“If I lose my job, I lose my job. I shouldn’t be speaking like this, but I don’t care … because I’m scared too.”
That’s how one construction worker at a Toronto site began an impassioned address to co-workers in a video that’s come to encapsulate the fear and frustration spreading through the industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I got an 86-year-old at home with oxygen,” he explains. “My wife is crying every time I come home because she doesn’t know if I’m going to kill her father if I have something.”
“We don’t have six feet from each other here … we are all breathing on each other. Where’s your eating facilities? Are they sanitized? Do you have water to wash your hands when you eat your sandwiches?”
The outspoken worker then appears to argue with a site foreman, accusing him of not sharing a trailer washroom with other staff.
“You want to protect yourself, not these men,” he shouts.
“I got an 86-year-old at home with oxygen … my wife is crying every time I come home because she doesn’t know if I’m going to kill her father if I have something,” he explains.
During the now-viral rant, the man seems to suggest that his co-workers should consider walking off the job. “You guys decide what you want to do,” he said. “I’m giving you the information.”
Premier Doug Ford recently declared most construction work essential in the province, but he also gave construction workers permission to walk off the job if they believe their health is at risk.
“Let me be very clear to all construction workers … If you don’t feel safe in your workplace, your job will be protected, you can leave the job site,” Ford said earlier this week.
“I had a discussion with labour leaders and some of the largest contractors in the country and said: ‘get your act together.’ I’ll have zero tolerance for sites that have overflowing outhouses, don’t have hand sanitizer (or) running water.”
Ford vowed to ramp up inspections and said he wouldn’t hesitate to shut down sites that aren’t complying.
“We have inspectors all over these sites right now as we speak … and they have the authority to shut down any site in the province.”
Despite those vows, The Ontario Construction Consortium – an advocacy group for construction workers – called for sites to be shut down for a two-week period.
“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,” executive director Phil Gillies said in a statement Tuesday.
In the meantime, many construction workers have taken to Twitter to post photos and video of what they deem unsafe working conditions in the midst of a pandemic.
With files from The Canadian Press
— Christopher Hill (@Christo85146555) March 23, 2020
Ontario construction @fordnation Doug, I agree that clean portta potties shouldn’t be an issue and could be and should be addressed, its the physical distancing that is the issue. I have good cleaning facilities but still worry as physical distancing is near impossible. pic.twitter.com/3QFie66rcR
— Justin Tran (@TranJ87) March 26, 2020
One of the construction sites I work on. This is the 1 of 2 hand washing stations. The other one was out of soap. @fordnation @JohnTory @JustinTrudeau
Not everyone works for the union. Who is there to protect us. #COVID19 #coronavirus #unsafe pic.twitter.com/0AOvaeoiWy
— Complaint dept. (@Jeff416Vella) March 26, 2020
— Alisha Salerno-Ferraro (@Salerno_AC) March 24, 2020
Not sure how the curve will be flattened when thousands of construction workers are STILL on job sites.. Glad to see things are being taken seriously..no soap, no sanitizer just an empty Lysol can …@EllisDon @fordnation @JustinTrudeau pic.twitter.com/zlmFy8NRoP
— B (@brittany_maegan) March 23, 2020