EDMONTON — A bill that would enhance protection for fuel and convenience-store employees is one step closer to reality, as Alberta mulls proposed legislation requiring violence-prevention plans and pre-payment for fuel at gas stations across the province.
According to a statement issued by the Alberta goverment on October 30, the province’s Minister of Labour Christina Gray met Lawrence Richler, vice-president of Canadian Products Marketing with Husky Energy Inc. at the Brookview Husky in Edmonton to discuss measures to improve worker safety at fueling stations. If the proposed legislation is passed, An Act to Protect Gas and Convenience Store Workers would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Code to include mandatory pre-payment for fuel and violence-prevention plans at retail fuel and convenience stores. The new measures are expected to take effect on June 1, 2018.
Over the past three years, “gas-and-dash” incidents at both urban and rural locations in the province have resulted in five worker deaths and serious injuries to three other workers. The rates of fuel theft incidents reported to police rose between 2011 and 2015. The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police estimates that there were more than 4,000 incidents across the province in 2015, averaging 12 fuel thefts per day.
“As Albertans, our hearts break when we see incidents of violence involving workers. That is why we are taking action to increase safety for retail fuel and convenience store workers,” Minister Gray says in a statement.
Where pay-at-the-pump technology is not available, retailers can institute other options, such as requiring customers to deposit cash or a credit card with the cashier before fueling begins. Several fuel retailers in Alberta have already established, or are working to establish, mandatory fuel pre-payment polices.
“Pre-payment eliminates the risks associated with fuel payments, and we applaud the government for taking this important step to protect attendants and the public,” Richler says.
Doug Rosencrans, vice-president and general manager of 7-Eleven Canada, says he believes that pre-payment of fuel purchases will improve employee and public safety in Alberta. “For many years, 7-Eleven Canada has run an employee-safety program similar to the safety plan announced today.”
Alberta’s oh&s legislation requires employers to take all reasonable steps to protect worker health and safety. Proposed violence-prevention plans, which would help employers reduce the potential for violence through physical and procedural control measures, include safe cash-handling procedures.
For retail workplaces that are open to the public between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., time-lock safes that cannot be opened during those hours are required. Employers should also limit the quantities of certain items, such as cash, lottery tickets and tobacco, available during those hours. Other measures include visible signs indicating to the public that the retailer uses time-lock safes, equipping lone employees with personal emergency transmitters and providing worker training in all aspects of the violence-prevention plan, the statement notes.
SAULT STE MARIE — Hugger Inc., a taxi company known as Checker Cab which is no longer in business, and Hugh Irwin, director of the company in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, were sentenced on October 24 for failing to pay wages owed to more than 30 claimants, totalling nearly $75,000.
According to a court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the case dates back to April 2014, when the Ministry responded to employee complaints about the failure to pay wages at Checker Cab. The Ministry’s employment-standards officer issued the company and its director 63 orders to pay, but the orders were not complied with, and an application to review the orders was not filed.
The director, who failed to pay wages owed, pled guilty and was given a 15-day jail sentence for 32 of the count. He was also ordered not to be involved in any capacity, other than being an employee, in a business for the period of one year. The company received a $1,000 fine for each of 31 counts, including a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge. The company is no longer in business and the director has since filed for bankruptcy, the bulletin states.
FREDERICTON — Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees New Brunswick (CUPE NB) held a protest for the rights of injured workers to denounce recent cuts to the workers’ compensation fund while the provincial legislature was reopening on October 24.
Earlier this year, WorkSafe NB announced its intention to increase the rates collected from employers to ensure sustainability of the workers’ compensation fund, but business interests lobbied against the measure, and WorkSafe NB’s board of directors buckled. On October 2, 2017, the board announced a meagre 22 cents hike per $100 of payroll. New Brunswick’s rate of $1.70 per $100 is amongst the lowest provincial rates in Canada.
“WorkSafe NB was created for people, not profits,” Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB, charges in a statement issued on October 25. Légère adds that the province has yet to come back from the cuts made back in 1992.
“The CEO of WorkSafe NB is doing like McKenna: Underfunding the very system created to protect injured workers and their families,” Légère says. “This month, WorkSafe NB’s board of directors even admitted they are far from even meeting basic operating costs to manage the workers’ compensation fund. Simply maintaining the fund would have required an additional 23 cents increase ($1.93 per $100 of payroll).”
As long-term sustainability of the fund is in questioon, CUPE NB is worried that attrition, cuts and even privatization, might be on the horizon. “The public needs to know what is going on,” Légère adds.
According to the statement, CUPE and the Federation of Labour have communicated with the Labour Minister, recommending that funds to the workers’ compensation be restored at pre-1992 levels. This would enable the system to eliminate the three-day wait period for injured workers, increase benefits for injured and deceased workers and expedite the claims process by hiring more front-line staff at WorkSafe NB.
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Irving Oil Commercial GP was issued a $4 million fine on October 26 after it pled guilty to 34 counts for offences under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in Saint John Provincial Court.
The fine comprises a financial penalty of $400,320 and $3.6 million for the implementation of research programs to improve the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada. In addition, Irving Oil was ordered to submit a corrective measures plan and follow up with Transport Canada (TC), according to a Public Proseution Service of Canada statement.
Following the train derailment in Lac Mégantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013, a joint investigation by TC and the RCMP found that Irving Oil did not comply with all applicable safety requirements by failing to determine the classification of dangerous goods for the crude oil it transported by train. The shipping documents on board the trains were erroneous, and the company also failed to train its employees in the transportation of dangerous goods adequately. These offenses occurred over an eight-month period from November 2012 to July 2013, during which approximately 14,000 cars transported crude oil for Irving Oil.
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau says in a statement, following Irving Oil’s conviction, that his thoughts continue to go out to the community of Lac-Mégantic and all those affected by this tragedy. “Today, we close another chapter in this tragic event through a settlement that we have reached with Irving Oil.”
Garneau adds that following the Lac-Mégantic incident, TC undertook a regulatory investigation, with the assistance of the RCMP, to determine whether a violation to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act had occurred.
“Rail safety remains my top priority. Transport Canada continues to closely monitor the safety of rail operations and the system, as well as the safe transportation of dangerous goods by all modes of transport across Canada,” Garneau says.
TORONTO, Ont. — The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) issued a new report outlining the commitments made by many Ontario’s restaurant chains to eliminate discriminatory dress codes for restaurant staff on March 8. Not on the Menu: Inquiry Report on Sexual and Gender-Based Dress Codes in Ontario’s Restaurants, which highlights findings from an inquiry into dress codes at certain restaurants operating across the province, was released to coincide with International Women’s Day. Following the OHRC’s Policy Position on Sexualized and Gender-Based Dress Codes, publicized one year ago, the OHRC wrote to the companies and informed them about dress-code concerns and obligations under the Human Rights Code. A statement from the OHRC reveals that the responses from companies were “encouraging,” with all of them either developing new policies or amending existing ones. In general, companies expressed support for addressing dress codes, sexual harassment and other human-rights concerns in their workplaces. While changing policies is a good first step, the OHRC encourages companies to take the next step by putting these policies into practice on the ground and making sure that employees have the opportunity to bring forward complaints if they believe their rights have been violated. “People who work in restaurants can be vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination because of the precarious nature of their work,” OHRC chief commissioner Renu Mandhane said. “After the release of our policy position, we decided to take the extra step of reaching out to restaurants, because we heard that workers often didn’t feel empowered to raise their concerns due to fear of reprisal.” The OHRC has developed tools to help establishments comply with the Policy Position and remove discriminatory barriers created by some dress codes, the statement added.
TORONTO, Ont. — Chief financial officers (CFO) in Canada spend as much as half a day per week resolving staff conflicts, a recent survey reveals. The survey, which was developed by staffing firm Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm, fielded responses from more than 270 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies across Canada. According to the survey, one-fifth of executives are sidetracked from their work by spending, on average, 10 to 14 per cent of their time or approximately four hours a week managing staff conflicts, and 14 per cent devote 15 to 24 per cent of their time on such resolutions. “Conflicts and differences of opinion in the office are bound to happen, especially when employees are passionate about their work,” said Dianne Hunnam-Jones, Canadian president of Accountemps. “However, these issues shouldn’t take managers away from high-priority business concerns or prevent them from doing their jobs effectively.” Some of the ways to foster a more harmonious workplace include encouraging workers to approach colleagues’ opinions with respect and communicating disagreements as they arise, so that solutions can be found before the issue escalates or impedes productivity, Hunnam-Jones advised. Other avenues to handle work conflicts with grace include showing empathy, handling work-related disagreements promptly, bringing in a third party like a human-resources manager to mediate if no resolution is in sight and letting the matter rest by not holding a grudge.
MONTREAL, Que. — An RCMP officer has died in the line of duty after a road accident on March 6. The RCMP issued a statement on March 7, mourning the passing of 42-year-old Constable Richer Dubuc, a native of the region of Joliette who was married and the father of four children. He joined the RCMP in November 2009 at the Codiac Detachment in New Brunswick and served for seven years. Last January, he joined the Integrated Border Enforcement Team at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
TORONTO, Ont. — Quality Brand Products Corporation was fined $72,000 on March 7 after it was convicted on 24 counts of failing to obey orders to pay wages. The orders, issued by an employment-standards officer between April 2014 and Feb. 2016, amounted to about $32,000. The wages owed varied between about $100 to $4,500, according to a court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA), if an employment-standards officer finds that an employer owes wages to an employee, the officer may order the employer to pay the amount owed. A person who contravenes the ESA or its regulations, or fails to comply with an order under the Act, is guilty of an offence. An individual convicted under the ESA may be fined up to $50,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. A corporation can be fined up to $100,000 for a first conviction, $250,000 for a second conviction and $500,000 for a third or more convictions, the bulletin noted.
VANCOUVER, B.C. — The British Columbia government is adding three types of cancer to those that could be considered occupational diseases suffered by firefighters. According to a statement issued on March 6 by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, breast cancer, prostate cancer and multiple myeloma will be added to the Firefighters Occupational Disease Regulation under the Workers’ Compensation Act. That means firefighters who develop those diseases after a certain period of time on the job would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits without having to prove that the cancer is work-related. The province said it had first recognized certain cancers as occupational diseases for firefighters in 2005. Since then, the list of cancers has grown to ten and includes brain, bladder and testicular cancer, as well as leukemia. Heart disease and heart injury were also restored as illnesses presumed to be conditions developed by firefighters in 2014. “Firefighters are exposed to toxic environments that greatly contribute to increased cancer risks, more than double that of the general population,” said Gord Ditchburn, president and board chairman of the B.C. Professional Firefighters Association. Members across the province are expected to benefit from the additional coverage, as will their families who, Ditchburn said, are often the ones who must navigate the coverage process with WorkSafeBC.
REGINA, Sask. — A supervisor with SaskPower was found guilty of two counts under The Saskatchewan Employment Act and fined $28,000, in connection with a workplace death that occurred more than two years ago. On Dec. 20, 2014, a worker was electrocuted while repairing a high-voltage transmission line near Wakaw. The sentencing, which took place on March 8 of this year in Melfort Provincial Court, found Kelvin Rowlett guilty of failing to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all workers who worked under the supervisor’s direction and for not following the SaskPower Safety Rule Book’s procedure to review and revise job-hazard identification and risk assessment when job conditions change. He also contravened clause 3-9(a) of the Act, which requires a supervisor to ensure that a jumper cable was used prior to the cutting of an energized shield wire. One additional charge was dismissed, the statement notes.