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OPSEU Local 317 Bracebridge, Dorset, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, and Surrounding Areas . . . .

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Dams
OPSEU member fears for
management's safety

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Oliver Pastinak discusses managers' safety with MNR managers

I am a conservation officer on strike in the present Ontario public service labour dispute.

 

I have been reading a series of articles in the local papers recently related to water control and the flooding situation in Muskoka. The Ministry of Natural Resources Bracebridge area supervisor assures us that the situation is under control and the placement of logs is now beginning to take place.

 

I have also read other articles lately, as well as listening to ads on the radio and watching news items on television, all regarding the state of natural resource protection in Ontario. These reports tell us again that everything is just fine. Allow me to state some of the obvious problems with these reports!

 

Management of the more than 70 dams in the Parry Sound and Bracebridge area normally takes the full-time efforts of trained and experienced crews of technicians. It is very physically demanding work. The managers who are trying to keep up with the weather conditions are not experienced and have only had minimal training. They are not trained at all to 'jack' logs down. This procedure ensures a tight seal of the logs and prevents leakage of water through the dams.

Of most concern to me is that managers are being pressured into operating these dams and are putting themselves at personal risk. On April 25 I observed three MNR managers working high up on the deck of the Bala dam. They were putting logs in and I observed one of the logs in an almost upright position.

 

This was not how it was supposed to go in. Water control technicians went to the Bala dam later and saw that the log was extremely chewed up and one of the heavy steel grates was missing and likely had fallen into the dam. This situation should be of grave concern to senior managers in the Ministry of Natural Resources. I am concerned about the lack of sufficient water flow for spawning fish, hydroelectric generation and potential loss of water levels for summer navigation in our lakes. I am much more concerned about the safety of the managers.

 

Managers with little or no experience are also working in our jails at great risk to themselves as well as jeopardizing the safety of inmates and essential workers.

The turkey hunt in southern Ontario is under way with the sale of licences made possible by MNR issuing a restricted type of temporary outdoors card and hunt licence. Who is out there enforcing hunting regulations that protect human safety and ensure protection of the resource? Contrary to reports that there is no poaching taking place I can tell you that statement is false. Poaching occurs when conservation officers are on the job and certainly when they are not. MNR enforcement supervisors are conducting a few patrols but without proper backup support.

 

 

In northwestern Ontario the forest fire season is upon us. Crews have not yet been properly assembled, let alone equipped or trained. Aircraft of all types, that are the backbone of the fire suppression program, are not ready.

 

Algonquin Provincial Park opened this past weekend. Some park staff and many senior MNR managers from all over Ontario, staffed it. Were these managers prepared to provide the level of protection necessary to safeguard visitors and resources? Striking park staff estimated that attendance was about 20 per cent of the normal number. Thankfully the general public was informed enough to know that there would not be sufficient coverage to ensure their safety.

 

Just one year ago a park warden died while on the job in Algonquin Park. There have been other deaths in the past week that authorities attribute to the lack of trained labour inspectors on the jobs. Have we forgotten the seven deaths and thousands injured in Walkerton? The situation in jails is fast approaching a critical condition. How long can managers work around the clock trying to provide those public services normally carried out by public servants trying to negotiate a new collective agreement with Ernie Eves?

 

Will it take death or injury for this government to realize it cannot operate as normal during this strike and negotiate a proper deal with its employees?

I urge members of the public to contact their MPPs to tell them to negotiate in good faith and offer a fair settlement to public service workers. I urge managers to be honest and tell their senior managers the truth. Public service is not being provided as normal in Ontario!

 

I fear for the safety of our managers as they follow orders from above to carry out work they are not trained adequately for or have experience in. I fear for the future of Ontario.

John van Geene
Conservation Officer #C119
Bracebridge Area Office
Ministry of Natural Resources

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MNR Female Manager -Wearing No Safety Equipment