PUBLIC FORUM ON WORKPLACE SAFTEY GENERAL INFORMATION

HOSTED BY RUNYOWA LAW: MARCH 29, 2016

Saskatchewan has the second-worst workplace safety record in Canada. Workers in this province are more likely to die at work than from homicide. Runyowa Law represents clients who have been affected by workplace safety incidents. On March 29, 2016, Runyowa Law will be hosting a Public Forum on Workplace Safety at the University of Regina from 6 – 9pm in Theatre 106.1 of the Education Building. Room at the venue will be limited but we expect to videoconference and webcast the event online. The relevant links will be provided shortly before the event, but we expect to stream the event on YouTube, Facebook and Periscope.

The Public Forum has been scheduled on the eve of the provincial election. We hope to spur our political leaders to take decisive positions on reform proposals that will address Saskatchewan’s workplace incident rate. If Saskatchewan’s legislature implements the proposed reforms, this would significantly reduce workplace injuries and fatalities. Saskatchewan would become the safest and most supportive province for workers in Canada by reducing workplace incidents and advancing their post-incident care through a comprehensive workers compensation system.

Format and participants

The Forum will include testimonies from injured workers, family members of workers who died in workplace incidents, and organized labour groups (both provincial and national). Employer representatives have also been invited.

The evening will culminate with a debate where provincial party leaders will state their positions on specific reforms and answer questions from the audience and media. So far, three opposition parties have confirmed their attendance: the Minister of Labour and Workplace Safety (SaskParty), New Democratic Party, Saskatchewan Liberal Party, the Green Party of Saskatchewan, and the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan.

Who should attend?

This event will be of interest to injured workers, family members of workers who died in the workplace, and any parties with a stake in advancing workplace safety in general.

All queries should be directed to Runyowa Law at law@runyowa.com or 306-206-2800.

 

PUBLIC FORUM ON WORKPLACE SAFETY SCHEDULE (MARCH 29, 2016), HOSTED BY RUNYOWA LAW AT THE UNIVERSITY OF REGINA THEATRE 106.1 FROM 6PM – 9PM.

THE EVENING SPEAKERS.

6pm – 6:05pm: Opening Remarks from Tavengwa Runyowa (Moderator).

6:05pm – 6:15: Tara Lee Jijian.

·      Tara Lee Jijian is the widow of Jamie Jijian, a worker who was killed in a workplace incident at a Regina railway yard in January of 2013. Since then, Tara has been fighting to learn how her husband died, why no conclusive investigation was ever conducted, and why her husband’s employer and regulators have failed to provide her with any details. Since Jamie’s death, no one has been held accountable even though there is significant evidence that Jamie’s workplace was riddled with hazards that caused his death.

Tara will be sharing her story about her husband’s death and that how it devastated her life and family. She will also speak about her quest for justice, and the systemic reforms that are necessary to make workplaces safer for workers in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

6:15 – 6:35pm: Larry Hubich (Saskatchewan Federation of Labour).

·      Larry Hubich is the president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL). The SFL represents over 100,000 members, from 37 national and international unions. Its affiliate membership belongs to over 500 locals across Saskatchewan and represents dozens of communities. Mr. Hubich will be discussing specific reforms that the SFL believes will make Saskatchewan safer and fairer for workers. His talk will cover both the occupational health & safety and workers compensation arenas.

6:35 – 7:00pm: Stephen Hunt: United Steel Workers Union (USW).

·      Stephen Hunt is the Director of USW District 3 of the United Steel Workers Union (USW). He is based in Vancouver, BC. Under Mr. Hunt’s leadership, the USW started the “Stop the Killing, Enforce The Law” campaign to raise public awareness of the number of workplace deaths that occur each year in Canada, and the existence of laws designed to hold corporate executives criminally accountable where negligence has resulted in workplace casualties.

The USW’s campaign is driven by amendments that the Parliament of Canada made to the Criminal Code in order to strengthen laws that failed to sanction employers who escaped accountability when they injured or killed their workers through gross negligence.

7:00pm – 7:15pm: Walter Eberle & George Rosenau.

·      Walter Eberle is a former labour member of the Workers Compensation Board of Directors. He has held leadership positions in the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. He also has a background in occupational health & safety and the workers compensation system.  

·      George Rosenau had held various leadership positions in the worker advocacy arena with several organizations the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU), the Office of the Worker’s Advocate, and the Workers Compensation Board.

·      Mr. Eberle and Mr. Rosenau will be discussing the Meredith Principles that created Saskatchewan’s workers compensation system and the reforms that are necessary to strengthen make the system more effective for workers.

7:15pm – 8:30pm: PARTY LEADERS AND REPRESENTATIVES DEBATE.

·      The Honourable Don Morgan QC is the Minister of Labour and Workplace Safety, the Minister in charge of the Workers Compensation Board, and the Minister of Education.

·      The Honourable David Forbes is the MLA for in Saskatoon Centre. He is also the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party’s critic for Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, and reelection candidate in the April 4, 2016 election.

·      Darrin Lamoureux is the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. He is also the party’s candidate in the Regina-Pasqua constituency in the April 4, 2016 election.

·      Victor Lau is the leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan. He is running in the Regina Douglas Park constituency in the April 4, 2016 election.

·      Allen Mryglod is the Progressive Conservative candidate for Regina Wascana Plains in constituency in the April 4, 2016 election.

8:30pm – 9:00pm: Questions from the audience and the media

For further details or questions, please call 306-209-9974 or email law@runyowa.com.

 

THE SILENT EMERGENCY: WHY SASKATCHEWAN WORKPLACE SAFETY RECORD REFORMS ARE URGENTLY NEEDED.

·      Saskatchewan has the second-worst workplace incident rate in Canada.[1]

·      The average worker in Saskatchewan is more likely to die in the workplace than from homicide. Workers in certain industries are at even greater risk than others (e.g. construction, industrial plants, and mining). This trend is evident across the country. For Saskatchewan, the comparative figures are as follows:[2]

o   In 2014, there were 24 homicides in Saskatchewan. That year, the province had 39 work-related deaths.

o   In 2013, Saskatchewan had 31 homicides and 34 workplace deaths.

o   In 2012, the figures are even worse. There were 29 homicides in Saskatchewan compared to 56 workplace-related deaths.

·      Saskatchewan’s population is a twelfth the size of Ontario’s. However, between 2010 and 2014, Saskatchewan’s average workplace fatality rate (43.3) was disproportionately larger than Ontario’s (310.4).[3] If Saskatchewan had the same population as Ontario, this province would have an average fatality rate of 519.6 work-related deaths per year.

·      Saskatchewan’s population is slightly lower than Manitoba’s (1.13 million vs. 1.282 million, respectively). However, between 2010 and 2014, Manitoba had an average of 22.6 work-related deaths per year compared to Saskatchewan’s 43.3 work-related deaths per year. Basically, in absolute numbers, Saskatchewan has twice Manitoba’s fatality rate, even though the latter has a larger population.[4]

·      Over the past six years, Saskatchewan has significantly reduced the number of workplace inspectors. Random inspections of all workplaces have also been eliminated. The government’s rationale is that resources should be focused on employers with the worst safety records. However, this sends a signal to employers outside the target group that they are not under scrutiny, thus encouraging the very unsafe conduct that the government is trying to prevent.

·      There is a growing momentum across Canada to increase accountability for workplace safety violations.[5] In deciding to triple the financial penalty against an employer, the Ontario Court of Appeal[6] stated that employers cannot regard harm to workers as the cost of doing business. Saskatchewan needs to strengthen the focus on accountability and effective sanctions.

 

QUESTIONS THAT POLITICAL PARTY LEADERS WILL HAVE TO ADDRESS AT THE FORUM DEBATE

The electoral candidates will state their positions on the following issues:

ISSUE 1: Civil actions in cases of reckless, calculated or criminal conduct.

The Problem

·      If a drunk driver injures or kills others on the roads, they can be sued because they lose their protection from civil actions under Saskatchewan’s (SGI) no-fault scheme.[1] However, when employers deliberately cause the deaths of their workers through reckless or deliberate conduct, the workers compensation scheme still protects them from all lawsuits.[2]

The Question

·      If drunk drivers lose their protection from civil actions, why should equally reckless employers enjoy immunity from civil actions when they cause the injuries or deaths of their workers? Should the Workers Compensation Act be amended to allow lawsuits against employers in cases of bad faith, or gross/criminal negligence that harms or kills workers?

 

ISSUE 2: Enforcing the Westray Amendments to the Criminal Code which were designed to make it easier to prosecute employers who create and maintain unsafe workplaces.

 The Problem

 ·      After the 1992 Westray coal mine disaster in Nova Scotia, the Parliament of Canada amended the Criminal Code to make it easier to prosecute employers who recklessly injured or caused the deaths of their workers. However, these new provisions have rarely been used to prosecute many employers, even in overt cases of reckless and deliberate conduct.  Instead, many employers receive modest fines through regulatory prosecutions that provide for capped fines and no custodial sentences. There has never been a criminal conviction of a Saskatchewan employer, even though the province has long held the position of the second worst province for workplace safety. 

The Question

·      In 2015, the Ontario Courts criminally convicted the Metron Corporation and a supervisor for causing the deaths of their workers. What will you do to make sure that the criminal laws on workplace safety are actually applied to sanction and deter employers who recklessly and deliberately harm their workers?

 

ISSUE 3: Separating the role of regular workplace inspections and incident investigations so that the Ministry of Labour only handles the former, while law enforcement handles the latter.

The Problem

·      The Ministry of Labour and Workplace Safety is responsible for inspecting workplaces to ensure they are safe for workers. The Ministry is also in charge of all investigations when a worker is seriously injured or killed at work. This places the Ministry in a conflict of interest where it is investigating cases that it inspected but may have failed to identify the safety hazards that caused the incident.

The Question

·      Would you support an amendment to the Employment Act to remove the Ministry of Labour’s conflict of interest by delegating all investigations of workplace deaths and serious injuries to the police?

 

 ISSUE 4: Removal of caps on premium surcharges that employers pay.

 The Problem

·      Under the current WCB system, employers with high safety incident rates are penalized with a surcharge (increase) on their premiums. However, the surcharges are capped at a maximum of 200% of the industry rate. There are many high revenue employers for whom the maximum possible surcharge is still much cheaper in dollar terms than the rewards of cutting corners on safety. Most insurance schemes do not have caps on how much premiums increase because the premium cost must always reflect the actual risk. By capping WCB premiums, the system puts a limit on accountability so it does not reflect the actual risk that the worst employers pose on the system.

The Question

·      Should the 200% premium surcharge be removed so that employers pay rates that reflect their actual individual safety histories and conduct?

 

ISSUE 5: Hiring more inspectors, increasing workplace safety inspections, and bringing back random workplace inspections.

The Problem

·      For the past several years, Saskatchewan has cut the number of workplace safety inspectors and inspections. The province has also cut random inspections and focused on the top percentile of employers who are responsible for most workplace safety incidents. However, without random inspections, the non-target employers become secure in their knowledge that they will never be inspected even if the safety of their workplaces decline.

The Question

·      If you are elected will you advocate for the reinstatement of random inspections and the recruitment of more workplace safety inspectors?

 

SOURCES

[1] http://www.worksafesask.ca/about-us/

[2] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/legal12a-eng.htm AND http://www.wcbsask.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Annual-Report-2013_FINAL_web.pdf.

[3] http://awcbc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Fatalities-by-Jurisdiction-1993-2014.pdf.

[4] http://awcbc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Fatalities-by-Jurisdiction-1993-2014.pdf.

[5] http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2014/stop-the-killing-enforce-the-law.

[6] R. v. Metron Construction Corporation, 2013 ONCA 541 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/g0bl3>.

OTHER SOURCES

[1] Sections 41(2)(c)(i) and 41(2)(c)(ii) of the Automobile Accident Insurance Act.  http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/documents/English/Statutes/Statutes/A35.pdf.

[2] See sections 181, 167, 168 of the Workers compensation Act. http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/documents/English/Statutes/Statutes/W17-11.pdf.