Teamsters lead the charge on behalf of women

Teamsters wants to make sure pregnant women working for companies governed by the Canada Labour Code receive compensation if they must take a preventive withdrawal

LAVAL, QC, June 11, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - The Teamsters Union has decided to lead the charge on behalf of pregnant women whose jobs are governed by the Canada Labour Code. The union wants to ensure that these women continue to be paid if they have to take a preventive withdrawal. Potentially affected women work mainly in transportation (air, rail, road or maritime). 

The first battle took place before the Commission des lésions professionnelles (CLP) on June 3, where the Teamsters legal team made representations in the case of Marie-Êve Éthier, a worker employed by Canadian National (CN).

Recently pregnant, Éthier was advised to take a preventive withdrawal by her doctor, who was concerned about her health and that of her unborn child. Éthier asked her employer to accommodate her by assigning her tasks that posed less risk to her health. Instead, the employer sent her home. 

Éthier did not qualify for compensation provided for under provincial law because her employer is subject to federal law. She was thus deprived of income for six months due to this loophole. 

"It just doesn't make sense!" exclaimed this member of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. "I'm disappointed with both my employer and the federal system. I work in a dangerous environment; I thought that everyone would see the logic because I'm pregnant but I guess I was wrong." 

Marie-Êve Éthier has worked for the rail carrier for the last six years. As a yardmaster and conductor, she sometimes works eight hours straight without a break or meal period. Although not usually a problem, this can be dangerous when one is pregnant. 

"I assemble trains in the rail yard," explained Éthier. "A pregnant woman can experience nausea or a sudden drop in blood pressure. This can be dangerous not only for me and the fetus but for my colleagues as well." 

Since the Canada Labour Code provides no compensation in such a case, the Teamsters are asking that a certain paragraph of Quebec's Act respecting occupational health and safety also apply to workers whose employers are governed by the Canada Labour Code. 

Besides CN, the Commission de santé et de sécurité du travail (CSST) also made representations before the CLP, stating that it would not pay any compensation whatsoever since this is a federal matter. 

"Why would women who fall under Quebec law be entitled to compensation and those subject to federal legislation not?" wonders Teamsters Canada president Robert Bouvier. "Although this is admittedly a complicated case, it doesn't change the fact that there's injustice here and we at Teamsters believe that as soon as there's injustice, it needs to be rectified immediately."

Bouvier said that he would take this to the Supreme Court if necessary. "We will lead the charge on behalf of these women because the status quo endangers the health of women and their babies. Pregnant women could be tempted to not take preventive withdrawals because they don't want to lose the income." 

The case is under advisement and a decision is expected in the next few months. Marie-Êve Éthier's courage is sure to have a positive impact on thousands of unionized and non-unionized Quebec women. 

"Marie-Êve is a trailblazer," said the Teamsters Canada president with admiration. "Win or lose, her cause will make people stop and think, and if we're lucky, the legislator too."

The Teamsters represents 115,000 members in Canada in all trades. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.


For further information:

Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Communications, Teamsters Canada
Mobile: 514-609-5101
Office: 450-682-5521 x236

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