CPC Responds to demands As Members Prepare Work Refusal
On March 26, 2020, our local submitted a press release to the media, and an open letter with a list of safety demands to CPC. As recent posts have detailed, there's been a flurry of activity as a result. Below is the latest exchange between our office and CPC management:
CPC Response to Our List of Demands
Excerpt from the CPC Director of Edmonton Operations, Michael Kobitowich:
"Thank you for sharing your very important list of observations for our consideration and response. Roland, I firmly believe that we can get to a more positive outcome in discussing these and through ongoing dialogue. I am willing to meet with you again this coming Monday to go over your list and compare our observations with yours. Most of the items you have identified are being put into place now and while we all wish that implementation was instantaneous, this is not always possible given the circumstances."
Excerpt from my reply:
"...we are happy to have further discussions with you about the safety measures being implemented but only after our other request for documentation is met... To reiterate: we still require responses to the itemized expectations list we provided on March 26,2020, with honest projections and timelines as to what is possible and when. I’m sure you agree, the time for talking, and ‘looking into it’, has long since passed and we need written assurances of what is being done and when it will be done. The sooner you respond the better but we will be expecting it before 12:00am, Sunday, March 29, 2020 so that we can communicate to our members what CPC is promising so our members can then decide if what you’re offering is enough to keep themselves, their families, and the public, sufficiently safe to keep working."
Through the hundreds of messages coming through email, phone and chat groups, members are clearly frustrated about our working conditions and are openly talking what it means to use our right to refuse unsafe work. To be clear, our office will stand behind you 100% if you decide that CPCs response to your concerns are insufficient or too slow to guarantee your safety. One very important thing to remember is that your right to refuse unsafe work, if you so choose, must be practiced individually. However, if many of your co-workers share the same concern, they can be there to use their right to complain as well as morally support each other.Here is an example of how a member might individually choose to express that right if they are feeling unsafe:
A group of workers concerned about CPCs lack of safety measures will approach management saying they wish to use their right to complain (RSMC 9.02 or Urban 9.07)
Have someone supportive (ideally a trusted shop steward but any trusted co-worker is fine) be there to document whatever is said (very important) to management. It is very important that detailed notes are kept (date, time, who said what, when). Pause the conversation if necessary to catch up with notes.
Calmly and politely, tell management you are concerned about your safety, and that you would like their to hear what can be done to help you. Then, bring up each specific issue you are concerned with. For each issue, ask what can be done quickly to correct this and how long it will take. Document these answers.
If either the response or the timeline does not feel it will create an adequately safe work environment for you fast enough, you then have the option to use your right to refuse unsafe work (RSMC Canada labour code 128 or Urban 33.13). If you choose to do this, you can say that you're formally using article RSMC 128 or Urban 33.13 and are refusing to work in unsafe conditions. Then, list the specific reasons why you feel work is unsafe. All directly related unsafe work should then be suspended by management and immediately investigated.
At this point, technically, all those performing the work you have refused should also be removed from that work. Also, technically, CPC should not order you to go back to work or ignore your refusal. The reality is that they may still try to pressure you to work. The group should be here to support you in insisting that your rights be upheld. Calmly and politely reiterate that you are not there to argue, that you have the right to refuse unsafe work, that you will contacting the union office, and that you will not be performing that specific unsafe work until the results of the investigation have been submitted to the union office (see '#6' below).
From here, another individual member, who feels that their working conditions are also unsafe may take the opportunity to use their right to refuse unsafe work.
Ask management what other SAFE duties (within your classification) that they would like you perform while the investigation is being done, or if they just want you to wait at work in a safe area, or if they would like you to go home with pay. You are paid for the duration of this refusal, until an investigation and fix has been agreed upon by our Health & Safety officer.
Contact the Health & Safety officer of our local, Rashpal Sehmby (Health.Safety@cupwedm.net - 780-423-9000 x4) immediately after and arrange sending him your documentation (taking a picture with a smartphone and emailing it is easiest). He can walk you through the process from there.
If you have any further questions regarding choosing to use your right to refuse unsafe work please first ask a trusted steward, then contact Rashpal in H&S either by phone or email (depending on the urgency).
(RSMC) Canada Labour Code - Section 128 - Right to refuse dangerous work (link here)
(Urban) Collective Agreement - Article 33.13 - Right to refuse (link here)