“COVID-19 presents unique and unprecedented risks for our members. We believe our members have the right to refuse to perform dangerous work if they reasonably feel they are in danger.”Thomas Hesse, President, UFCW Local 401
During the economic and health challenge presented by COVID-19, while many Albertans are told to “stay at home,” UFCW Local 401 members are being asked to continue to attend work. Many consider our work to be critical for the public good.
UFCW Local 401 members working in healthcare facilities, grocery stores, and food processing facilities are celebrated as heroes. But even heroes need rights and protections.
Your union contract continues to be in force during the COVID-19 pandemic, as do provincial and federal laws and regulations around labour rights and occupational health and safety. The role of our union in educating and empowering our members and enforcing their rights is now more important than ever.
As COVID-19 spreads, it is important that our members know about laws protecting workers. An important law to know about is a worker’s right to refuse dangerous work.
Here’s a shareable graphic with some important steps to take when exercising your right to refuse dangerous work. Read on for some other key details:
All workers in Alberta have the legal right to refuse dangerous work and are protected from reprisal for exercising this right.
Under labour laws, the general rule at the worksite is that workers must obey management directions and wait for their objections to be handled in the grievance procedure in their collective agreement. The right to refuse unsafe work is a historical exception to the “work now, grieve later” rule.
One of the main benefits derived by management from the collective agreement is the creation of an orderly procedure within which challenges to its authority can be channeled and adjudicated. This does not detract from the employee’s right to refuse work he reasonably believes unsafe.Arbitrator Weiler in the 1968 case U.S.W.A. v. Lake Ontario Steel Co., 19 L.A.C. 103 (Ontario Arbitration)
Here are some important points:
Workers on provincially regulated work sites have the right to refuse to carry out any work they reasonably think will put themselves, or others, in danger.
Asking a worker to work in a situation where there is a danger to health and safety is against provincial labour laws.
If you’re being asked to do work you reasonably think could present a danger for you or another, follow these steps:
The above information is adapted from https://www.alberta.ca/refuse-dangerous-work.aspx