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Nancy Lessin, Health and Safety Coordinator for the AFL-CIO, outlined how injury rates have fallen sharply while fatalities continue to rise.  She attributed this to two factors -occupational diseases are claiming more and more lives, while employers are “encouraging the under-reporting of injuries.”

Lessin said, “ Instead of removing the hazards from the workplace, employers are giving employees more personal protective gear and shifting the onus of safety onto them.  We’re seeing another disturbing trend where some employers are now disciplining workers when they get injured at work.”

Delegates also heard from Charley Richardson, Director, Labor Extension Program, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, who described how employers are using work organization as a mask for de-skilling, multi-tasking, increased monitoring of workplaces and outsourcing. 

Richardson said, “We are being watched in our workplaces like never before.”  He showed real examples of ankle bracelets and tiny computer chips that are being implanted in workers’ arms so they can track their activities.”

“New schedules such as 12-hour shifts, split shifts and staggered shifts are isolating workers from each other.  This results in a loss of solidarity for unions and decreased morale for the workers,” said Richardson.

Rudy Won of Local 3261 at the University of Toronto warned delegates that his employer is already using biometrics to scan employees’ palms for identification purposes.