'Like a gust of fresh wind blowing through the workplaces of Ontario.' - Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Toronto (22 April 2009) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) has welcomed the announcement that the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) will be amended to help protect employees from workplace violence and harassment.
“After years of lobbying and all-out campaigning by OPSEU and other unions, the changes announced by Minister of Labour Peter Fonseca are like a gust of fresh wind blowing through the workplaces of Ontario,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
“We warmly welcome the government’s initiative on this critical health and safety issue and we can only hope that the changes will be locked into place with the required resources and enforcement muscle.”
If passed, the changes to the OHSA would:
- Require employers to develop a framework that would include policies and programs to help prevent workplace violence and harassment.
- Require employers to take reasonable precautions to protect an employee from domestic violence in the workplace.
- Allow workers to remove themselves from harmful situations if they have reason to believe that they are at risk of imminent danger due to workplace violence.
Fonseca, in making his announcement, promised that the government would appoint two "Healthy Work Environment Champions" whose task it will be to “build a culture of workplace safety in health care settings across the province.”
Thomas said it is clear the government could no longer hold back on the changes in the face of years of campaigning by OPSEU and other unions. Strong recommendations from a 2007 coroner’s jury following the tragic workplace murder of nurse Lori Dupont also played an important role, Thomas noted.
“When I read the announcement it is clear the ministry has been paying close attention to many of the arguments we have been raising over and over again for years," he added.
"We are particularly pleased that the definition of workplace violence has been expanded to include harassment, as well as the spread of domestic violence into workplaces – issues that we have been fighting in support of for years.”
Thomas also paid tribute to NDP leader Andrea Horwath whose private member’s Bill – tabled in 2007 – mirrors the ministry’s proposed legislation.
In response to a call for consultation by the Ministry, OPSEU released a position paper in 2007 on workplace violence. In it, the union put forward several recommendations that appear to be addressed in what Fonseca announced Tuesday.
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
Ontario health and safety law to include violence and harassment