Labour activists say more transparency needed around COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces


MONTREAL -- Labour activists in Quebec and Ontario say more transparency is needed around COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses and industrial workplaces such as factories.

Noelle Didierjean, with the Coalition Against Precarious Work and a community organizer with the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal, says government data hides what's really going on.

"We know that there are these large-scale outbreaks," she said of factories and warehouses, "but we don't have a full grasp of the problem."

In Quebec, for instance, the government breaks down the number of outbreaks by type of workplace, but not when it comes to COVID-positive temporary workers, she said. If a factory worker who was hired through a placement agency tests positive for COVID, that result is classified as an outbreak in the "business services" category as opposed to manufacturing, Didierjean explained. 

Quebec, she said, doesn't require employers to go public when there is an outbreak in their company.

Patty Coates, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said many precarious workers can't afford to take time off to get tested for COVID-19. Her organization wants Ontario to require employers to give their workers paid sick days. 

Quebec reported 74 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Wednesday, 11 of which had occurred in the past 24 hours.

Health authorities also reported a record 2,247 new infections -- one day after posting 2,183 COVID-19 cases, which was a record at the time. Authorities said hospitalizations rose by 12, to 1,067, and 142 people were in intensive care, a rise of five. 

The province said Montreal and its northern suburb, Laval, were among the regions with the most new cases, with 799 and 210, respectively.

Quebec said 1,891 doses of vaccine were administered Tuesday, for a total of 7,229. The province has reported a total of 183,523 COVID-19 cases and 7,867 deaths linked to the virus. 

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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