Employment Code Changes Protect Workers

This year the NDP government implemented changes to the employment standards code.

It marked the first time in three decades that changes had been made. They were very long overdue, to say the least.

These changes finally defended workers’ rights – especially those who are in precarious or part time work, shift work or non-unionized workers. These are workers who are often taken advantage of and are too afraid to speak up.

While some employers have been okay with implementing the changes and publicly have shown their support for workers’ rights – other have not felt the same way.

The first major issue was the raise in minimum wage, and now the latest showdown is over statutory holiday pay.

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Marty Giles, the owner of vehicle dealerships in Fort McMurray, Calgary, Cochrane and Fort McKay recently recorded a video rant and posted it on social media. He stated that the new general holiday pay was going to hurt his businesses.

Giles said that these rules are going to cost his business $103 an hour on stat holidays because of the new changes and that he is basically paying his employees to ‘sit on the couch.’

Describing them as just 'sitting on the couch' is insulting to his employees. If you value your workers, you should make sure they have much needed time off.

Business owners, especially ones who have been as successful as Giles, need to realize that these costs come with running a business. If you can't afford to have your employees make a decent wage or pay for statutory holidays, then maybe your business model doesn't work. It's time to rethink it.

The code now states that ‘all eligible employees are entitled to holiday pay, where they are paid the equivalent of a day's pay whether they work or not.’

Previously, the employer would pay the stat pay the employee had worked five of the past nine days that the stat holiday fell on. This has been practiced in Saskatchewan and is included in their labour code.

Employees and employers alike would often be confused about how to interpret a ‘work day’ or the eligibility of a worker.

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Now all shift workers are protected on a statutory holiday, whether they are spending time with their family, running errands they wouldn’t otherwise have time for or just ‘sitting on a couch.’

"We absolutely recognize that employers, and indeed all Albertans, are facing tough economic times. Through the feedback we received, we developed modern and fair rules for workplaces that balance the needs of both employers and employees," said Christina Gray, Alberta Labour Minister, in an e-mail to the Globe and Mail.

The Employment Standards Code has remained the same for 30 years and required an update so that workers would be protected and have the same rights as workers do in several other provinces across Canada. Alberta has changed a lot in 30 years, so has the way business is done and our labour codes should reflect that.

 


Alberta NDP Government Hopes New Bill Will Better Protect Workers

The Alberta government has been paying a lot of attention to labour in our province this year, something that is long overdue.

First there was Bill 17, the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, that was passed in June. This saw significant changes to provincial labour law, including union certification.

Now the NDP has introduced large changes with Bill 30, An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans.

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“Every Albertan should be able to go to work and come home healthy and safe at the end of the workday. When they don’t, they deserve to have access to the medical and financial supports they need to get healthy, care for their families and return to work,” said Christina Gray, Alberta Minister of Labour at a press conference on Monday.

She explained that this bill would better protect Albertans and provide fair compensation to Albertans injured on the job.

This bill if passed would mean an improved Workers Compensation Board system with ‘greater benefits to workers to support their return to work.’ The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) would see changes to ensure Albertan’s have the same rights as other Canadians in the workplace.

According to the Edmonton Journal, The WCB paid out 144 fatality claims in 2016, as well as more than 44,500 disabling injury claims.

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Teamsters Local 362 was happy to see that some of the proposed changes included better coverage and support for those dealing with mental health issues at work. Local 362 has fought for every workplace to have mandatory mental health support with multiple campaigns you can find here.

Bill Highlights:

Workers’ Compensation Board changes

·       Establishing an independent Fair Practices Office that helps Albertans navigate the WCB system by providing additional resources to support workers every step of  the way.

·       Establishing a Code of Rights and Conduct that outlines the rights of workers and employers, while also explaining how WCB staff would recognize these rights and conduct.

·       Improving benefits for:

· Surviving spouses and children when a worker is killed on the job.

·  Young workers who sustain a long-term injury that affects their career opportunities.

·  Enhancing coverage for psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, for all occupations where workers have experienced a traumatic incident at work.

Occupational Health and Safety changes

·       Enshrining the three basic rights of workers in Alberta’s legislation:

·  The right to refuse unsafe work. The proposed changes protect workers from any form of reprisal for exercising this right, including loss of compensation or benefits.

·  The right to know. The proposed changes ensure workers are informed about potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.

·  The right to participate. The proposed changes ensure workers are involved in health and safety discussions, including participation in health and safety committees.


Domestic Violence is a Serious Issue in the Workplace

Domestic violence is an issue that has ramifications far beyond just the home. We have seen this recently in the news with the tragic events in Sutherland Springs where Devin Patrick Kelley, who had a history of domestic violence, killed 26 people at the church his in-laws attended.

This issue can also have a deep impact at work, as a recent study at the University of Toronto has shown.

They interviewed men who were perpetrators of domestic violence, and learned a lot about how the abuse of their partner continued at their workplace. One-third of the men said they contacted their partner or ex ‘during work hours to engage in emotionally abusive behaviour or to monitor her whereabouts.’

A previous 2015 study by the Conference Board of Canada found that 71 per cent of employers and 55 per cent of government employers reported a situation where they had to protect an employee who was a victim of domestic violence.

It is clear this is having a huge impact in the workplace and one of the most troubling findings of the U of T study is that workplaces are not doing a lot about it.

They found that no matter the kind of job, level of seniority at the job or years at the job the vast majority of men were not aware of any resources that might help them address this issue.

Lead researcher Katreena Scott said in an interview with CBC news that the first thing to do if you see behaviour that is concerning you is to have a conversation with the person and call out the bad behaviour.

“Then link the person to the kind of resources they might need,” she said. “If we want to make women and children safer we have to start talking to perpetrators. Workplaces need resources and education.”

For more resources in Alberta that can help people in a domestic violence situation visit the Government of Alberta website or call the family violence info line at 310-1818.


Importance of Breaks

Unions have fought for many rights in the workplace. Safe workplaces, weekends and good wages are just a few.

One important right we have in the workplace, that we don’t always think about, is breaks. Taking time out from your work is so important – you need to recharge, eat and have a break from you tasks.

Our members who are employed by GardaWorld as pre-board screening officers in Calgary and Edmonton, are not getting all of the breaks they are entitled to. This is a huge concern, as the safety of airline passengers is in their hands.

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Here are reasons why breaks are so important for all workers.

1.     Breaks keep us focused

Going on a break has been proven to actually refresh your attention span and increase your concentration. It is recommended that people who work jobs that involve inspection or monitoring should be offered frequent short breaks to reduce human error.

2.     Prevents Burnout

According to the American Psychological Association, being able to walk away from your tasks at your job and truly take a break will prevent burnout. Even 10 minutes can lower stress keeping employees healthier and happier.

3.     Prevents Accidents

Fatigue is one of the major cause of accidents on the job and allowing employees to get the breaks they need can prevent this. This is especially important for someone who is in charge of the general public’s safety.

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These pre-board screeners have been guaranteed a certain amount of breaks in the collective bargaining agreement. It is so important that they are allowed to take these for the safety of all passengers and the health of these employees.

 


Working in Extreme Heat

This summer in Alberta can be described with one word – hot. In July there seems to be a heat warning every other day and a day below 25 degrees is rare.

Patios are packed, local swimming pools are full and Albertan's are taking advantage of the sun.

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But for people who work outside, extra precautions need to be taken.

According to Metro News, Alberta does not have any ‘hard and fast regulations about how hot is too hot for work.’

In the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Code in Alberta there are no specific requirements related to working in the heat or cold. The Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of workers and the Code requires employers to ‘assess and control hazards workers may be exposed to at the work site.’

OHS in Alberta recommends being aware of the signs of heat stress and stroke so it can be treated right away.

Being a union member means that you have people looking out for you in the workplace, ensuring that you are not forced to work in unsafe working conditions such as extreme heat. If you are ever feeling as though a workplace is unsafe, you can notify a shop steward or a business agent.

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Early warning signs of heat stress and stroke

  • headache
  • confusion
  • dizziness and fatigue
  • dehydration
  • heavy sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • changes to breathing and pulse rate

How to avoid overheating

  • drink lots of water
  • take breaks
  • wear protective equipment designed to reduce heat stress
  • minimize physical activity in hot environments
  • know the signs of heat stress

Canadians Honour Fallen Workers With Day of Mourning

Going to work is something millions of people across Canada do every day. Whether you are working in construction or sitting behind a desk, no one should ever have to feel unsafe in their workplace.

Unfortunately, every year we have workplace fatalities in Canada. On April 28 we remember those who have been injured or have lost their lives with the Day of Mourning.

In Alberta we lost 144 women and men to workplace injury or illness in 2016.

On Parliament Hill and at government buildings across the country flags will fly at half-mast and there will be a moment of silence at 11 a.m.

What was known as the Day of Remembrance was originally launched in 1984 by the Canadian Labour Congress, and in 1991 the Government of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act making April 28 the official Day of Mourning.

It has now spread to over 100 countries around the world, in hopes that this day will help to establish healthy workplace conditions  around the world.

The latest statistics from the Workers Compensation Board of Canada shows that in 2015 there were 852 workplace deaths in Canada. They also found that there were 232,629 claims for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease and 8,155 of those were from workers 15 to 19.

There will be events across Alberta to honour the day:

Edmonton and District Labour Council
Amphitheatre in Borden Park at 12:15 p.m. For more details, please visit the Edmonton and District Labour Council's website.

Central Alberta Chapter and Parkland Regional Safety Committee
Red Deer City Hall (west-side steps) at 11 a.m.

Calgary Day of Mourning Committee
SAIT Aldred Centre at 11 a.m.


Safety In The Workplace Should Be A Top Priority, No Matter What Job You Have

In our culture we tend to see athletes as celebrities or stars, but the truth is they are people with jobs just like millions of other Canadians.

Sometimes we forget that they also deserve to have their safety protected in the workplace, and their union has released a statement reminding people of the importance of taking safety seriously no matter what workplace you work in.

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The Canadian Football League’s Players’ Association (CFLPA) said its players have ‘very minimal coverage for accidents and injuries they sustain as part of their work.’

They called for the Alberta Review Panel to come up with ‘workable solutions that acknowledge the responsibility that our employers have to their employees – our members.’

This comes as a reminder of the importance of a union backing you up in the workplace, no matter what type of work you do. From trades, to the service industry to sports – no one should ever feel unsafe where they work.

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The truth is some workplaces don’t always see their employees mental and physical health as a top priority.

The most current data from Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) shows that Alberta fatality rates were down from 2013 to 2014, but the number of workplace-related deaths in 2014 (a total of 169), was still higher than the three years previous.

Unions have fought for health and safety for decades, many labour laws that are taken for granted to day were made possible by unions. Through leadership safety training, implementing safety protocols in collective bargaining and fighting for mental health support in the workplace like the Teamsters 362 Make It Mandatory campaign.

No one should ever have to feel unsafe at the workplace, and this is how unions may be able to help you if you do.


Keeping workers safe should be a top priority

Now more than ever, the Alberta government is grappling with how to ensure workplace safety orders are followed by employers.

Merwan Saher, Alberta’s auditor general, said it’s the responsibility of the labour department to enforce compliance for all orders issued by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).

In a report released this past week, Saher noted that “the department is unable to demonstrate, with evidence, that it has a complete set of processes to apply department policies to keep Alberta’s workers safe.”

Employers failing to comply have started receiving fines and administrative penalties, but Saher said there’s no way to assess how these safety programs actually prevent injury and lost time.

The report stated a huge problem was the lack of proper documentation on the part of OHS. Allegedly recommendations by the auditor suggested in 2010 are still not being followed, and the labour department is altogether abandoning their original Work Safety Alberta strategy.

While news stories seem to go back and forth putting blame on the former PC government, the facts remain that many Alberta employees still face unsafe working conditions — no matter whose fault it is.

Being a unionized worker means having access to rights that all Albertans need to be healthy and productive. Unions set the bar for health and safety in all workplaces through collective bargaining.

 

At Teamsters 362, we bargain on your behalf to ensure collective agreements are reached that are fair to both employees and employers. Share your grievances — we’re here to listen.
To learn more, visit Local 362 online at: http://www.teamsters362.com/


What does workplace safety look like in Canada?

People work so they can live. They have mortgages, savings and children to worry about -- they shouldn’t have to be anxious about feeling safe at work.

And safety at work comes in a lot of forms.

Despite technological advancements and improvements in safety rules and standards in the workplace, too many employees are getting hurt -- even killed -- on the job.

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The deaths earlier this year of Albertan workers at sites in Joffre and Redwater are clear reminders that workplace safety is still an issue.

The most current data from Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) shows that Alberta fatality rates were down from 2013 to 2014, but the number of workplace-related deaths in 2014 (a total of 169), was still higher than the three years previous.

Disabling injury claims increased to 55,245 that year, and today there are still hundreds of worksite injuries that go unaccounted for -- in too many cases, the need to work is greater than reporting an injury.

Are you safer at work with a union?

It’s an ongoing fight for workers’ rights. Teamsters 362 stands up for better working conditions, and at the forefront of our battleground is safety in the workplace.

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We can improve workplace standards by listening to safety concerns, and demanding better legislation. Collective bargaining, safety committees and fighting on every worker’s behalf, is how we protect employees.

Mental health supports are more important now than ever. Our recent campaign,Make it Mandatory, calls on everyone in the workplace to take action, to fight against mental health stigmas and lay better foundations for success.

Let’s work together to keep everyone safe.


Find Out How Unions Make Health And Safety A Top Priority In The Workplace

When you walk out your door and leave for work, there is nothing worse than having a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. Whether you are dealing with harassment, bullying or unsafe work conditions, no worker should ever have to fear for their health or safety. Whether your job has you doing daily heavy lifting, driving on the road or sitting at a desk – it is your right to feel safe and no employer should be able to take that away from you.

But the truth is some workplaces don't always see their employees mental and physical health as a top priority.

Unions have fought for health and safety for decades, many labour laws that are taken for granted today were made possible by unions.

No one should ever have to feel unsafe at the workplace, and this is how unions may be able to help you if you do.

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1.     Leadership

Leadership is not only important in a workplace for productivity, but also for safety. Studies have shown that by focusing on having safety leaders, there will be an impact on injury rates and overall safety performance – both physical and mental. A great example of this within a union is a shop steward – a fellow coworker who represents the union and is the go-to person for any concerns in the workplace. They are able to ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace and are available if employees feel that they need to report any health or safety violations.

2.     Training

Unions offer several training courses, including ones that deal directly with safety. These courses teach members how to reduce injuries at work, how to report injuries and develop a positive safety culture at work. This can range from Transportation of Dangerous Goods First Aid Construction Safety Training System (C.S.T.S.), to forklift training, to mental health anti-stigma training.

3.     Physical Health

When it comes to physical health and safety in the workplace, what has become known as the ‘union effect’ has created a safer work environment. Researchers have found in both North America and internationally, that where there is a union present, workplaces injury rates are lower than non union. In Canada a recent study found that unionized construction sites were 30 per cent less likely to suffer critical injuries.

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4.     Mental Health

Health and safety in the workplace does not just mean physical well being, but mental as well. No one should ever have to feel stigma coming forward about a mental health issue or about reporting bullying or harassment at work. Mental health cost the Canadian economy $51 billion dollars last year, and is something unions have been trying to bring more attention to. Teamsters Local 362 and Teamsters Canada recently ran a large ‘Make It Mandatory’ campaign, urging the government to make mental health support in the workplace mandatory across Canada.