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OPSEU President says workers at risk due to Ford's changes to safety training

“Premier Ford is cutting corners and is gambling with the lives of Ontario workers. He is putting a price tag on the welfare of workers.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (07 Feb. 2019) — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), is raising red flags over the Ford government’s decision to allow online health and safety certification training, saying workers’ safety will be at risk.

Ford government thinks cuts are more important than health and safety training

“Premier Ford is cutting corners and is gambling with the lives of Ontario workers,” Thomas said. “He is putting a price tag on the welfare of workers.”

The Ford government announced that employers will get a $5 million windfall because employers won’t have to pay to send workers to in-person health and safety certification training. The law requires that such training be provided to at least one worker and one employer-member of a joint health and safety committee (JHSC).

"Sitting adults in front of a screen is not going to help them spot hazards or learn how to be an effective JHSC member," said Thomas.

Deskilling health and safety members, degrading training increase risk factors in workplace

Ontario already loses too many workers to injury, occupational disease and death each day. Deskilling the JHSC members who hold employers accountable for safety in the workplace dooms workers to more disease, injury and death.

In Ontario, there are fewer than 400 health and safety inspectors for thousands of workplaces.

“It takes a robust external and internal responsibility system to make workers safe,” said Neil Martin, the Chair of the union committee that represents health and safety inspectors in Ontario. “Degrading certification training will lessen capacity and empowerment at the workplace level.”

"Allowing certification training to go online will decimate the good quality health and safety training provided by the Workers Health and Safety Centre, the primary provider of certification training in Ontario," Martin said. “Workers will end up doing training at home or not at all,” he added.

OPSEU/NUPGE demands meeting over changes

Thomas is demanding an immediate meeting with the Minister of Labour to discuss Ford’s changes.

“This reckless and irresponsible decision is another reason why the Ford government needs to slow down and listen to OPSEU/NUPGE, the voice of frontline public sector workers,” said Thomas.

“I’m going to hold this government accountable for its cavalier treatment of worker safety," he said.