Premier Jason Kenney tabled yet another attack on Alberta’s workers on November 5 through sweeping changes to the province’s health and safety laws.
The devastating bill seeks to amend the Workers Compensation Act and replaces the Occupational Health and Safety Act in its entirety—making it harder to track and review the full impact of amendments.
“There is no jurisdiction in Canada where workers have too many health and safety protections,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Every time a government slashes legal safeguards for workers, there are tragic consequences.”
The most noteworthy amendments include limiting the right to refuse unsafe work, capping the amount seriously injured workers are eligible to receive, and eliminating an employer’s responsibility to reinstate injured workers.
“Because of COVID-19, workers in many sectors are more vulnerable on the job as they’ve been in decades, with new health risks and less bargaining power. If this bill passes, Alberta’s workers will have even fewer rights under the law,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “We knew Jason Kenney was in the pocket of powerful employers. But attacking health and safety during a pandemic is a new low, even for him.”
Unifor says Kenney’s mean-spirited amendments are highlighted by the planned closure of the Fair Practices Office, which was established to help injured workers with the workers’ compensation system. Closing the office will no doubt suppress the number successful claims made by injured workers.