As the CNE prepares to open this Friday, a Toronto MPP is raising concerns that safety may be compromised at the 18-day fair due to the amusement ride and equipment inspectors’ strike.
On July 21, 170 inspectors from the Technical Standards and Safety Board (TSSA) went on strike after contract negotiations between their employer and their union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, broke down. (OPSEU).
Since then, the organizers of fairs, festivals and other major events, such as the CNE, have had to call on external inspectors and consultants to ensure that their rides and equipment comply with all safety regulations.
On Saturday morning, Central Toronto MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the situation.
The CNE opens in FIVE days and the TASSA safety inspectors are on strike. They inspect every propane dispensing station, ride and food truck. Without a fair contract, public safety is compromised by Doug Ford. Ontario families and workers deserve better. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/qEDmqmImmi
— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) August 13, 2022
Speaking to CP24 on Sunday morning, she said the absence of dedicated TSSA safety inspectors checking rides and other equipment at the upcoming CNE amounted to “less duty of care”.
She said that due to the labor disruption, the organizer of Canada’s largest annual event was forced to hire consultants and third-party contractors to perform these important safety inspections.
“When we compromise public safety, we just can’t take risks,” Wong-Tam said.
“The CNE, of course, we all love this amusement park. It’s a major attraction for the city of TO, but we want to make sure people are safe.
Wong-Tam said under the current arrangement there was no guarantee that safety inspections would be carried out with the same level of diligence. To illustrate her point, the MPP for Toronto referred to an Aug. 5 incident involving a carousel at the Campbellford fairground, which she said injured three children.
She said that the organizers of this event would have issued the “same type of assurances to members of the public”.
Ultimately, Wong-Tam said the goal was to bring both parties “to the table” and reach a contractual agreement so that TSSA safety inspectors can get back to work as soon as possible.
The CNE, meanwhile, assures the public that it will continue to maintain the “highest safety standards in the industry”, despite the strike by safety inspectors.
CNE CEO Darrell Brown said public safety is a “top priority”, calling Wong-Tam’s assertion that safety cannot be guaranteed “misguided”.
“We don’t think there are any security concerns and we would dispute what Ms Wong-Tam is suggesting,” he said in a Sunday afternoon interview with CP24.
In a statement, Brown said that after a two-year pandemic hiatus, the CNE was “vigilantly preparing for the Fair’s return to ensure that any potential labor disruptions would not have a significant impact on our operations or compromise the safety of our staff, suppliers and customers.”
“Each year, CNE rides and food facilities are inspected by regulatory authorities before and during the 18 days of the Fair. TSSA management has taken proactive measures, including traveling to other fair sites to carry out inspections prior to the arrival of equipment at the CNE,” he noted, adding that the CNE “also devotes a significant amount of resources to deploying its own third-party safety consultants and certified engineers to ensure that all rides and event facilities exceed safety standards.
“We want to assure our customers that the CNE is safe; regardless of the ongoing labor dispute between TSSA and OPSEU,” he said.
Like Wong-Tam, Brown also hopes the two sides will sit down soon and come to a contractual agreement “so that the TSSA can return to full staffing to facilitate its role in safeguarding the industry.”
Despite the action at work, the TSSA said “comprehensive plans are in place to allow us to fulfill our safety mandate during the strike.”
“Rest assured that any entertainment device in operation with a valid TSSA authorization has passed its required annual inspection,” the governing body said in a July 29 tweet.
Comprehensive plans are in place to enable us to fulfill our security mandate during the strike. Rest assured that any amusement device in operation with a valid TSSA authorization has passed its required annual inspection.
— TSSA (@TSSAOntario) July 29, 2022
In a July 21 statement, the TSSA said it would continue to respond to serious security incidents and inspect all sites classified as high risk.
The Safety Inspectors governing body said it would also be available to provide services to critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and long-term care homes. While it continues to offer non-inspection related services such as engineering, examinations and licensing, the TSSA will not be conducting expedited and rushed technical reviews during the strike.
“Every effort will be made to minimize any disruption to businesses as much as possible,” the TSSA said, adding that it wanted to reach an agreement with OPSEU and had “engaged in good faith negotiations” with them since. last fall in an unsuccessful effort to “finalize a first collective agreement for inspectors.
“In order to prevent a strike, the TSSA bargaining team has provided OPSEU with a comprehensive proposal that includes all the terms of a first collective agreement and provides inspectors with excellent health care, dental and pension, as well as salary increases for a multi-year contract,” Laura said. Desjardins, Vice-President, Human Resources. “Given the reasonable and fair contract we have offered and our availability for ongoing discussions, the TSSA does not see why the inspectors have chosen to strike. Our approach is to negotiate in good faith, reach a fair deal and avoid disruption. Unfortunately, the union stopped negotiating directly with the TSSA after the first meetings and gave indications of its intentions to strike. We are concerned about deliberately false communications from OPSEU that suggest we are not bargaining in good faith.
CP24 has also reached out to OPSEU for comment, but has yet to receive a response.
All it takes is one accident…it’s time for the TSSA to resume negotiations and protect public safety! Thanks to @OPSEUPYC to be in solidarity with the #strikeforsafety today at the Ex! pic.twitter.com/7HBHDy8n0d
— OPSEU (@OPSEU) August 14, 2022
The Canadian National Exhibition begins this Friday and will run until Labor Day, Monday, September 5.