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FFAW-Unifor, Employers’ Council clash on mental health legislation

FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan
FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan.

Another labour organization is expressing outrage at the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council’s position against presumptive mental health legislation.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW)-Unifor called it “disturbing.”

Meanwhile, Employers’ Council executive director Richard Alexander is defending the council’s position.

“Presumptive mental health coverage is not the same as mental health coverage,” he wrote in an email to The Telegram.

Employers' Council executive director Richard Alexander.
Employers' Council executive director Richard Alexander.

“The Employers’ Council is not opposed to mental health legislation for workers. Quite the opposite. We support access to worker's compensation for any worker suffering from a mental health injury/illness due to work related trauma. We supported changes made in March to WorkplaceNL’s mental stress policy that greatly improved access to worker’s compensation for all workers who are diagnosed with a mental health injury/illness due to traumatic event(s) in the workplace.”

However, the Employers’ Council does not support presumptive legislation, and that’s the point on which several unions take issue.

Presumptive legislation refers to the acceptance of injury claims for a medical or psychiatric diagnosis without a worker having to prove the disorder is a result of an event or exposure while on the job.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), the Registered Nurses’ Union, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour all criticized the Employers’ Council’s position within the past week.

Keith Sullivan, president of FFAW-Unifor, said in a news release on Tuesday the council is “regressive and wrong-headed about common-sense legislation that will provide workers suffering from a workplace mental health injury or illness with the supports and services they deserve.”

Sullivan said Ocean Choice International (OCI) — which employs many FFAW-Unifor members — is a member of the Employers’ Council. This Sullivan said, “comes as no surprise to workers who have been fighting for years for improvements to health and safety in OCI plants.”

“The Employers’ Council and their members who oppose this legislation will find themselves, once again, on the wrong side of history if they continue to oppose this legislation,” Sullivan was quoted saying in the release.

FFAW-Unifor expressed its support for NAPE in its campaign for presumptive mental health legislation.

The union also called on government to move forward with the legislation.

Alexander maintained union leadership is “mischaracterizing” the Employers’ Council’s position and attacking its organization and members instead of debating elements of public policy.

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NAPE, N.L. employer’s council face off over presumptive mental health legislation

Labour federation blasts N.L. Employer’s Council for ‘reprehensible’ opposition to presumptive mental health legislation

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