Stronger OH&SA Strengthens Protection from Violence

May 7, 2009, 9:36 AM EST

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More than 13 years of activism have ended with the introduction of Bill 168 that would bring about changes to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act which will include violence by a co-worker or anyone who enters the facility as a reason to refuse unsafe work.

The changes were announced by Ontario Labour Minister Peter Fonseca on April 20. The proposed amendments come after years of lobbying the government to overhaul the act following the recommendations set out in the coroners inquests into the deaths of both Theresa Vince and Lori Dupont who were killed in their workplaces in 1996 and 2005 respectively.

The CAW women's committees, women's advocates and other activists and staff have been actively involved in pushing for these much needed changes, along with the OFL, ONA and community coalitions formed after the Vince and Dupont murders.

"The CAW has been a leader to end violence in the workplace for many years by negotiating strong programs and policies to address workplace violence since the early 90s," said Julie White, director of CAW Women's Programs. "Our women's advocate program, right to refuse language and workplace training programs have all worked to create safer workplaces and safer communities. Now all Ontario workers unionized or not will have workplace protections against violence and CAW activists can take credit for that change."

According to Ontario Women's Justice Network, between 80 and 90 per cent of Canadian women will experience sexual harassment at some point during their working lives.

If passed, the legislation would require employers to develop policies and programs to help prevent workplace violence and harassment as well as take precautions to protect workers from domestic violence in the workplace.  Workers could also refuse work if they believe they are at risk of danger due to violence.

"Finally the government is recognizing that their citizens are being adversely affected in a workplace by violence. And it gives us momentum to be more vigorous as well in our collective bargaining on eliminating other workplace hazards," Sari Sairanen, director of the CAW Health, Safety and Environment Department.


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