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Province vows to beef up legislation to protect workers

Legislative protections for workers who face on-the-job violence should be in place by April, the government announced Wednesday.

In a news release, officials with the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour announced plans to work with labour unions, Work-SafeNB and other stakeholders to develop new regulations to promote workers’ rights and prevent workplace violence, and to conduct research that will help government better understand the issue.

It’s a move officials with the New Brunswick Nurses Union have been calling on the government to make for years, even launching a public awareness campaign last year to drive home their point.

“We’re very pleased that finally, after 10 years of lobbying, that government recognizes workplace violence is a workplace hazard,”Paula Doucet, the union’s president, said Wednesday. “We’re pleased with the commitment from this government to ensure the proper tools and supports are in place – that risk assessments are done – not only for registered nurses in this province, but for workers across New Brunswick. I think it’s a huge win.”

She said officials from the labour movement have been invited to participate in the work being done by the government’s steering committee.

“This is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach by government, labour, employers and the public. Public education is essential to successfully reducing rates of violence in the workplace,”said Doucet.

Labour, Employment and Population Growth Minister Gilles LePage said the goal is to have these changes in place by April 28 – the National Day of Mourning for those who have suffered injury, illness or death on the job.

“Education and awareness are crucial, and we will continue to educate the public, workers and employers on the importance of creating safe and healthy workplaces that are free from discrimination and harassment,” LePage said in a news release.

Violence in the workplace includes more than physical aggression, according to the release. It can also include threatening behaviour, such as throwing objects; oral or written threats; harassment or sexual harassment; and bullying or verbal abuse, including condescending language.

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