Alberta: Union presses language case

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Mar 10 14:58:56 UTC 2007

Union presses language case

By RENATO GANDIA Today staff Friday March 09, 2007

The Ironworkers Local 720 union is poised to file a complaint to the
Alberta Human Rights Commission if Carol Rioux doesnt get his job back at
Suncor Energy. The companys decision to terminate the Quebec worker
because of language is discriminatory based on ancestry and place of
origin, the union said.  Such discrimination is prohibited under the
Albertas Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act., accorfing to
a union lawyer.  Rioux of Gaspsie, Que., was fired for failing
English-language orientation tests. A fellow worker resigned in protest.

Union lawyer Jessica Bowering said shes still hopeful the conflict can be
resolved.But if not, we will file this case under the human rights. The
union will back them up all the way, Bowering said in a news conference in
Fort McMurray Thursday. Its possible that Suncor did make a mistake and
that they are going to admit it and rectify it, the lawyer said. If they
do, thats great. These guys just want to go back to work and be
compensated for the loses that theyve incurred, she said. Union
representative Cleo Basque said Suncor did not accommodate Riouxs language
deficiency and overlooked his trades skills.

We believe Wayward Steel went far enough to accommodate Carol by supplying
a bilingual foreman, by supplying and making sure that (he) had co-workers
and partners that are bilingual to team him up with, Basque said. The
union and the Suncor are still negotiating, but company spokesman Brad
Bellows said I dont think we have any intention of revisiting our safety
standards. In order for Rioux to be rehired he must pass the same safety
tests that everyone must deal with, Bellows said. Regarding the threat to
file a human rights complaint, Bellows said Suncor takes discrimination
very seriously.

We have a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination at Suncor and we will
certainly be looking back at everything that happened to ensure that Mr.
Rioux was treated fairly and with respect, he said. The case has not been
filed before the human rights commission. Director Marie Riddle said she
does not comment on specific cases, however. In general, she noted that
language is not one of the grounds thats protected. Its not included in
Alberta human rights legislation. But in some other cases it has been
found to be related to an individuals ancestry or their place of origin
and those two things are protected in human rights legislation, Riddle
told Today on Thursday.

Once the commission gets the human rights case, it looks at the details of
what the complainant said, what happened and also what the respondent did
and why. If the commission sees theres evidence to proceed further the
case goes to a conciliatory process.  If we think theres a contravention
we tell the respondent that and give them another chance to settle. If
they refuse to settle, it goes before a human rights panel which is like a
quasi-judicial body.


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