OHS Canada Magazine

Union calls for changes to armoured car industry

(Canadian OH&S News)


(Canadian OH&S News)

The union representing workers in the armoured car industry is calling on the federal government to review screening of these employees following the deaths of three security guards last year.

Teamsters Canada’s lobbyist, Phil Benson, said on Nov. 7 that he had met with Steven Blaney, the federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, at the Conservative Party Convention in Calgary in early November. The two discussed the deaths of three G4S Cash Solutions (Canada) Inc. armoured car security guards and the serious injury to another after a co-worker shot them in June 2012 on the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton.

Just after midnight on June 15, 2012, five G4S guards arrived at the university’s HUB mall — a combined shopping mall and student residence — to make deliveries. Travis Baumgartner, then 21, fatally shot Michelle Shegelski, Eddie Rejano and Brian Ilesic and critically injured Matthew Schuman (COHSN, June 25, 2012). The shootings sparked a massive manhunt, which ended the following day when Baumgartner was apprehended trying to cross into the U.S. at the Lynden, Washington border crossing southwest of Abbotsford, British Columbia, with about $330,000 in his pick-up truck.

This September, Baumgartner was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 40 years, reportedly the harshest sentence handed down in Canada since execution was abolished in 1962.

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“G4S is relieved that Mr. Baumgartner has taken responsibility for his horrific crimes and that the case has been concluded quickly and justly,” said G4S spokesperson Katie McLeod in a statement. “While we continue to remember the victims, we hope that the conviction will bring some closure to the families and to all of those impacted by this senseless act.”

Benson said that he would meet with federal government staff “in the next few weeks” to continue the dialogue surrounding screening of workers in the armoured car industry. “In the past, no level of government was willing to take the lead on this issue, but Minister Blaney expressed his concern about it,” Benson said in a statement, adding that the union’s armoured car division is looking at the “hiring practices and how it can ensure the high level of commitment and camaraderie that is needed to work in this industry.”

Second union also calls for changes

Teamsters Canada is not the only union calling for changes to the industry. After Baumgartner’s sentencing, Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, called on the federal government to update regulations in the armoured car industry to preserve public safety and the safety of armoured car drivers and guards. The union represents nearly 2,000 armoured car employees in Ontario and British Columbia, of which approximately three-quarters are employees of Brink’s and one-quarter employees of G4S.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias called for a federal task force to look into the industry, consult with stakeholders and develop recommendations for new regulations. The union also released a discussion paper on the industry, Armed and Safe: Enhancing public safety and preventing crime through better regulation of Canada’s armoured car industry (http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/attachments/688-armoured_car_doc_eng.pdf), calling for minimum standards in employee training, vehicle specifications, crew compliments and safety equipment.

“A review of Canada’s current regulator environment reveals a patchwork of ineffective, overlapping and at times contradictory legislation and requirements,” the report said. “Other jurisdictions have taken a more proactive policy stance, and there are several examples of advanced and comprehensive legislation establishing minimum standards for the industry,” the report added, citing standards in the United States, Australia and the European Union.

In a letter to Blaney, Dias argued that increased competition in the industry has put both the public and industry workers at risk. “Facing danger has always been the backdrop for this industry, but standards are weakening as new entrants to the industry and established firms are engaging in heightened price competition on the basis of lowered security standards,” Dias wrote.