March 29, 2020
(Winnipeg) – The Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) is urging the Pallister government to immediately restore $500,000 in funding cuts to Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health to help the branch meet the increased demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, MFL President Kevin Rebeck announced today.
“A pandemic is a bad time to cut workplace safety and health, but Manitoba’s Budget 2020 does just that,” said Rebeck. “We need our workplace safety and health officers to be well-equipped and fully-resourced to be able to respond to workplace concerns about COVID-19, as well as to provide information to workers and employers to help them prevent the spread of the virus.”
Trained provincial safety and health officers are best-placed to educate and respond to worker and employer questions and concerns about preventing COVID-19 transmission on the job. These officers should also be equipped with personal protective equipment when physically responding to workplace investigations.
Rebeck added that with new rules in place to limit public gatherings, Manitoba’s workplaces remain the largest congregations of people in our province, and so ensuring they remain safe is critically important to the overall public health response to COVID-19. These funding cuts to the branch affects the ability for safety and health officers and staff to be able to inspect workplaces and help respond to workers concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health is receiving increased requests for information about how to keep workplaces safe during this pandemic, and workers are wondering about their right to refuse unsafe work,” said Rebeck. “We hope that the Pallister government will do the right thing and increase funding for this important front-line service.”
Manitoba’s unions have been flooded with calls about the pandemic from workers who are raising concerns of the safety of their workplaces and what prevention measures their workplaces should take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The province has released a number of public health orders that focused on public gatherings, the hospitality, retail and transportation sectors, but did not speak to other industries that depend daily on large workforces.