AMINA DIABY IS PERMANENTLY DEAD. She was a temp worker. But now she is dead. Her work killed her in September 2016. Few remember.
Amina’s death was the third at Fiera Foods—an industrial bakery, with four factories in Toronto that mass-produce bagels, croissants and pastries for major grocery stores and fast-food chains around the world.
Amina was a 23-year-old refugee from Guinea. She arrived in Canada in 2012 after fleeing a forced marriage. She was hired through a temp agency. She was killed after just two weeks on the job. It was her first job in Canada. Her plan was to save money for nursing school.
Amina was was strangled when her hijab was pulled into a machine as she worked on a conveyor belt assembly line. The belt did not have an emergency stop button.
Amina’s husband is adamant that she was not given enough training to safely do her job. He said he asked her after her first day at the factory if there was any safety orientation. She told him there was not.
A Toronto Star investigative report confirmed temp workers at Fiera get about five minutes of safety training and no hands-on instruction before stepping onto the factory floor.
Inspectors find dozens of violations
The Ministry of Labour investigated the accident and slapped Fiera Foods with 38 orders for health and safety violations. They included two “stop-work” orders, requiring an immediate shut down due to an extreme hazard.
One stop work order was for a conveyor belt that did not have an emergency stop button and also lacked “adequate guarding” to prevent things from being caught in machinery.
In addition the Ministry of Labour charged the company and one of its supervisors under the Occupational Health and Safety Act specifically for the lack of guarding and for failing to ensure loose clothing was not worn near a “source of entanglement.”
Under Ontario human rights law, companies must accommodate workers’ religious clothing.
If Fiera Foods believed Diaby’s hijab presented a health and safety risk for the job she was doing, they would be required to assign her a different task; or, if none was available, not hired her in the first place.
Fiera has a long record of workplace health and safety violations—including responsibility for two other deaths. Since 1999, the company has been hit with 191 orders for health and safety violations, including multiple “stop-work” orders.
Police can lay criminal charges against corporations following workplace injuries. Prosecutions are rare.
Employers use temp agencies to dodge responsibility
Amina may have worked in a Fiera Foods factory, but she was not technically a Fiera Foods employee. Amina was employed by OLA Staffing, a temp agency based in Woodbridge, Ontario.
If a temp is injured on the job, their agency, not the workplace where they were actually hurt, is liable at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
The majority of temps used to work in casual office jobs. Now the majority of temps work in other sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, restaurants and driving.
Data compiled by the WSIB also show that non-clerical temp workers were more than twice as likely to be injured on the job last year than their non-temp counterparts. This research suggests this is partly due to temp workers being insufficiently trained and being assigned more dangerous work.
$300,000 fine does little to bring peace to the family
Fiera was fined $300,000 in September 2017 for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Fiera Foods Company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that a worker near a source of entanglement had secured all loose clothing.
This will do nothing to heal the hurt Amina’s family feels over how little Amina’s death seems to matter.
The family says they heard nothing from ministry officials, for almost a year. No representative of Fiera Foods has ever contacted them, not even to express condolences.
“They don’t care,” Amina’s husband Jabbi said. “I don’t even think they think we exist."
Alusine Jabbi, Amina’s brother-in-law, was the family member first called to the scene of Amina’s fatal accident. He is still haunted by what he found there.
“I work on a construction site. Even if somebody breaks their leg the whole job site is shutdown. But when I got to the Fiera factory nothing had stopped.
“I thought, this is Canada. If somebody dies on the job site they should stop the work. But nothing stopped.
“As soon as the ambulance left they didn’t want to deal with it. They didn’t want to talk about it. They don’t care. Amina just doesn’t matter.”
This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.
Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.