B.C. and Saskatchewan unions now calling for similar training and safety standards.
Winnipeg (9 June 2009) - Unions representing public auto insurance workers in B.C. and Saskatchewan are calling for improved safety protocols along the lines of the training provided to members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) at Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI).
Hybrid vehicles use high voltage batteries, which pack a 144-volt to 500-volt charge. They can pose a significant danger if someone unfamiliar with the technology comes in contact with the battery, wiring or power train components.
About a year ago, MGEU member Dale Johnson identified the significant high-voltage risk that hybrid vehicles posed to her and her fellow members at MPI. Once everyone began to look at the issue, it was clear that this was a safety concern the employer could not ignore.
"Our members inspecting and boosting hybrid vehicles were clearly at risk, so we worked with the employer to develop safety procedures and basic training,” says MGEU president Peter Olfert. “Now we’re going to share our experiences with the Saskatchewan and B.C. unions as they proceed with similar safeguards for their members.”
MGEU, together with Locals 397 and 378 of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE), represent public auto insurance workers from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. respectively.
The three unions recently met for an annual discussion about emerging issues affecting their members. Hybrid training quickly emerged as one of the leading safety concerns, so much so that some members are now looking to take these safety precautions one step further.
“The issue of hybrid vehicle safety extends beyond our members,” says Garry Hamblin, president of COPE 397 in Saskatchewan. “We need to follow the lead of Manitoba and now push for protection Canada-wide from the high-voltage risk of hybrid vehicles.”
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