Labour briefs

Ontario company directors get jail time, fine for OHSA violation / Demands at bargaining table to be restrained in 2015: Report

Ontario company directors get jail time, fine for OHSA violation

TORONTO — Two company directors in Ontario are facing jail time after being found guilty by the labour ministry for the death of a warehouse worker.

On Jan. 13, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) fined New Mex Canada — a furniture retailer headquartered in Brampton, Ont. — $250,000 and sentenced two of its directors to 25 days each in jail for violations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Ontario Regulation 851 (the latter of which governs industrial workplaces). The company plead guilty for the death of one of its warehouse employees almost two years ago.

Back in January 2013, the worker had been using a machine called an order picker, which is a combination of a forklift and operator-up platform. According to the MOL, there was not adequate fall protection equipment, nor was the employee wearing appropriate protective equipment.

"The added platform did not have a guardrail around it and the worker using it was not wearing fall protection or safety shoes," a statement from the labour ministry reads. "The worker was found on the floor and was pronounced dead. The cause of death was later determined to be blunt force trauma to the head."

The move was lauded by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), which has long called for jail time for health and safety transgressions.

"When employer negligence leads to a worker’s death, it is not an accident, it is a crime — and those responsible must be sentenced to the full extent of the law," said Sid Ryan, president of the OFL.

But time in prison is not enough for such convictions, he said, adding the OFL is pushing for criminal charges to be laid in addition to OHSA violations.

"Workplace fatalities have risen 36 per cent over the past five years and the only way to stop this carnage in the workplace is to put negligent bosses behind bars," Ryan said. "A mere 25 days in jail and $250,000 fine does not send a strong enough message. A worker’s life should be worth far more."

Demands at bargaining table to be restrained in 2015: Report

OTTAWA — Modest economic growth will likely reel in demands at the bargaining table in 2015, according to a report from the Conference Board of Canada.

In its annual Industrial Relations Outlook report, the independent research organization noted the overall bargaining climate is expected to be constrained by modest economic growth. As well, public sector unions will curb demands for improved wages and benefits, as most provinces face debt and deficit challenges and continue to trumpet austerity budgets.

"The state of the economy has led to widespread uncertainty, and this will serve to temper expectations at the bargaining table," said Bryce Swerhun, a research associate at the board. "With neither side in a position to raise expectations, the overall bargaining climate will encourage co-ordination, if not full cooperation this year."

According to the report, average base pay increases for unionized workers in 2015 are projected to be 1.5 per cent in the public sector, and 2.2 per cent for the private sector.

With public sector contracts expired or expiring soon, negotiations will be plentiful. Of note is Quebec’s bargaining with hundreds of thousands of unionized provincial staffers. Because of tightened budgets, most union demands for improved wages and benefits will be constrained.

This is not necessarily bad news, the report notes, as modest economic growth should quell employer demands for concessions.

In the private sector, bargaining will vary widely by industry and region. Of late, there has been encouraging growth in the manufacturing industry, but the conference board called such improvements "tenuous" and employers may not yet be able — or willing — to forego past concessions.

The overall climate in 2015, coupled with modest economic growth, provides an opportunity for management and unions to address medium- and long-term challenges at the bargaining table.

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