Manitoba Federation of Labour Statement on Bill 12: The Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Health & Safety

Yesterday, the Pallister government introduced Bill 12. In introducing these proposed changes to the Workplace Safety and Health Act, they focused on the fact that the bill would double the maximum amount for penalties for offenses.

But what they neglected to say was that they have consistently declined to apply the maximum penalties at their current, lower, levels, so we have no reason to believe they would enforce higher maximums. Higher penalties can only serve as a deterrent if government is willing to invest the needed resources into enforcement, and follow through with stiff penalties on offenders – so far, this government has failed to do either. 

The reason they wanted to focus on this yesterday was to mask the other bad elements of the bill.

After receiving reports from the now-eliminated Minister’s Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health, as well as from stakeholders in labour, business, health and other areas, the Pallister government has elected to ignore the advice it received and barrel ahead with its own agenda of putting workers’ safety last.

Unfortunately, this bill makes the following changes that will weaken the rules that protect workers’ safety and health on the job:

  • It eliminates the important position of Chief Prevention Officer, which was established to be an independent public watch dog to ensure continuous progress and accountability on workplace health and safety;
  • It gives heavy-handed powers to government to dismiss workers’ health and safety appeals without proper due process or a hearing at the Manitoba Labour Board; and
  • It imposes a new arbitrary time limit on workers’ ability to defend themselves in cases where workers face unfair retaliation from their employers for sticking-up for their health and safety rights.

Weakening the safety and health rules that protect workers on the job is a concerning trend for the Pallister government, and this bill comes on the heels of:

  • The deep cuts they have made to workplace safety and health and the elimination of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health;
  • Their weakening of child labour laws by setting the minimum working age at 13, meaning kids can get permits to work a full-year younger than kids in Ontario and Saskatchewan can;and
  • Their decision to lower the standards for hearing testing on the job, even though hearing loss is one of the most common workplace injuries.

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