Labour investigators step up visits to Eastern Power

Tradespeople walked off the job at Eastern Power in August to highlight their safety concerns. The Ministry of Labour continues to cite the company for safety problems.

A Ministry of Labour investigator is making twice-weekly visits to Eastern Power and at least one labour leader says it is easing some of the tensions at the Oil Springs Line site.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers went to 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.

Instead Mickey Cataford says an inspector is making twice-weekly visits and it seems to be helping improve safety protocols at the plant.

About 200 trades people walked off the job site on Oil Springs Line in August 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 to do some work.

The IEBW went to the Ontario Labour Relations Board arguing a full time inspector was the only way to make sure the company would follow safety procedures. Instead, the MOL appointed a mediator and later ordered inspectors to be at the plant twice a week.

Cataford says he has yet to meet with the mediator but the stepped up presence of the inspector is bringing some calm to the workplace.

“The inspector is at the plant twice a week and we’re in the process of trying to do a lock out/tag out system,” he says adding they’re “working on making the whole place in compliance” with the Ontario Labour Code.

There is still a ways to go however; a Ministry of Labour official says there are three stop-work orders still outstanding at the plant.

And Cataford has yet to meet the mediator who was appointed by the Minister.  “It may still be necessary. There are still other problems with Eastern Power but it is about collective bargaining rights.”

Members are slowly being hired back to the site and trained on the new safety system, but Cataford says the issues should have never reached the point when his workers were concerned enough for their safety to walk off the job.

“Things are working out but we should have never had to go to the lengths we did.

“We’re done now, if they’re going to operate safely, I’m okay with it.”