News briefs

N.S. unions target workplace violence; Conservative government’s whistle-blowing bill; Finding Canada’s defenders from afar; Presence of women lagging on boards; Firms set sights on retirees’ health benefits; Another case of wayward faxes; And wayward computer data

N.S. unions target workplace violence

Halifax — Four unions have joined forces to push the Nova Scotia government to enact decade-old recommendations to protect workers who face violence on the job. The Coalition Against Workplace Violence wants the province to enact draft regulations on workplace violence introduced in 1996 that were never implemented. The coalition members include the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. In Ontario, the regional vice-president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union also called on Ontario’s premier to make workplace violence a workplace hazard under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Conservative government’s whistle-blowing bill

Ottawa — The federal government met with interest groups and union leaders in an effort to strengthen whistle-blower laws. Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Board, said he plans to give the integrity commissioner power to protect whistle-blowers. Last month, he mulled the possibility that a cash award of not more than six figures be offered to whistle-blowers. Changes to whistle-blowing laws will be part of the promised Accountability Act, which may be introduced next month when the House reconvenes.

Finding Canada’s defenders from afar

Ottawa — To meet the Conservatives’ pledge for 23,000 new soldiers, Canada’s chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier suggested offering incentives for immigrants to serve in the military. This may include an “accelerated” route to citizenship for immigrants who enlist. Another measure to boost recruitment may be an extra week of leave for a soldier who brings in a new recruit, he said.

Presence of women lagging on boards

Toronto — The pace of change for women on boards of directors has been lagging, with women holding 12 per cent of director positions, a 0.8-per-cent increase since 2003, according to Catalyst Canada. Crown corporation boards were leaders, with 28.5 per cent of director positions held by women, while boards at publicly traded companies had women in only 9.2 per cent of board seats. In the United States, 13.6 per cent of board directors are women, and 89.2 per cent of companies have at least one female board director, compared to 52.8 per cent in Canada.

Firms set sights on retirees’ health benefits

Toronto — More than half of surveyed employers are looking to reduce benefits for future retirees. Of 218 Canadian employers polled in the Hewitt Associates survey, Postretirement Health Care Benefits in Canada 2006, 57 per cent said they intend to reduce retiree benefits in the next three years. Four per cent said they plan to eliminate post-retirement health-care benefits altogether. Most named the rising cost of health care among the top reasons for reducing retiree benefits.

Another case of wayward faxes

Toronto — CIBC’s at it again, faxing confidential information to the wrong number. According to a Toronto Star report, the bank and the hockey equipment owner to whom that information belong are now suing a Mississauga, Ont., woman to get the documents back. The woman said she needs the faxes as evidence in a wrongful dismissal suit. It seems her husband was accused of running another business when he brought the faxes to work. The Mississauga woman said in an affidavit that she had been receiving misdirected faxes for 18 months. In 2004, CIBC admitted that, for three years, it had sent confidential information to a West Virginia scrapyard. Just weeks after that admission, it revealed faxes containing customer names, addresses, account numbers and social insurance numbers had been faxed to a Montreal businessman.

And wayward computer data

Victoria — British Columbia Labour Minister Michael de Jong vowed action after it was revealed the hard drives and storage devices of old government computers had been sold in an auction — along with data tapes containing thousands of personal records. According to newspaper reports, the data sold included medical records of thousands of people, including records on HIV status or substance-abuse problems, as well as information on as many as 30,000 refugee claimants.

Compassionate leave added to B.C.’s employment standards

Victoria — The B.C. government has introduced changes to the Employment Standards Act that would guarantee eight weeks off for compassionate leave. Although the leave is unpaid, Labour Minister Michael De Jong said some workers may qualify for employment insurance benefits.

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