(Canadian OH&S News) — A representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has spoken out to the media about allegedly poor conditions at WorkSafeNB’s Rehabilitation Centre in Grand Bay-Westfield, New Brunswick – saying that the facility has a “culture of fear.”
National CUPE rep Michael Davidson told CBC News on Feb. 26 that employees at the Centre were afraid to speak out on behalf of injured workers. “There’s a culture of fear in there, that you’ll lose your job if you speak out against the organization, or if you’re critical of the organization, or if you talk about changes that need to be made,” he told the CBC.
There were also safety concerns at the Centre, Davidson added, citing a recent incident in which local police had arrested a man there for possessing a weapon and issuing threats to staff at the facility. There had been no investigation of the incident since its occurrence, he said.
Davidson said that he was basing these observations on talks with members of CUPE Local 946, a branch of the national union representing employees of both the rehab centre and the main WorkSafeNB office in Saint John.
Davidson did not respond to COHSN by press time. But WorkSafeNB president and CEO Gerard Adams said that the organization did not support Davidson’s claims. “Nor do we believe the majority of our employees support these allegations,” he added.
“A 2014 exit survey with clients at our rehabilitation centre indicated an overall satisfaction level of 86.4 per cent,” Adams continued. “In our 2014 staff-satisfaction survey, which is anonymous and administered by an external agency, staff engagement rated at 95 per cent, with 91 per cent of respondents saying they felt comfortable and safe at their workplace. Overall satisfaction − ‘I feel WorkSafeNB is a good place to work’ − was also at 91 per cent.”
Adams added that WorkSafeNB always sought feedback from all of its employees on all aspects of its business. “We count on their expertise and respect it. Their input results in continuous improvements to our benefits, programs and services.”
Davidson has not been the first party to cast a critical eye on the Rehabilitation Centre. A March 2014 report from the Support Team for Injured Workers and Families (STIWF), Collaborative Group Process Report, claimed that the facility had a poor reputation.
“It appears that there is a pervasive and quite negative perception of the Grand Bay rehabilitation centre itself, amongst many injured workers,” the report read. “Some injured workers even went to the extreme of comparing Grand Bay to Fort Knox and concentration camps… Some shared with us that they had suicidal thoughts as a result of their stay there.”
The report elaborated that some injured workers had found their treatments and exercises more hurtful than helpful to them. Workers who refused to undergo painful rehabilitation techniques were considered “uncooperative,” it said.
“We are proud of the work we do at WorkSafeNB on behalf of New Brunswick’s workforce,” Adams said. “We believe our staff are the very best at what they do, and we appreciate their commitment to making our province one of the safest in which to work in Canada.”
Collaborative Group Process Report is available online at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx78OOvnOn-RU1pmUjVoZ3RSdGM/edit.