Budget bill disables federal health and safety appeal process

OTTAWA, July 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The Public Service Alliance of Canada will be asking the Senate National Finance Committee to reject a part of the Harper government's omnibus budget bill that will seriously undermine the right of federal workers to refuse dangerous work.

PSAC is appearing before the Committee on Tuesday, July 6 at 3:30 p.m.

Part 21 of Bill C-9 introduces amendments to Part II of the Canada Labour Code. Under the Code, the federal government is responsible for protecting the health and safety of over one million workers, including workers in the airline and trucking industries, the federal government and Crown Corporations.

The proposed amendments deal specifically with the process for workers to appeal situations where a safety officer has ruled that there was no danger in a work refusal case or in those cases where a safety officer has issued a direction to an employer to correct a dangerous condition. The amendments effectively allow the government to eliminate any semblance of an impartial and independent appeals system.

Notices of appeal would now have to be filed with the Minister who would also have the power to appoint any 'qualified' person as an Appeals Officer. The scope of what the Appeals Officer can examine would be limited. Decisions would have to be issued within 90 days which could preclude the ability to bring expert evidence and testimony to the appeal process. The short time frame would also mean that the parties would not receive full reasons for the Officer's decision, denying workers their fundamental right to effectively judicially review an Officer's decision.

It's hard to see how a process controlled by the government, which will often be the plaintive and which has frequently been held accountable before Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada in its capacity as an employer, will be fair.

Stacking the deck against workers doesn't come as a surprise, according to PSAC National President John Gordon. "While the rate of disabling injuries in federally regulated workplaces has been increasing, the government has been cutting the number of safety inspectors."

Success is no Accident, an April, 2010 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, revealed that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada - which employs the federal inspectors - is more concerned about stopping workers who face unsafe conditions from refusing to work, than with enforcing health and safety regulations.

"This is just another way to make sure that workers really don't have the right to refuse unsafe work," says Gordon. "Sneaking these changes into a 900-page piece of unrelated legislation is despicable."

PSAC has recommended a more independent appeals process, based on the results of a tri-partite Legislative Review Committee established to review Part II of the Code in 1993. Changes to the appeals process recommended by the Committee, in the Final Report of the Committee dated April 1995, and agreed to by labour, management and government at the time, would establish a two-level appeal process that would ensure the independence of the process by involving the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

SOURCE PSAC

For further information: For further information: or to book interviews: Ariel Troster, PSAC Communications, 613-292-8363 (cell)


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