Company faces safety charges
at Courtright work site
A union leader says the appointment of a provincial mediator to work with Eastern Power on safety concerns is not enough.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was slated to be at the Ontario Labour Relations Board in a bid to force the Ministry of Labour to place a full-time inspector on the troubled Courtright construction site. Late Friday, the Ministry of Labour announced it had appointed John Miller, a labour relations mediator who deals primarily in the construction sector, to be on site and work with the trade unions and the owners of Eastern Power about ongoing safety concerns. He was expected to be contacting the trade unions and the company early this week in a bid to resolve a long-standing dispute at the plant which was moved from Mississauga after the Liberals cancelled that project during the 2011 election.
About 200 trades people walked off the job site on Oil Springs Line three weeks ago saying the company was not following basic safety procedures and the work site wasn’t safe. The Ministry of Labour stepped in and issued a stop work order citing concerns about a lack of tag out/lock out safety procedure. Days later the MOL was investigating whether the Vogt brothers – owners of Eastern Power – had violated that stop work order and entered the plant at night.
There are still two outstanding stop work orders but ministry officials say tradespeople are working in some areas of the plant since a safety procedure is now in place.
Union officials have said even the new safety protocol is being breeched.
MOL Communications Specialist Craig McBride says the minister is hopeful a mediator can help resolve the ongoing conflicts. “This has been going on for a while now, trying to find the right solution,” he says.
“We want to make sure there is an environment there where the workers are safe;
that’s the most important to where the workers go to work knowing their safe.”
But Mick Cataford, the business manager for Local 530 of the IBEW said Monday the mediator had yet to talk to him about the problems.
“The mediation stuff is okay,” says Cataford “but we just think the law is the law.”
So Cataford was to appear before the Ontario Labour Relations Board Wednesday to ask it to direct the Ministry of Labour to appoint a full-time inspector to the site. While the OLRB can recommend the government appoint an inspector, Cataford says the government doesn’t have to comply.
“I don’t understand why the government hasn’t been taking a more active role,” he says of the situation.
That was a question Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey had in the provincial legislature Monday as well.
“Dozens of safety complaints have been filed with your Ministry… but it wasn’t until the local trades walked off the job to protest the lack of a basic safety protocol by the company – the company that your Liberal government hand-picked – that the Ministry of Labour finally took enforcement action on site,” he said. “Why did it take your ministry so long to enforce the Health and Safety Act and lay charges against Greenfield Energy?”
The ministry has, however laid charges against Eastern Power.
Friday, two charges were laid in Sarnia Court against the Mississauga-based company. One count is for failing to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstance for the protection of a worker. The ministry alleges there wasn’t a tag-out/lock-out system. The second is for failing to provide health and safety information to workers. The company will appear in court Oct. 9.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn admitted in the legislature Monday, the situation is difficult. “It is frustrating to see these issues persist at this site,” adding the Ministry of Labour would “use every enforcement tool we have to ensure that we get compliance at this plant.”