OPSEU continues to have serious reservations about an ongoing review of Ontario's workplace health and safety system.
Toronto (31 May 2010) - The Ontario government says privatization is not being considered in its current review of the province's workplace health and safety system.
Labour Minister Peter Fonseca says health and safety inspectors, who demonstrated recently in London to draw attention to fears of privatization, have nothing to worry about.
“The review will not consider or recommend privatizing our enforcement system,” Fonseca told the Canadian Safety Reporter recently.
“Ministry of labour health and safety inspectors play a crucial role in our prevention and enforcement system. I greatly appreciate the hard work that our inspectors do to make our workplaces safer,” he said.
Fonseca has appointed Tony Dean, former secretary of cabinet and deputy minister of labour, to review Ontario’s workplace health and safety system. Assisting Dean is a nine-member panel of safety experts drawn from various groups, including employers and academic institutions.
“All panel members bring a wealth of experience, skill and knowledge in the area of workplace health and safety and are well aware of the important role that inspectors provide,” said Fonseca.
He welcomes the fact the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is sharing its concerns with the panel and says its input "will be carefully considered" as the work proceeds.
OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas says privatization is only one concern that the union has. Another is the possibility that health and safety may become the responsibility of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
“Safety enforcement must be kept with public inspectors in the ministry of labour, a directly-run government body,” Thomas says.
“The Sunrise Propane explosion in 2008 is a prime example of what happens when safety standards are enforced by a private agency like the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA).”
OPSEU notes that there are "no front-line health and safety enforcement staff on the panel or any of its working groups."
Len Elliott, an occupational health and safety inspector and president of OPSEU Local 101, calls the panel "an exercise in futility" without representation from front-line experts.
“We investigate the day-to-day incidents that cost 478 Ontario workers their lives last year,” Elliott says. “If the minister really wants improvements to workplace health and safety in this province, there are over a thousand of our members ready to tell him how to accomplish it.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE