The largest private sector union in Canada confirmed that a Toronto personal support worker (PSW) died from COVID-19 related complications.
On Thursday, Unifor released a statement saying the death of Leonard Rodriquez was caused by “preventable workplace exposure to COVID-19.”
The 61-year-old PSW worked at Access Apartments and was sent home on April 6 due to a possible coronavirus exposure. He was home self-isolating when his symptoms worsened and later tested positive for the virus.
“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Leonard’s family, as well as his union sisters and brothers who are working for Access Independent Living Services,” Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, said.
“Leonard worked for more than thirty years providing care for those in need. He’ll be truly be missed by his Unifor family and all those who knew him.”
It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that 61-year-old Leonard Rodriquez a PSW, is the first Unifor member to die of a preventable death due exposure to #COVID19 before PPE avail in Ontario. https://t.co/MDLQbnA2lY #canlab pic.twitter.com/SQHYcmOO23
— Unifor (@UniforTheUnion) May 8, 2020
Access Apartments has three locations which include supportive housing where Unifor provides care and support in its apartments. There is also an outreach program, where workers provide care in the community.
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Unifor said they are “gravely concerned” for the five other Local 40 members who have tested positive along with three clients at the facility.
“Unifor is monitoring the outbreak and will be connecting with members in the upcoming days to offer support,” said the union, which represents 80 members at Access Independent Living Services. This is the first confirmed death of a Unifor member related to this pandemic.
In total, the union represents 315,000 workers in various economic sectors across Canada.
Dias said that since the beginning of the pandemic, they have been demanding more personal protective equipment (PPE) from employers and governments.
“This tragedy could have been avoided if he only had access to proper personal protective equipment. Our COVID heroes deserve better,” said Dias.
David Amow, president of Unifor Local 40, said the government “failed” healthcare workers in supportive housing, delaying access to PPE.
He emphasized that it shouldn’t take a pandemic or the loss of our member’s life for governments to treat PSW’s with the “respect they deserve.”
To date, there have been 6,914 total coronavirus cases and 522 reported deaths in Toronto.