This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Union Forum magazine.
Manufacturing and processing workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are applauding the recent announcement of funding for a Manufacturing and Processing Safety Sector Council and a processing sector sub-committee.
The Honourable Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Minister Responsible for WorkplaceNL and Dennis Hogan, Chief Executive Officer of WorkplaceNL made the announcement on October 29 in St. John’s, earmarking $1.5 million over 5 years for the establishment of this safety sector council. Included in the announcement is a sub-committee that will address the specific concerns of the seafood processing industry.
“FFAW-Unifor has long advocated for a safety sector council for processing workers and we are very pleased with this announcement,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “Processing workers face unique safety challenges in their workplaces. Having a safety sector council that will address those concerns will be paramount in reducing the high rates of injury and lost time in this industry,” said Sullivan.
Manufacturing and processing workers experience significantly higher than average rates of lost time and workplace injuries. In addition to high rates of soft-tissue injuries, hearing loss and head injuries, processing plant workers have also faced safety concerns such as carbon monoxide leaks, fires and ammonia gas exposure. Chronic health concerns such as shellfish asthma are also unique to the processing industry.
“This announcement has been a long time coming for plant workers. It has been a constant challenge to have our employers make changes and accept responsibility for the health of their workers. We are hopeful this new safety sector council will make our workplaces a safer place to be,” said Doretta Strickland, Vice-President of FFAW-Unifor’s Industrial-Retail-Offshore sector and plant worker at Ocean Choice International in Triton.
“We look forward to participating in this new safety sector council and are hopeful it will mean safer workplaces for the people of our province,” concludes Sullivan.