The company at the centre of an APTN investigation for its treatment of indigenous day laborers in Winnipeg is being put to the curb by city officials.
The current waste collection contract ends in about a year. The city put out a request for proposals and recommends two new companies be hired for the job.
Emterra Environmental, which has done most of the city’s residential garbage and recycling collection since 2012, made a bid but didn’t make the cut.
Coun. Brian Mayes, chair of the water and waste committee, said revelations in an APTN Investigates’ story and the company’s health and safety track record, were factors.
“Yes, it’s more than just the money,” Mayes said. “We’re trying to avoid some of the things that happened. We don’t want the subcontractor subcontracting the work.”
The city was surprised to learn of Emterra’s use of temporary day labourers to heave and toss bins that are meant to be lifted by mechanical truck arms. Many of those workers were young Indigenous men fresh from jail and untrained to do the job safely. Often, they lacked basic equipment like steel-toed boots.
Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health issued frequent stop work and improvement orders to Emterra over the past four years, citing health and safety concerns as a result of complaints from workers, the public, and spot checks by their own inspectors.
One Emterra worker told APTN he was worried about the safety of the garbage and recycling trucks.
“The machinery, the trucks – they’re all falling apart. They’re doing patch repair jobs to get them on the road but it’s so dangerous,” said the worker.
He said someone got a shock just touching an Emterra truck.
“A guy jumped on a truck, grabbed a handle and got shocked,” he said, explaining severed wires made the vehicle a shock hazard. “Now everyone is wearing rubber gloves.”
Consistent infractions left the province scrambling to make a plan to deal with the contractor.
“Workplace Safety and Health has concerns regarding compliance at Emterra, and is reviewing its enforcement strategy to ensure enforcement is both appropriate and effective,” Julie DeVoin said.
When the story aired in October 2015, there had been five “serious incidents” involving garbage and recycling workers. In addition, there were 19 safety complaints from workers and citizens.
Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health wouldn’t elaborate on the serious incidents.
APTN found one of the trash collectors, known as swampers, had been knocked down by a van and run-over by the garbage truck he was working on. He suffered pelvic and foot injuries.
In the past two years, the province has issued a total of 19 stop work orders and 65 improvement orders to Emterra. And in the past three years there have been 118 Workers Compensation Board claims related to those working for the trash collector.
The City of Winnipeg’s new garbage contract will run from 2017 through 2025.