News briefs

Work-related injuries and diseases cost Canada $12 billion; TTC settles discrimination suit; Nunavut faces schooling crisis; Grocer settles over hepatitis scare; Oil sands project taps foreign workers; One in 20 workers take sick leave; More collaboration, bigger responsibility

Work-related injuries and diseases cost Canada $12 billion

Mississauga, Ont. — As it marked the National Day of Mourning on April 28, the Industrial Accident Prevention Association remembered the 900 workers who died in Canada as a result of work-related accidents or diseases in 2004, the latest year for which statistics are available. Across Canada, there were an estimated 340,000 workers injured seriously enough to miss at least one day of work, and close to one million reports of work-related injuries and diseases. This cost the economy more than $12 billion. Also, a CBC investigative report series has found that health-care and social services workers are five to 12 times more likely than workers in other sectors, including police, to file a claim for violent incidents that lead to time off work. The series, based on three years’ worth of workers’ compensation data, also found that strains of all kinds make up about half of workers’ compensation claims, and that asbestos-related deaths are still on the rise due to its long latency period.

TTC settles discrimination suit

Toronto — A Toronto Transit Commission employee, who claimed he was turned down for promotion 33 times because he was black, was granted a nine-month secondment in a supervisory role after he filed a human rights complaint. As part of the settlement before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the transit commission will train staff in bias-free interviewing techniques and ensure all job postings include clearly defined, objective criteria upon which to judge applicants. It will also conduct a self-identification survey of staff to monitor systemic barriers.

Nunavut faces schooling crisis

Ottawa — Seven years after its creation, Canada’s newest territory is facing a “crisis of education and employment,” according to a new report. According to The Nunavut Project, only one-quarter of Inuit students graduate high school. Unemployment averages 30 per cent, but is as high as 70 per cent in some communities. Report author and former British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger blamed the education system for failing to produce literate youth. He recommended that students be taught in Inuktitut and English all through primary and secondary schools. The practice of teaching students entirely in Inuktitut until Grade 4 or 5 and then switching to English “produces young adults who, by and large, cannot function properly in either English or Inuktitut,” Berger wrote.

Grocer settles over hepatitis scare

Toronto — Loblaws has agreed to pay $150 to any shopper affected by a hepatitis A scare in the summer of 2002 after an employee working in the produce department was diagnosed with the disease. The unidentified employee was later found not to be infectious and returned to the job, but not before an estimated 19,000 people sought vaccination. The settlement, made eligible to anyone who consulted a doctor or got vaccinated during the scare, could cost the grocery chain and its insurer $3 million.

Oil sands project taps foreign workers

Calgary — Between 10 and 30 per cent of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s oil sands workers may be brought in from outside Canada, under the federal government’s foreign worker program, according to company vice-president Lynn Zeidler. To help build its Horizon oil sands project, CNRL has hired a contractor from China that will bring in 225 workers. The plan is drawing protest from the Alberta Building Trades Council, which says the federal program was not meant “to allow offshore contractors to bring their own crews to Canada.”

One in 20 workers take sick leave

Ottawa — The economy loses the services of about one in 20 employees, for an average of 11 weeks, to sick leave, according to a recent Statistics Canada study based on the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. The study found there were about 720,000 cases of absences that lasted at least two weeks due to illness or disability in 2003, 200,000 of which were work-related. One-quarter of all work-related absences lasted 17 or more weeks, compared with only 13 per cent of non-work-related illness and disability absences.

More collaboration, bigger responsibility

Toronto — A majority of surveyed Canadian professionals said they’re being asked to take on higher levels of responsibility in making strategic decisions, calculating risks and providing analysis, according to a survey of 1,760 professionals conducted by Ipsos Reid and Microsoft Canada. Professionals were defined as workers in environments where computer access and e-mail were relevant and active components of the job. More than seven in 10 said the time they spend collaborating with colleagues and clients has increased compared to five years ago, with an average of five hours a day.

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