Public employees and health care workers face many hazards that are not regulated. On top of this, employers and government are attacking our right to a safe workplace. Using phrases like cost effectiveness, regulatory reform, and competitiveness, they attack the laws and safeguards that protect us, and threaten to privatize our jobs if we complain about our working conditions.
CUPE has responded to these threats with an active, aggressive health and safety program. Staffed by full-time health and safety professionals, supported by communications, legal and research Branches, and assisted by outside physicians and experts, CUPEs Health and Safety Branch has put together an effective program to defend your health and safety. Working at the National and Regional Offices, we provide technical assistance and training for members and staff to defend and expand your rights at work.
But the most important element in making your workplace safe is YOU: the thousands of active, informed, local union members and health and safety committees that organize to fight these day-to-day battles in workplaces across the country. With your support we are able to urge government to issue the legal protections that we need, and to fight successful battles to defend and expand our rights.
Can CUPE help? Technical and specialized assistance
CUPEs health and safety staff provides information or assistance to address specific health and safety problems and advice on getting laws enforced. Some of these requests can be handled by providing information contained in one of our Fact Sheets or Health and Safety Guidelines. In some situations, CUPE health and safety staff will conduct site visits and meet with the employer and/or government agencies.
If its a difficult problem that cant be handled locally, a local union generally writes or phones the staff representative who then contacts the health and safety staff, regionally, or at the national office. Working together, the local union health and safety committee, staff representatives, and specialists from the National Union attempt to identify the precise nature of the problem and the best way it can be solved.
CUPEs health and safety staff provides specialized knowledge of safety hazards, toxic chemicals, occupational medicine, government regulations, and the experience of working with other locals on similar problems. The key to success, however, is organizing by an active local union health and safety committee supported by the local union executive.
CUPE members are protected by a variety of provincial and federal health and safety laws, for example, the Occupational Health and Safety Acts and Regulations in each province. Workers in the federal sector are covered by the Canada Labour code (Part II).
CUPE health and safety staff work to get health and safety laws enacted or improved, or to make sure that members rights are not rolled back.
We are currently working to ensure that provincial and federal governments put effective legislation in place to protect workers. We have already assisted in the development of legislation in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and the federal sector.
CUPE maintains a health and safety network of activists who are provided with updates on the status of political attacks on our right to work in a safe workplace and clean environment. With the help of members nationwide, we have been able to ensure that progressive legislation is developed and enforced. Anyone who is interested in joining the network should mail or fax the National Health & Safety Activist Mailing List form, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.