Toronto is the undergoing a boom in transport infrastructure work (Secondarywaltz/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Workers protest Ontario’s decision to exempt construction from shut-down

25 March 2020 | By GCR Staff | 1 Comment

Much of Ontario’s construction industry is to be spared the province’s order that all non-essential businesses must close to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford ordered the closure of non-essential workplaces from midnight yesterday, reports The Globe & Mail.

But most types of construction projects were exempted, including those in the healthcare, residential, commercial, industrial, transit, energy and justice sectors.

The news came the same day Quebec imposed a near complete shutdown of its economy, including the construction industry.

That province’s move came after its two main construction unions last week asked Premier Francois Legault to shut down the industry because not enough was being done on sites to prevent the spread of the virus.

The exemption of construction in Ontario has attracted criticism across the province, including the industry itself.

The Ontario Construction Consortium, a group that advocates for workers in the industry, said yesterday that the Ontario government should suspend work on construction sites for two weeks to protect workers.

The consortium’s chief executive, Phil Gillies, said: “It makes no sense that you can’t have your neighbour over for a cup of coffee yet construction sites are expected to continue operations.”

On Monday evening, the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario called on the government to temporarily halt all construction in the province.

“The situation which exists on most job sites means that work simply cannot go on as normal,” Tony Iannuzzi, executive secretary treasurer of the council, said in a statement. “Many job sites have no facilities for workers to even wash their hands using soap and hot water and ‘social distancing’ is just not possible.”

At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Ford said he had heard of sites with overflowing portable toilets and no hand sanitiser or running water.

In British Columbia, workers have also raised concerns over the lack of running water, soap or hand sanitisers on site. BC Building Trades executive director Andrew Mercier commented: “Workers are pleading for help – this is urgent.”

Construction is one of Canada’s largest employers with more than 1.5 million workers.

Image: Toronto is the undergoing a boom in transport infrastructure work (Secondarywaltz/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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