Workers Vanguard No. 894

8 June 2007


Death on the Tracks: Toronto


May 28, 2007

Dear WV,

I am writing in solidarity with the article in WV 892 “NY Transit: Murder by Speedup.” On April 23, one day before NYC Transit worker Daniel Boggs was killed on the tracks, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) maintenance worker Anthony (Tony) Almeida died. He was crushed to death when scaffolding on a flatbed car caught on a cable dangling from a tunnel wall and careened on top of the subway work car Almeida was operating. An eleven-member maintenance crew had just finished its shift removing asbestos in an underground tunnel. This job is known as one of the most dangerous at TTC. Two other workers were treated for severe but non-life threatening injuries as well.

Tony, 38 years old, had worked for TTC for the past five years. He was known by his co-workers as a model employee and leaves behind his wife and two children—an eight-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter. About 1,000 family, friends and co-workers gathered at his funeral to pay tribute. Hundreds of TTC workers walked out of the Hillcrest maintenance complex, lining both sides of the street for several city blocks as the funeral procession passed by.

With vastly insufficient government funding and increased cutbacks, the number of TTC workers injured on the job has jumped significantly in the past four years. In February of 2006, a carbon-monoxide poisoning incident in a tunnel made eight workers and four firefighters seriously ill and served as one of the sparks for the wildcat strike in May of last year.

Like in NYC, Toronto Transit bosses are blaming the victims. Hypocritically talking about a “culture of safety,” the TTC plans to hire an external company to assist in a total overhaul of the TTC’s “safety programs.” But it is the bosses’ speedups and cuts that have created these unsafe conditions. At least two maintenance crews have refused to work since Almeida’s death, citing safety issues.

Grotesquely, one of the companies expected to bid on the safety contract is DuPont, the number one producer of toxic dioxins in the U.S. To cover its crimes, it has a division that specializes in “safety.” DuPont’s program blames the worker for on-the-job hazards and its goal of zero accidents encourages a system of non-reporting (i.e., covering up). The United Steel Workers (USW)—which represents 1,800 workers at six DuPont facilities—has protested unsafe conditions and brought to light DuPont’s failure to report industrial accidents. In contrast, the USW research has shown that multiple root causes related to hazards and unsafe conditions, not unsafe behavior by workers, cause accidents.

It is only through the mobilization of union power that safety can be enforced on the job. Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing over 8,000 transit workers in Toronto, gave a taste of their social power when they defied their contract and walked out on strike last year. This is why labour needs a leadership based on class struggle, not the sellouts who work with the bosses and capitalist politicians to sow class peace.

Yours in Struggle,
A Toronto transit worker