OTTAWA, April 28 /CNW Telbec/ - The Public Service Alliance of Canada is demanding that the Harper government take action to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities, after a damning report revealed that it has been negligent in protecting workers under its jurisdiction.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the federal government is putting workers at risk by under funding and under staffing federal safety inspection. The federal government is responsible for protecting its own employees, those at Crown corporations such as Canada Post, as well as workers in the airline and trucking industries.
The rate of disabling injuries in federally regulated workplaces increased by 5 per cent between 2002 and 2007 while the provinces have managed to cut their disabling workplace injuries by an average of 25 per cent over the same time frame.
During this period, the government made cuts to the number of federal workplace inspectors - the Labour Affairs Officers, working under Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. In 2006, there were 140 people doing these jobs, but by 2007, the number was down to 125. As the Success is No Accident report reveals, this leaves 125 people responsible for protecting more than a million workers.
At particular risk are the workers at Canada Post - where federal inspectors have effectively been stonewalled. In addition, there are currently no federal workplace inspections taking place on First Nations reservations.
"The federal government is abdicating its responsibility to protect workers' health and safety," said John Gordon, National President of PSAC. "Today is the National Day of Mourning for workers who have been killed or injured on the job. This report proves that the spending freezes and job cuts mandated by the 2010 federal budget will do more harm than good."
The CCPA report corroborates investigations that the PSAC itself has done which show that HRSDC is more concerned about stopping workers who face unsafe conditions from refusing to work, which is their legal right, than it is with enforcing health and safety in federal workplaces.
The CCPA's report recommends that the federal government immediately hire more Labour Affairs Officers and ensure they are properly compensated. LAOs are the worst paid of any federal safety inspectors, making them difficult to recruit and retain.
PSAC maintains that the cuts to the Labour Affairs Officers follow a general trend by the federal government - away from government regulation and toward self-inspection by industry.
"We saw a similar pattern at play with the reductions in federal meat inspectors," said Patty Ducharme, National Executive Vice-President of PSAC. "Tragically, this led to the death of 22 people who ate meat contaminated with listeriosis. How many more deaths will it take for this government to wake up?"
PSAC is demanding that the federal government commit to enforcing health and safety protections by hiring more Labour Affairs Officers and working to reduce the workplace injury rate by 20 per cent within the next five years.
"If the provinces can do it, why can't the federal government?" asked Gordon.
Visit policyalternatives.ca, to down load a full copy of the CCPA's report, Success is No Accident.
For further information: For further information: or to book interviews: Ariel Troster, PSAC Communications, (613) 292-8363 (cell)