By Donna Burman
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 is demanding safety in the workplace after a contract worker hit a unionized TTC employee with 30 years on the job on August 15, 2017. This was the latest incident involving contract workers that brings to the forefront that observing cost puts workers safety at risk.
Union Demands Better Safety Conditions
The union has every right to demand better safety conditions for its members. Contract workers are less skilled, less trained and are not upheld to the same standards in comparison to the unionized workers of TTC as paraphrased by Kevin Morton, Secretary-Treasurer of ATU Local 113. Training is minimal and safety and safety protocol is not paramount according to the union. These statements stem from a recent incident on August 15, 2017 at Wilson bus garage. A TTC employee with 30 years of experience on the job was knocked by a moving vehicle doing excess of the speed limit to the point that they fell to the ground, suffered facial lacerations, multiple dislocated fingers and an injury to his left eye and was unconscious for 8 seconds. The person driving the bus was a contract worker going over the speed limit by nine to twelve kilometers when they struck the unionized worker.
2012: Containing Costs
Back in 2012, the topic of contracting out met with constant reassurances that safety would not be effected. As stated by Karen Stintz in a letter put towards city councillors in September 2012, that “…the TTC has no choice but to continue to cut its cost-structure throughout the organization while maintaining the highest commitment to the safety of our employees and customers.” It went on to say that “the goal was to improve quality and contain our costs” resulting in millions of savings from contracting out TTC jobs.
At the time, management at the “cash-strapped transit system” had identified several jobs where economies could be found through contracting out including washroom cleaners and the daily cleaning of buses according to Karen Stintz in this same letter.
Yet the evidence is very clear that the union has every justification to be concerned about the safety of its members. Unfortunately, the goal to improve quality and contain costs came with a price on safety. There have been several incidents including one in which a contracted employee died as a result of safety standards cut short.
One Contract Employee Dead, Contractor and Supervisors Fined $133,000 for Safety Breach
On August 19, 2013, one contract worker died and a second suffered broken bones at Malvern Division when a bus garage door opened tipping over their scissor lift, an elevated work platform. The court determined that safety protocols were not observed during this accident. One TTC supervisor was on scene but was unavailable when the two employees sought out help to lock the door.
Two contract employees and two supervisors from Matheson Constructors Ltd. were on TTC premises conducting insulation work. The two contract employees received on the spot training that same morning before their shift. Both employees received limited training and it was their first day on the job.
All contract workers were aware of TTC safety rules but failed to follow them resulting in the death of one when the door opened when in fact it should have been locked. The court determined that Matheson Constructors had failed as a constructor to make sure that the safety of workers was protected and fined $125,000.00. Each supervisor was fined $4,000 each for failing to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that an overhead garage door could not contact an elevated work platform upon which two workers were working. All fines totaling $133,000.00 was imposed on July 15, 2015.
One Contract Employee Charged With Assault
A contract cleaner was charged with assault following an argument between co-workers in a TTC washroom cleaning room.
The assault occurred on Jan 12, 2013 at about 11:30pm in the women’s washroom of Wilson Station where one male employee took a swipe at a female employee in a female washroom. He attempted to knock a camera out of her hand as she attempted to take a photo of him in the female washroom where he should not have been. The contract cleaner was charged with assault following an argument between co-workers on a TTC washroom cleaning room. The contractor was employed by contractor Top Notch.
Unionized Employee Struck by Bus Operated by Contract Employee
Most recently on August 16, 2017, a unionized worker with 30 years on the job was struck by a bus operated by a contract worker doing 9-12 kilometers over the speed limit. The union was not directly contacted by TTC but by the worker from hospital by texting photos of the injuries.
What remains clear is that ATU Local 113 has every right to be concerned about safety and safety protocols. Cost was a huge factor when talks started on contracting out. Yet what remains clear is that unionized members are held at a much higher standard when it comes to safety. The union has every right to demand better safety conditions for its members after recent incidents where their safety is at risk.