Mick Cataford says the owners of Eastern Power could be in deep trouble after allegedly ignoring a stop-work order from the Ministry of Labour. Cataford alleges men were working at the Oil Springs Line plant over the weekend.
Cataford, the business manager of Local 530 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, told The Independent, he believes unlicensed workers were brought into the St. Clair Township plant Saturday to run tests even though the Ministry of Labour shut down the site on August 26.
About 200 skilled workers walked off the job to protest what they called unsafe work conditions August 25. The walkout was prompted when pipefitters went to work and found the piping around their work area had been activated without their knowledge. That could have led to a major accident, union officials say.
Normally, work sites are tightly controlled, with areas being locked down and workers signing in before going near equipment being worked on by other trades.
Cataford and other union leaders say that as the work of starting up begins, following safety procedure is critical.
But he says the company doesn’t seem to have the same view. Since construction began in 2013 on the troubled plant which was moved from Mississauga by the Liberals during the 2011 election, the Ministry of Labour has issued nearly 200 work orders on the site for safety violations.
After the August 25 walkout, Ministry of Labour investigators, who had been notified of the problems the day before according to spokesman William Lin, went to the plant and shut down the work site. “There are two stop work orders from August 26, 2015 – one stop work order was issued in relation to lock out and tag out procedures and the other stop work order was for not informing workers of electrical hazards,” says Lin in an email to The Independent.
“The employer will need to comply with the orders to the satisfaction of the ministry in order for the stop-work orders to be lifted.”
Cataford says the workers would have had to walk right past the stop work order on the gate of the plant “at night on the weekend” to run the tests with unlicensed workers.
Cataford says in the 40 years he’s been an electrician he’s never seen anyone flaunt safety rules like this.
“We’ve never seen things like this….They just do what they want to do,” says a clearly frustrated Cataford.
“There has to be a bigger penalty …because as long as they’re getting away with it, they don’t care.”
Cataford has tried to contact the assistant to the Minister of Labour to talk about the situation, without success.
The Independent tried to get an interview with Minister Kevin Flynn; his spokesperson Craig MacBride said it would be “inappropriate for the minister to speak to this while the investigation is ongoing.”
Instead MacBride issued this statement via email confirming the ministry is investigating a complaint that the stop work order was violated: “Contravening a stop-work order is an extremely serious violation and could lead to prosecution.”
“The Ministry of Labour received a complaint that work was being done while a stop-work order was in place and is actively investigating. The stop-work orders remain in place and will remain in place until Ministry inspectors are satisfied the work site is safe.”
The statement continues; “There are currently 11 orders that are outstanding, as well as four stop-work orders.”
Cataford says with the latest allegations, he expects it will be some time before the 200 skilled trades people are back on the job at Eastern Power in St. Clair Township. “I don’t think that place is going to start up anytime soon,” he says. “I have guys who want to go in and get their tools so they can start another job.”
And he suspects the Ministry of Labour will launch a “major investigation” into the allegation the stop.work order was violated.