Plant Safety

Bakery’s Fifth Death Since 1999 Sparks Outrage

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

Oct 18, 2019

A Canadian industrial bakery is facing calls for a criminal investigation and shutdown after undergoing its fifth workplace fatality in 20 years.

The tragedy occurred Sept. 25 at the Toronto facility of Fiera Foods, which supplies baked goods to trade customers including Sobey’s and Dunkin. Enrico Miranda, 57, was crushed when a machine he was cleaning was accidentally activated. Miranda was a temp employee, as were the other four workers who have died in accidents at Fiera or its affiliates since 1999.

The incident is sparking outrage in Canada, with labor and other groups calling for a shutdown and criminal charges. A protest rally took place in front of the plant on Oct. 2.

“Fiera Foods must not be allowed to operate business as usual and its owners must immediately take responsibility for this tragic death and answer to the victim’s family and the public for their actions,” said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which bills itself as Canada’s largest private-sector labor union.

The case is being investigated by Canada’s Ministry of Labour. Ontario’s Conservative Party provincial government, led by Doug Ford, is being accused of contributing to the problem by introducing measures to weaken workplace safety regulations and protection for temp workers.

Fiera has been sanctioned before, most notably in 2016, when it was fined $300,000 (Canadian) following another workplace death. The victim, a Muslim, was wearing a hijab whose loose ends became entangled in a conveyor’s drive chain.

According to reports, some 70% of Fiera’s workforce is temporary. A reporter for the Toronto Star went undercover at a Fiera plant in 2017, securing employment through a temp agency. She wrote about receiving barely a few minutes of safety training before beginning work on the plant floor.

Fiera issued a statement Oct. 17 that read in part, “Unfortunately, a segment of labor leaders continues to politicize this matter, perpetuating the incorrect allegations that potential penalties and worker status somehow correlate to health and safety.”