In a recent ruling, WorkSafeBC has determined that a mechanic working on the construction of a leg of the SkyTrain transit system in Metro Vancouver was wrongly terminated because he raised concerns about safety on the job and because he refused to perform takes that he felt were unsafe. In its decision, the agency ruled that SNC-Lavalin and SELI Canada had wrongfully terminated worker David Britton’s employment in the construction of a transit tunnel on Nov. 3, 2014, and then lied about the reasons for his dismissal.
Britton was part of a team of workers who were building the tunnel that would serve as the Evergreen Line on the transit system. According to Britton, in July 2014, Minearc, a manufacturer of refuge chambers, sent a mining engineer to train him with regard to proper maintenance of the chamber. When they did so, they found that certain parts, such as a cartridge designed to convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, had not been purchased by Britton’s employers. Britton said that he reminded the companies of the problem repeatedly at joint occupational health and safety meetings. The employers were also putting increased pressure on him to certify the chamber for use, which he refused to do until it was capable of functioning properly.
Britton eventually received the needed parts and signed off on the chamber’s readiness, but three days later, they fired him and hired two temporary foreign workers to do his job. They also brought in the same mining engineer to train to do his job. Britton also cited numerous incidents to support his position that he had been wrongly fired, including the fact that his supervisor was also a temporary foreign worker from Italy who did not speak either of Canada’s official languages, which he said made communication very difficult. That supervisor was also cited by the employers for unsafe work, but was never demoted, according to Britton.
WorkSafeBC also noted that Britton was not the only worker on the Evergreen Line who was dismissed after bringing up safety concerns and refusing unsafe work. A crane operator named Julio Serrano also has a case before WorkSafeBC. According to Serrano, he reported unsafe work conditions numerous times and at one point, he refused to operate a crane because the employer had removed the limit switch. After he met with WorkSafeBC last December 3, the agency conducted an investigation and shut down the crane. On December 19, Serrano was laid off. His case is still under investigation.