When ESCP Fails

When the ESCP Fails…

In our Unifor – GM Master Agreement, Document  No. 74 states: the company recognizes that the worker’s right to refuse to work is clearly defined in provincial health and safety legislation and is an integral part of employee rights in the workplace; that the parties agreed that practical solutions to health and safety concerns are best achieved by responding to such concerns in a prompt cooperative manner; that the parties recognize the importance of resolving health and safety concerns before they become work refusals and without loss of production; that the company expressed its concern over employee health and safety work refusals where Supervisors have no prior knowledge of such concerns or dangers; and that the parties have agreed that an effective Health and Safety Concern Resolution process is required. The Employee Safety Concern Process we currently use was brought about by the Global Safety and Industrial Hygiene Management system, which utilizes the Global Common Safety Procedure for Health and Safety Culture, and its implementation with Global Manufacturing System was agreed to by the Union in the 2007 COA. The basis of the ESCP lies in two sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Sec 25 (2)(h), the employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker and Sec 28 (1)(c) and (d), a worker shall report any hazard or contravention of the Act to the employer or supervisor.

So what happens when all this great flowery language fails and a personality conflict between a group leader and a worker destroys their safety relationship and prevents the safety concern from even being recognized by the G/L. What happens when the worker who has reason to believe that an unsafe condition exists, is shut down and immediately put on notice of discipline by the G/L in the team room without a joint investigation. What happens when another worker is assigned by the G/L to do the work under dispute in the absence of their union representation, side stepping about 6 steps in the work refusal procedure. This scenario is in contravention of the Act, yet this scenario happened at the Gen V Assembly line Ramp 1 area on Nov. 16.

What’s ironic is this event occurred 2 hours after a copy of our October Health and Safety Report leaflet was placed in the G/L’s hand, where we touched on the topic of work refusals, “What’s interesting is one manager’s comment that the workers should have refused to work. Technically that’s correct but for a worker who just wants to do their job, refusing to work puts them in the unenviable position of being at odds with their G/L and fear takes over, of being a target for subtle reprisals like not being allowed time off, or any number of ways we can be” “punished”. The reprisal in this case was clearly disciplinary for “failure to follow directive from a member of management.” In our opinion, the treatment of this worker highlights a systemic problem we have in this plant of Group Leaders ignorance of the law for the work refusal process and how it relates to the Employee Safety Concern Process.  It also highlights the gaps in Pre-Task Safety Plans for production activities outside of standardized work, as well as gaps in the Management of Change process.

This scenario demanded an immediate response, so as the worker Reps on the JHSC, we skipped a couple steps of our own and submitted our own written recommendation directly to the Company as the law allows. We stated that these systemic gaps must be addressed on all levels of the GM St. Catharines Propulsion Plant management organization in order to reduce risk of injury to our members, to reduce the fear associated with raising safety concerns to a Group Leader using the Employee Safety Concern Process, and when that process fails, to reduce the fear of reprisal from our employer for exercising our right to refuse or stop unsafe work. Using this process the Company had 21 days to respond in writing, and on December 11 we received that response, and in our opinion that response was favorable, giving us something to work with.

Highlights from the Company’s response include for;


  1. The ESCP was communicated Plant-wide via Start of Shift (SOS) message on Nov 27 and 28. Both SOS messages conveyed the key points of the process.
  2. The ESCP Safety Talk is scheduled for Jan, 2018 and will speak to the difference between the ESCP and work refusal process, no reprisal or punishment, the requirement for communication and feedback to the employee and team, the escalation process etc.
  3. The ESCP will continue to be communicated through SOS messages throughout 2018.
  4. The ESCP flow chart will be reviewed with all Supervisors by Feb. 28, 2018. A tri-fold containing the ESCP flow chart will be provided to all Supervisors during this review for future reference purposes.

Work Refusal Process:

  1. A tri-fold containing the work refusal process flow chart will be provided and reviewed with all Supervisors by Feb. 28, 2018. This review process started the week of Nov. 20, 2017.
  2. Information regarding the work refusal process will be included in the Jan. 2018 Safety Talk.

Management of Change:

  1. We will change the order and make Feb. 2018 the MOC Safety Talk, bumping up from May 2018.
  2. Additional SOS messages on MOC will be communicated in Jan. 2018, as well as throughout 2018.

Pre-Task Safety Plans (PTSP):

  1. Information regarding PTSP process will be added to the annual MOC Safety Talk in Feb. 2018.

We were well within our right to ask for this G/L’s head, and he would have been fired. We chose instead to use this opportunity to improve the process and the safety culture for the entire plant instead of hardening our position and armouring up to fight a battle no one wins. As mentioned above, this gives us something to work with as we have identified certain items within some of these processes we think could be improved and will work towards achieving those improvements. The work refusal process is air tight. If you would like to reference it, ask your G/L for a copy of the work refusal tri-fold to post in your team rooms.


Slivers…or put another way…is an injury too small that I don’t have to go to Medical?

We have been involved with an issue in GF6 Assembly that is over four years old, where metal slivers are picked up on recycled pins during the process, and these slivers sometimes end up in worker’s hands. When we go to medical to ask if people have been coming to seek medical aid, we are told no. That is unfortunate because that data is invaluable to us in arguing for improvements to change the process to eliminate the condition that creates the slivers. Every visit to Medical creates a paper trail that we can use to address your concerns more quickly, since the Company is obligated to implement countermeasures that eliminate the conditions that contribute to the medical aid visit. No injury is too small to go to Medical, and if you are finding resistance from your G/L in obtaining a pass for medical aid, call for representation immediately!

Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, Cell/Text 905 658 3271, ed.steers@gm.com

Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano,   905 641 6420, PTT 7440029, mike.pagano@gm.com

We would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. Have a safe and happy holiday!