Dear Sisters and Brothers:
I am pleased to announce that OPSEU, in collaboration
with many other unions and worker organizations including Occupational
Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and the Workers Health and
Safety Centre (WHSC), has produced a resource toolkit, "Action on
workplace stress: Mental injury prevention tools for Ontario workers" to
assist workers to identify, prevent and control workplace factors that
can cause or aggravate mental distress and stress-related illness.
Work-related stress is on the rise as our workplaces
experience increasing demands and reduced resources. The medical
evidence is clear - chronic stress gives rise to many forms of mental
distress and physical illness. Many employers, if they consider this
issue at all, characterize this as a problem with the worker. Many
employers provide access to Employee Assistance Programs so that workers
may get help in coping with "their" stress. Then, on the way out of the
office, with the EAP card tucked in their pockets, workers are asked to
take on an additional workload.
While providing supports like EAP to workers is
extremely important, what employers are not doing is addressing causes
of workplace stress. Psychosocial hazards in the workplace such as
bullying and harassment, threats of violence, unreasonable demands, lack
of support, lack of trust/justice and respect, poor work/life balance,
and poor work organization often go unaddressed. Psychosocial hazards
are occupational health and safety issues. Like other occupational
hazards they must be identified, assessed, controlled, and prevented.
Workers who are hurt by these hazards deserve to be compensated. They
are no less deserving of benefits than workers injured or made ill by
other workplace hazards.
Other countries have recognized this and have specific
regulations that require employers to assess and control these hazards.
Canada is poised to introduce a voluntary standard for employers to
provide psychologically safe workplaces. It is time to focus on
diagnosing and treating the workplace - not workers. It is time for
Ontario to catch up and protect workers from these hazards.
The resource kit will provide basic information about
stress terminology, approaches to stress, Ontario’s legal framework, and
activities around the world and in Canada. A workplace action plan guide
provides specific information and ideas for workers to use in their
workplaces to raise awareness of these hazards and use their union and
health and safety committee frameworks to act for safer and healthier
workplaces. The resource kit is available online at