The District of Sparwood has proposed further safe work place education in response to the United Steelworkers 9346 request for support in their campaign intended to enforce a workplace death law.
The original request from USW was for the district to support the group in the proper enforcement of the Westray Act — so named for the mining disaster that killed 26 miners. The act was put in place to hold those responsible for workers negligible in the instance of workplace fatalities. That law, according to USW, has not been enforced.
Rather than support the campaign outright as Fernie has or pass entirely on the campaign like Elkford did, the District of Sparwood has proposed their own resolution.
This resolution will encourage employers, WorkSafe BC and other regulatory bodies to ensure safe working conditions through education on employees’ right to refuse unsafe work, on legislation including the Westray Act as well as strengthening whistleblower legislation and protection of employees who do report unsafe working conditions.
Prior to coming to this resolution, council debated following Elkford’s lead.
Coun. Andy MacIntyre strongly encouraged opting to thank the USW for sharing the information but not acting further upon their request for support.
“I don’t think it falls in our jurisdiction,” said MacIntyre. “I honestly think this is something in the workplace as well as in the hands of employers. I just see this at a provincial or federal level. I support the message they are sending but I don’t see how it applies to our business in the district.”
Coun. Sonny Saad, however, thought the education option was best for Sparwood.
“I disagree [with MacIntyre]. I support [education], we have employees not just in sewage, water and garbage, but we have contractors that we are responsible for when they come on our site. We have to let them know what district safety policies are in place,” argued Saad.
MacIntyre asked why council support was necessary in the campaign.
Chief Administrative Officer Terry Melcer responded, “It’s a common approach when organizations want to lobby provincial or federal government in changing legislation to look for endorsement from local government and various agencies to further their action. It just adds weight to their argument when they take it to provincial or federal bodies.”