‘We continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and others to provide support, advice and enforcement as needed to ensure the health and safety of Ontario’s workers’
Ontario is investigating possible labour law violations at an Amazon warehouse in Brampton that was ordered to shut down last week because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The investigation was already underway on Friday, when the local public health unit ordered thousands of workers at the facility to isolate for two weeks, according to Harry Godfrey, press secretary for Ontario’s minister of training, labour and skills development.
“We continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and others to provide support, advice and enforcement as needed to ensure the health and safety of Ontario’s workers,” said Godfrey in a statement.
Penalties for labour violations could be as high as $1.5 million or imprisonment, said Godfrey adding that the government would not hesitate to hold employers accountable if they fail to keep their employees safe, according to a report from The Canadian Press.
Ontario has hired more than 100 new occupational health and safety inspectors to support the province’s business inspection campaigns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 13, all employees in the warehouse were required to self-isolate through March 27 unless they have tested positive in the last 90 days and have completed their isolation period. The facility employs approximately 5,000 workers, according to the report.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s top doctor, said the outbreak at the facility began in October and has since been linked to more than 600 COVID-19 cases. However, nearly half of the cases were detected in the last few weeks, and that prompted the public health unit to issue a special order requiring the workers to self-isolate.
The closure will give the company further time to consider additional operational changes that may help prevent outbreaks in future, according to Peel Public Health.
Ontario has released a new resource to improve awareness of Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) for Ontario workers.
Meanwhile, Amazon Canada said workers would be paid during the 14-day quarantine. However, it disputed the data being used to support the closure. It said that a round of tests that recently came back has a positivity rate of less than one per cent.
“This was a difficult decision but a necessary one to stop further spread both in the facility and across our community,” said Loh, according to a CityNews report. Loh said the recent increase in cases is more challenging because they are not all linked to the same cluster.
Amazon Canada plans to appeal the decision, it said.