April 7, 2021 - No. 25
Right of Workers to Determine Health and Safety Conditions!
Opposition to Quebec Bill Dismantling Occupational Health and Safety Regime
March 23, 2021. Demonstration against Bill 59. (CSN)
• Quebec Steelworkers Reject Bill 59
• "This Bill Means Reduced Treatment and Compensation"
• Farmers' Movement Holds Steady
- J. Singh
Right of Workers to Determine Health and Safety Conditions!
Opposition continues to be expressed to Quebec Bill 59, An Act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime.
Workers' organizations from different sectors of the economy are
speaking out to oppose both the content of the legislation and the
manner in which it is being enacted.
59 was devised by a few cabinet ministers who met for months with a
handful of people behind closed doors. The working conditions,
security, lives and jobs of those affected by the changes are not the
same as those who are dictating the changes which are to be made. As a
matter of democratic principle that is not right. The government
tabled the bill in October 2020, then held a few days of perfunctory
hearings at the end of January 2021. The aim of these perfunctory
hearings was to say that those concerned had been given a chance to
give their input. The Labour Minister spoke about reaching a consensus
of "stakeholders." His conception of who are the "stakeholders"
fulfills the definition of the word fraud.
bill has more than 300 articles. On March 10, the Minister tabled over
100 amendments. The bill is now being studied, clause by clause, by the
Parliamentary Committee on Labour and the Economy, made up of
representatives of parties with seats in the National Assembly. The
committee will vote on the bill as amended. Once this process is over,
it will go back to the National Assembly for adoption.
The government claims that its prior consultation with hand-picked
individuals is a modernized process despite the fact that injured
workers and organizations concerned with health and safety do not drive
bill reduces or eliminates access to treatments for injuries and
illness, medical assistance, rehabilitation and compensation, all in
the name of "saving money" for those who buy workers' capacity to work,
the most powerful of which are the global private interests which form
cartels and coalitions to get legislation passed which favours them.
The bill furthermore concentrates all decision-making over prevention
programs, health programs, hours allotted for the work of prevention
representatives, organizing of the health and safety committees and so
on, in the hands of the employers, eliminating the legal space that
previously existed for the workers' organizations and representatives
to have some input.
Workers rightfully consider this legislation a major abuse of power
that must not pass. Workers must have a decisive say in the
determination of the health and safety conditions under which they
work. Workers' Forum supports the demands of Quebec workers that this bill should be scrapped and that the health and safety regime must
be based on workers' demands and rights.
of the United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos working in
mining operations on Quebec's North Shore, in Northern Quebec and
Abitibi regions held a press conference on March 23 to address Bill 59
presently going through the adoption process in Quebec's National
Assembly. They spoke up against the rollbacks on health and safety
prevention and accountability measures related to occupational diseases
and workplace injuries and deaths. USW Quebec Director Dominic Lemieux
announced that the Syndicat des Métallos rejects the bill as
unacceptable. It is worse than the current legislation, Lemieux said.
bill will weaken prevention measures by removing minimum standards and
entrusting decision-making on prevention programs and related measures
to the bosses alone. It goes so far as to deprive injured workers and
victims of occupational diseases of care and support. This is not a 'modernization' of the law. It is seizing an opportunity,
while the focus is on the pandemic, to turn back the clock 40 years on
health and safety," Lemieux said.
Local union leaders from the region's mining sector spoke eloquently against the retrogressive measures contained in the bill.
"The reality of workplace health and safety is that the workers are
the ones who live it. Prevention measures are better tailored, more
effective and enjoy greater support when workers are involved in the
decision making. Everyone loses if decisions are made by the employer
alone. It will lead to deaths and more accidents," said Nadine Joncas,
prevention representative at ArcelorMittal's Mont-Wright mine in
Racicot, President of USW Local 9291 at Westwood Mine and the Syndicat
des Métallos' foremost expert in health and safety, denounced
Bill 59 and the impact it will have at workplaces such as the Westwood
mine in Abitibi, which has had its share of serious incidents in recent
years, including five collapses that trapped workers underground, and a
miner's death in 2017.
"They say in the mines that the laws and regulations were written
with the blood of the miners. These rollbacks will compromise safety
and lead to even more tragedies," Racicot said.
He also denounced the fact that injured or sick workers will find it
more difficult to obtain compensation, particularly for recognition of
occupational deafness, which means that thousands of workers will be
deprived of hearing aids, after their work has destroyed their hearing.
Savard, President of USW Local 9449 at the Raglan Mine (Glencore), said
that weakening prevention measures and making it more difficult to get
compensation will only embolden global mining companies like Glencore.
"Global companies are really powerful," he said. "Sometimes we wage
a legal fight against them, and it's very difficult. The companies are
powerful. With a small group of workers against a global company, you
know the battles aren't always equal." He said that cutting off workers'
minimum legal protection, as the bill does, is the last thing that
should be done.
Dominic Lemieux concluded the press conference by commending the
Steelworker representatives for their hard work and their dedication to
the health and safety of workers in the plants and underground.
To view the press conference click here.
Lapan is a community organizer with the injured workers' defence
organization the Union des travailleuses et travailleurs
accidentés ou malades (UTTAM)..
Workers' Forum recently spoke with him about the consequences that the Quebec
government's Bill 59 will have on injured workers if it is adopted. Due
to the length of the interview it will be published in two parts. Today
we are publishing information on the impact of Bill 59 on workers with
regard to the recognition of
occupational diseases and their entitlement to medical assistance,
treatment and rehabilitation services. We will publish information on
the impact on the right to monetary compensation in a later issue.
According to UTTAM's investigation, what consequences will the Legault
government's Bill 59 have on injured and sick workers if it is adopted?
Félix Lapan: Generally speaking, this bill means reduced
treatment and compensation benefits for injured workers.
example, the bill will make it more difficult to have many claims for
work-related illnesses accepted. It attacks the right to medical
assistance, the right to treatment, medication, devices like orthotics
and prosthetics that are supplied by the Labour Standards, Pay Equity
and Workplace Health and Safety Board (CNESST) and it attacks the right
to rehabilitation for workers who have suffered permanent disabilities.
With respect to victims of occupational diseases, barriers are being
created for people suffering from hearing loss and lead poisoning. It
will be much more difficult to have hearing loss and lead poisoning
recognized as occupational diseases.
The CNESST is being given regulatory power to add
barriers to the recognition of all occupational diseases, which is of
great concern to us. Moreover, the Ministry of Labour, in its document
on the impact of the bill, is projecting millions of dollars in savings
due to rejection of workers' claims for occupational illnesses and
injuries, hearing loss in particular. In introducing the bill, the
Labour touted it as a measure that will produce $4.3 billion over 10
years in "savings" for employers who fund the CNESST through their
So, for victims of occupational diseases, there is a reduction in access to treatments and compensation.
Once a claim is accepted, whether related to an illness or an
accident, the new legislation reduces the worker's entitlement to
medical assistance. What is included in medical assistance is changed.
There is an article in the current legislation that says that it is
the responsibility of the CNEEST to provide all medical assistance. The
currently pays 100 per cent of the cost of medication, orthotics,
prosthetics and a whole list of treatments in private clinics. Bill 59
changes this article, article 194 of the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases
(LATMP), which states that medical assistance is paid for by the board,
that no fees can be charged to a
worker for medical assistance needed as a result of an injury. The bill
removes this section and says that the CNESST will be entitled to adopt
a regulation permitting it to charge part of the medical assistance
costs to the workers. With respect to drugs, and this is a first in the
history of the plan, with this regulation they will no longer pay for
to the bill, only orthotics and prosthetics specified in a regulation
still to be created will be paid for, so not all necessary devices will
be paid for. The CNESST already applies internal policies
that limit access to medical assistance, even though the law does not
allow this, and these decisions are therefore often overturned
by the courts. Now it's not just going to be an internal policy, it's
going to be a regulation. Will the regulation be that they reimburse
drugs at 80 per cent like a private insurer? Are there going to be
drugs that are excluded from the plan? We don't know. The day after the
law is passed, the CNESST will be able to publish its regulations in
the Official Gazette
and specify how access to medical assistance will be limited. Anything
that is taken out of the law and put into regulatory powers for the
CNESST will be out of our control. They can change the rules of the
game at any time without going through a debate in the National
Assembly, without amending legislation. When a regulation is published
in the Official Gazette we have 45 days to comment on it, after which the regulation comes into force by a cabinet order.
With Bill 59 there are many things that move from the legislation to
regulations made by the CNESST. For example, the list of occupational
diseases that are protected by the Act will move from the legislation
into a regulation that the CNESST can amend as it sees fit. The
obstacles that workers face if they have claims for occupational
deafness and lead poisoning could be put in the way of workers with
many other injuries and illnesses. They have just set a blood lead
level, which has nothing to do with science, that must be reached to
have lead poisoning recognized. They could do the same thing for a lot
of metals, almost all metals, for many toxic substances. All of a
the CNESST becomes the legislator.
have a system that is supposed to provide treatment for workers'
injuries and illnesses. To put part of the costs of treatment
on sick and injured workers is unacceptable.
The scenario that we are currently seeing with the regulation on
medical assistance is the same scenario that was in the CNESST`s plans
in 2012. At that time it was Bill 60 which would have provided for
lump-sum treatment envelopes, a set amount for each illness or injury,
with treatment provided until the designated amount was spent.
[Bill 60 died when the Quebec government of the day called a general election -- WF Ed. Note]. We're going to possibly end up with a similar type of regulation.
WF: The bill also eliminates physical rehabilitation altogether.
FL: Yes, there is also an attack on the right to
rehabilitation. The current law provides for three types of
rehabilitation with specific programs. Rehabilitation is for workers
who have permanent after-effects. There is physical, social and
Physical rehabilitation consists of treatments after the treatment
of the injury itself is complete, treatments for permanent consequences
of the injury. These are no longer treatments to heal, but to control
and relieve pain, to reduce the consequences of a loss of quality of
life. The bill simply abolishes physical rehabilitation. In other
medical treatment, physiotherapy, occupational therapy or even
psychotherapy in the case of psychological injuries will only be aimed
at recovery or return to work. If a worker has permanent after-effects
from his or her injury that affect his or her quality of life, this is
no longer important according to the bill. That is the logic. There are
limitations to what can be received in terms of social and vocational
rehabilitation. Social rehabilitation concerns rehabilitation measures
such as home assistance, or home renovations, while vocational
rehabilitation concerns measures such as training for vocational
reorientation. The bill now provides for a specific list of measures
currently the list is qualified by the word "including," which opens
the door to other measures.
For us, these attacks on the rights of injured and sick workers are unacceptable and are deeply disturbing.
1. Hearing impairment caused by noise is one of the occupational diseases specifically named in the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases.
Currently, the only requirement to qualify for the presumption for this
disease is to have performed "work involving exposure to excessive
noise." With the amendments to the Act in Bill 59, it will now be
necessary to demonstrate exposure to a threshold of more than 85
decibels for eight hours per day, over a period of at least two years,
by means of evidence specified by the regulation.
A new condition is also imposed for the recognition of lead
poisoning. The only condition at present is that the person must have
worked in a job involving the use, handling or other exposure to lead
or its compounds. The bill now adds the condition of having "a blood
lead level equal to or greater than 700 g/L (micrograms per litre of
All-India shutdown, March 26, Amritsar
The farmers' movement in India is deepening and broadening. On
March 26 an All-India shutdown took place. On April 5, all the Food
Corporation of India godowns
(a type of warehouse) were surrounded
in 736 districts of India, because officials have been asking to see a
copy of land revenue certificates
(LRCs) before they will buy the produce. This is yet another way to
harass farmers. Youth organized a massive rally in Sangrur, Punjab,
where thousands of farmers gathered. Leaders of the farmers also
joined. It turned into a report back and summation of the last nine
months. The problems which had appeared at each step were discussed
and how each was resolved through mass democracy. A frank, open and
productive discussion took place.
Shutdown of the Hind terminal continues to March 31
A baba (grandfather/respected elder) said that it was a misfortune for
farmers and Punjab to have them divided along party lines. He said, "I
was a founding member of the Farmers' Union of Punjab in 1972. But our
misfortune was that this union got divided into more than 30
organizations. I thank Modi for creating conditions that bring us all
together irrespective of our political or religious affiliations and we
have developed Unity in Action against the anti-farmer laws."
young student leader said, "Our fighting spirit had become rusty. We
talked about the fighting spirit of the Gurus, Dulla Bhatti, Banda
Bahadur Singh, Bhagat Singh and others, but were not conscious of what
plans are being made against people by sweet-talking politicians of the
Akali, Congress, Aam Admi Party, CPI(M) and others. It is to
the credit of the farmers and their sons and daughters that they got
together and made sense of these laws and united all the people. Now it
is a life and death battle against those who want to steal our lands.
It is an assault by corporations to capture our land, food and
everything that we need."
Another baba had everybody in stitches. He asked everyone in
the audience to raise their hand if they will transfer their land to
their son while living. Nobody raised their hand. Then he said, "If we
don't fight, the corporations will take away our land that you are not
even willing to give to your son. You will be turned into slaves and
A young singer expressed the determination of the farmers in a verse:
Jadon Tain Mod Di Ni Kaale Kanoon Diliye
Hik Te Teri Tractor Chahrd Ke Baithange
(Until you repeal the anti-farmer laws,
We will keep tractors on your chest, Oh Delhi)
A young farmer said that he graduated with a law degree, travelled
the world visiting relatives and now works on the land with his family.
He said we have developed our own vision of a new society Sarbat Da Bhala (Well-Being
of All) based on the teachings of our Gurus, Bhagats, Sufis, Ghadari
Babas and the experience of world's
people. We are quite capable of building our own future. He said there
are some self-appointed "leaders" running around telling us that
farmers are the "motive force" and they are the "leading force." They
say the farmers have to be led by them. But we are our own leaders and
are quite competent at solving society's problems. We are fed up
with those who want to "lead us." Watch out for such "leaders," he
cavalcade of one of the farmers' legitimate leaders was attacked with
gunshots and stones in Rajasthan. Farmers blocked several highways.
Four persons connected with BJP have been arrested. Many actions are
planned by farmers and other toilers in the coming days. On April 10,
KMP highway -- a beltway around Delhi -- will be jammed for 24 hours.
On April 13, the founding of the Khalsa as a force against oppression
will be celebrated. On the same day, the anniversary of Jallianwala
Bagh massacre will be commemorated. On April 14, on the anniversary of
the birth of B.R. Ambedkar, the violation
of rights and draconian laws by the government will be highlighted on
Constitution Day. May Day will be celebrated at the protest sites. In
the first week of May, a March on Parliament is being planned by
farmers and toilers from across India.
March 26 All-India Shutdown
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