Bob Kingston signs Rob Ellis' Canada Cup Jersey in support of the right to refuse unsafe work. More than 150,000 Canadians have added their names to date.

Bob Kingston signs Rob Ellis’ Canada Cup Jersey in support of the right to refuse unsafe work. More than 150,000 Canadians have added their names to date.

Ottawa – Work will be more dangerous if proposed changes to health and safety laws in Ottawa’s latest omnibus budget measure, Bill C-4, become law, according to Rob Ellis, whose teenage son was killed at work during his second day on the job.

Ellis, a workplace health and safety advocate, and Bob Kingston, President of the PSAC’s Agriculture Union, are in Ottawa today to urge parliamentarians to change the Bill.

“These proposals undermine the right to refuse unsafe work. My tragic story will be more common if these changes are passed into law,” said Rob Ellis.

An overlooked provision of the Bill would give the Minister of Labour authority to throw out any unsafe work refusal complaint without investigating it, leaving the employee open to discipline, including dismissal. If the Minister chooses, an investigation can be undertaken in secret.

“The threat of losing your job is a powerful incentive to keep your mouth shut even if you feel your workplace is not safe,” said Bob Kingston who co-chairs with the Treasury Board the public Service-Wide Occupational Health and Safety Committee.

“We should encourage, especially young people, to exercise this right rather than threaten people with losing their job if they do,” Ellis says.

The changes would affect almost 1.5 million people with jobs in marine shipping, pipelines, uranium mining, broadcasting, transportation and other federal sectors, and potentially many others should emboldened provincial governments follow suit.

Ellis has appealed to the Prime Minister and Laureen Harper as parents of teenage children for the government to drop these changes. In a letter to the Harpers, Ellis described his son’s death:

“On his second day of work at a temporary position in a bakery, Ellis’ 18-year old son David was killed on the job. He was pulled into an industrial mixer that was operating without a safety guard and lockout. David lacked the experience to comprehend the dangers of the workplace.

“We should not assume that new workers have enough experience to recognize or categorize the level of danger of every workplace condition. New or young employees should be encouraged to say no to unsafe work. And when they do stand up and say no, they should not be subject to discipline if their complaint is rejected without investigation, as Bill C-4 proposes.”

Workplaces considered dangerous under the current law will be considered safe under these proposals because the definition of danger has been restricted. Under the amendments to the Canada Labour Code in Bill C-4, a workplace would be considered dangerous only if the threat is imminent.

The common sense protections from potentially hazardous conditions, including exposure to hazardous substances likely to result in chronic illness or disease, and damage to a worker’s reproductive system, would disappear under the amendments contained in Bill C-4.

“What problem this Bill is intended to address is a mystery? No employer has ever called for these changes or even raised them for discussion,” Kingston said.

That the federal government is exposing people to workplace dangers while advocating measures to protect people from crime in their communities is equally bewildering,” Kingston said.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada will call for changes to Bill C-4 concerning health and safety during an appearance tomorrow before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

“We will make sure the Committee members understand the important point of view Mr. Ellis has brought to Ottawa today,’ Kingston said.

Kingston and Ellis will be meeting with opposition MPs Alexandre Boulerice and Rodger Cuzner today to discuss their concerns.


Jim Thompson 613-447-9592

Jonathan Choquette, PSAC Communications, 819-773-2511