Inspectors with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TTSA) continue to be off the job after contract talks broke down.
“We’re trying to negotiate our first collective agreement,” explained Leo Tuusa a bargaining member of OPSEU Local 546. “We’re basically looking to maintain at least the benefits we have now or better and wages according to the issues going on everywhere at this time with inflation and what not.”
Concern is mounting ahead of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto as many of these inspectors provide safety and licensing oversight of amusement park rides.
“Without them and the oversight there’s definitely some potential for some risk to the public,” added Tuusa.
These employees are the same people who complete safety inspections and ensure that standards are met for amusement park rides, elevators, ski lifts and food trucks but they also monitor and inspect fuel-burning equipment, gas stations and nuclear power plants. In addition to accident and incident investigations.
While the 170 workers picket, the TSSA has brought in managers and hired consultants to assist with inspections.
“We have the resources in other areas, we’ve hired highly qualified third-party firms to assist with meeting some of the business needs,” explains Alexandra Campbell a spokesperson for the TSSA. “We’re inspecting to make sure that organizations are following the safety rules.”
The organization says the CNE and other amusement parks in the province undergo stringent safety and licensing requirements in addition to daily inspections by a TSSA-certified mechanic.
“All of those rides will have had their TSSA inspection by highly qualified employees of the TSSA,” adds Campbell.
The CNE said it was “aware of the ongoing contract negotiations.”
“Each year the rides and food installations at the CNE are inspected by regulatory authorities prior to and during all 18-days of the Fair,” a spokesperson said. “TSSA management have taken proactive measures including travelling to other Fair sites to conduct inspections in advance of the equipment’s arrival at the CNE.”
Meanwhile, owners and operators of rides and devices are also required to carry insurance according to Kathryn Woodcock, a professor at the Toronto Metropolitan University who specializes in safety and the engineering of amusement park rides.
“Despite the strike, if a patron sees a device that they believe is unsafe or not properly operated, they can report it to TSSA. The agency is not closed. It is the union inspectors who are unavailable.”
Meanwhile, during an agricultural fair last weekend in Campbellford Ont., a town northeast of Toronto, a ride malfunctioned. No one was seriously injured but the incident prompted an investigation by the TSSA which found issues with the car, leading to potential legal implications.
“There were some rules that weren’t followed in particular an issue with a car that broke,” explains Campbell. “It was something that should not have happened.”
The union maintains its members want to return to work but they want to see a fair deal.
“Everybody’s concerned about the safety of people in Ontario,” adds Tuusa.
The union maintains it will continue to picket to shed light on its on-going dispute until both sides get back to the bargaining table.