The latest budget implementation act (Bill C-4) now being debated by Parliament will drastically change and reduce health & safety protections for workers in federal jurisdiction. The proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code put workers’ lives at risk.
The Bill proposes to change the definition of danger. Currently, S.122(1) defines “danger” as:
Any existing or potential hazard or condition or any current or future activity that could reasonably be expected to cause injury or illness to a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected, or the activity altered, whether or not the injury or illness occurs immediately after the exposure to the hazard, condition or activity, and includes any exposure to a hazardous substance that is likely to result in a chronic illness, in disease or in damage to the reproductive system.
Bill C-4 proposes to change the definition of danger to “an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person” and the Bill proposes to delete the reference to chronic illness or damage to the reproductive system. In other words, Bill C-4 eliminates the concept of danger as a potential hazard or condition, and it removes the idea that workers deserve protection from activities or conditions that could cause them danger in the future. When you marry this up with the removal of the word “illness” (also proposed in Bill C-4), workers will likely not be able to claim protection from potential chronic or slow developing illnesses based on exposure to carcinogens or teratogens (such as asbestos). The new definition of danger also takes away the right of workers to complain about unsafe work based on the impact to someone’s reproductive system.
Also, Bill C-4 takes away the authority and powers of Health and Safety Officers and places them with the Minister. This will make it easier for employers to ignore health and safety issues, and it risks politicizing the process of monitoring and enforcing health and safety protections.
Very importantly, the Minister or her appointee will be able to refuse to look into a matter if the Minister deems the worker’s health and safety concern to be trivial, frivolous, and vexatious or in bad faith. Our concern is that employees will no longer protect themselves through work refusals for fear of making themselves vulnerable to discipline.
Bill C-4 also states that the Minister may administer or enforce the Canada Labour Code electronically allowing “virtual” investigations.
In summary, the cornerstone of ensuring healthy and safe workplaces has been an internal responsibility system based on worker and employer engagement, consultation and participation. Where that system was ineffective to resolve disputes about the impact of the job on a worker’s health, we had laws that regulated hazards in the workplace on the basis of a system of monitoring and enforcement by trained and neutral health and safety officers, and if necessary recourse to a tribunal staffed by independent decision makers. Bill C-4 will change all that and roll the dice with workers’ safety.
What Can You Do?
Visit the Canadian Labour Congress website and send an electronic message to your MP (http://www.canadianlabour.ca/right‐to‐refuse‐unsafe‐work)
Call your MP’s office or Senator directly.
Education Local members: Plant gate PSAC leaflet – Budget bill will take away your rights.
Use social media to education the public and garner public support.
Write a letter to your local newspaper.
Continue to visit the PSAC website for up-dates and up-date others. It is anticipated that the government will want to complete the process to pass this bill into legislation before the winter recess. The House of Commons has already adopted Bill C-4 at second reading on October 29th. Every worker has the fundamental right to a healthy and safe workplace. This bill demeans that right. The time to act is NOW!
We are all affected!!
Jeannie Baldwin REVP – Atlantic Region
Encl.: Summary of Bill C-4 Changes to H&S Provisions
Bill C-4 Leaflet “Budget bill will take away your rights”