The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) welcomed today’s move by the provincial government to improve workplace health and safety, but says changes to the Certificate of Recognition (COR) do not go far enough.
“The COR program is flawed and ineffective, as the Auditor General pointed out in a damning report last year,” says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 145,000 workers. “While the stricter guidelines announced today (Thursday) are a step in the right direction, they are not enough to reduce workplace deaths and injuries.”
Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk announced that employers who experience on-site fatalities, serious injuries or multiple stop-work orders would face reviews of their safety accreditation and would find it harder to keep CORs. These certificates can be used to help win contracts and qualify for reduced premiums for the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Last year, the Auditor General identified 63 employers that persistently failed health-and-safety orders, and that about half of them still held CORs.
“The government handed out CORs like candy – and did little or nothing to take them away from problem employers. It admits that only four companies have lost COR certification in the last seven years due to failed audits. For far too long, Alberta workers have been hurt or killed while bad employers escaped penalty. This has to stop,” says McGowan.
“For these new guidelines to work, the system must be completely transparent. Unfortunately, the government has already proved it lacks the courage to make public the full safety records of employers. It promised to post records nearly a decade ago, but bowed to industry lobbyists and launched a watered-down website that provides only Lost-Time Claims (LTCs), a meaningless statistic that excludes the majority of workplace injuries,” he says.
The AFL says the government must also do more to prevent injuries and death, rather than waiting to react after a tragedy has taken place. It released a 10-point plan to improve safety with recommendations including more inspectors with more powers, more prosecutions of problem employers, protection for workers who blow the whistle on unsafe practices, and mandatory joint health-and-safety committees for workers and employers.
“Most of these policies are already in place in other provinces. Alberta workers deserve at least the same level of protection,” says McGowan.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)