Unifor released a statement on Thursday saying that Leonard Rodriquez’s death was caused by “a preventable exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace”.
PSW, 61, worked at Access Apartments and was sent home on April 6 due to possible exposure to the coronavirus. He was self-insulating at home when his symptoms worsened and then tested positive for the virus.
“I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Leonard, as well as to his union siblings who work for Access Independent Living Services,” said Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor.
“Leonard has worked for over 30 years to provide care for those in need. He will be truly missed by his Unifor family and all those who knew him. “
It is with a heavy heart that we confirm that Leonard Rodriquez, 61, PSW, is the first member of Unifor to die of a preventable death due to exposure to # COVID-19[FEMALE[FEMININE before PPE in Ontario. https://t.co/MDLQbnA2lY #canlab pic.twitter.com/SQHYcmOO23
– Unifor (@UniforTheUnion) May 8, 2020
Access Apartments has three locations that include supportive housing where Unifor provides care and support in its apartments. There is also an awareness program, where workers provide care in the community.
Unifor said it was “gravely concerned” about the other five members of Local 40 who tested positive as well as three customers of the establishment.
“Unifor is monitoring the epidemic and will contact members in the coming 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 linked to this pandemic.
In total, the union represents 315,000 workers in various economic sectors in Canada.
Dias said that since the start of the pandemic, they have been asking for more personal protective equipment (PPE) from employers and governments.
“This tragedy could have been avoided if he had only had access to appropriate personal protective equipment. Our COVID heroes deserve better, ”said Dias.
David Amow, president of Unifor Local 40, said the government had “failed” health care workers in supportive housing, delaying access to PPE.
He stressed that governments should not need a pandemic or the loss of life for our members to treat PSWs with the “respect they deserve.”
To date, there have been a total of 6,914 cases of coronavirus and 522 deaths reported in Toronto.