Sonia Charette, United Steelworkers Representative in Abitibi-Témiscamingue
against Bill 59 at
Quebec National Assembly, June 1, 2021
The reform brought about by Bill 59 does not help us at all.
contrary, it will reduce the entire prevention and compensation
component for the recognition of workers' occupational diseases.
As far as prevention is concerned, the main thing is the four
prevention mechanisms that were introduced for the priority sectors in
the Act respecting
occupational health and safety
that was adopted in 1979. Those were supposed to be applied to all
sectors in 1985, but that never happened.
Boulet tells us that
Bill 59 is good because
now the prevention mechanisms will apply to all sectors. What he does
not say is that these prevention mechanisms are
in the law, there were minimums that the employer had to abide by. In
this bill, these minimums no longer exist. There will no longer be a
minimum number of hours for prevention representatives to do their
work, and no minimum hours for the work of health and safety
For the other two
mechanisms, the prevention
program and the health program specific to the establishment, the bill
gives the employer the power to establish these programs unilaterally.
The notion of joint representation, where workers and employers discuss
and how to remedy them together, is eliminated. When workers are
involved in solving problems they are more likely to implement the
necessary preventive measures. The stated objective of the bill is to
save employers $4.3 billion over ten years. They will do this on the
backs of workers who will no longer be able -- or will have great
to have occupational diseases recognized and to obtain compensation.
Many will end up on social assistance.
aspect that is not addressed by the bill is the psychological aspect.
Already, for all psychological injuries including burnout, for
example, nine times out of 10 workers' claims are refused by the Labour
Standards, Pay Equity and Workplace Health and Safety Board (CNESST).
The bill fails to deal with this
is nothing on psychological injuries, except for a small
section on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On this aspect, the
government has just put in the bill what jurisprudence has already
determined. They didn't add anything new. At the Westwood Mine we had a
landslide a few months ago, one of five in the last few years. This is
causing PTSD to our workers, and the CNESST is refusing to recognize
this as an occupational injury. Another major issue in the mines is
deafness. The bill will raise the threshold for recognition of
We have met with all of the
region's Members of the National
Assembly to make them aware of the impacts of this bill. We elect
people to represent us but we can't hold them accountable afterwards,
so they do what they want because they are not accountable to us.
They have to think of the region and not of their party.
the steelworkers, are convinced that if this bill passes, it
will lead to problems in negotiating collective agreements. Since there
are no longer any minimums on prevention measures in the law, the need
to negotiate them will create more labour disputes.
This article was published in
August 20, 2021 -