after her head scarf got caught in equipment
  • In 2018, another worker got crushed by machinery while working
  • The details of the latest fatality have not been released yet, but it sounded like the worker was also crushed by machinery

Click here to watch a CityNews report detailing these workplace fatalities.

It seems like Fiera Foods is not being held accountable for its workplace safety records, even though the company should be shut down by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development of Ontario (MOL), until it can prove it has all the elements of a safety program in place to ensure the health and safety of all of its workers. The law is very clear on this matter: 25(2)(h) of the OHSA states that the employer is required to “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

It is obvious if you are killing workers at your plant, you are not taking every precaution reasonable.

Does this mean the OHSA laws in Ontario are inadequate? No, but the political and social will is. We can all do better—the government, the MOL, and society at large, which should not accept that 5 souls have left this earth because business is worth more than workers’ safety.

Discussion Questions:

1. Research Bill C-45, also known as the Westray Bill. Prepare a summary of Bill C-45, its purpose, and its penalties. Reflect on the Fiera Foods case, and assess if they should be charged under this legislation.

2. Research how the use of temporary agencies has contributed to workplace deaths. Review the following CBC video link. Imagine your VP of HR has asked you to investigate the benefits and detriments of using temporary agencies to fill your labour gap. What would you tell them about both?