A Stellarton man who worked for five years at the Michelin plant in Granton as an employee for IBM Canada claims he lost his job after being unfairly targeted because he raised safety concerns, according to court documents.
Dave Buckle, 62, was escorted from Michelin in May 2012 and filed a complaint with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education in June.
In response, the Department of Labour under the Occupational Health and Safety Act investigated and then issued compliance orders to both IBM Canada and Michelin that Buckle should be rehired by IBM and reinstated to his contract position at the Michelin Granton site. Documents from the department said that the order was to be complied with by Dec. 17. A spokesperson with the department said that companies have decided to appeal the order however.
Buckle declined to comment for this story as did his lawyer Jamie MacGillivray who would only say that the matter is before the courts and the Department of Labour, however, court documents from a civil suit he has filed against the companies detail what he claims happened.
The Statement of Claim states that in or around April, 2012, Buckle brought forward concerns about a ramp that was used by him and a co-worker to transport computer and electronic equipment with push carts. Buckle would walk beside the motorized car steering it with a joystick. The ramp was used by forklifts and motorized equipment and had a sign indicating, no pedestrians. Buckle said he was concerned about using the ramp as a pedestrian since it would be a safety risk and he believed he might be at fault if he were injured on the ramp. He proposed the use of parabolic mirrors and a red light, green light control system so equipment operators would know when another vehicle was already using the ramp.
The claim states that Michelin responded by telling Buckle to use a different ramp system located elsewhere instead of the more convenient ramp that he was concerned about. Buckle claims the other ramp system was awkward to use, required going longer distances and generally would make things difficult for him and said he expressed those concerns to OHS in or around May 2012.
That same month, Buckle was scolded by a Michelin safety officer for not having goggles and ear plugs on, but Buckle claims he was working in a conference room at the time where they are not required.
Later a coworker told Buckle that he was not allowed to walk beside a motorized cart while operating it, but had to be behind it. Buckle states he had operated the cart that way for two years. The next day he claims a Michelin security officer was waiting for him and stopped him. The officer told Buckle he could not walk beside the cart and that it was a Michelin safety policy that he walk behind it at all times.
Buckle told the officer he would look into it and continued to walk beside the cart for a distance of about 20 steps.
The next day the Human Resources Manager at Michelin came to Buckle’s office and asked him to give back his access pass to the plant. He was then escorted from the building.
Buckle remained on paid leave with IBM as he told them about the situation, but they later told him that since he could not return to work at Granton there was no alternate work for him and that his job was being terminated.
Buckle is suing Michelin for breach of contract and unlawful interference with economic interest and IBM for breaching the implied terms of his employment contract.
The Statement of Claim states: “In retaliation for the Plaintiff’s safety concern, and for the Plaintiff bringing these to the attention of the Department of Labour, Michelin undertook steps to have the Plaintiff removed from the Granton plant by having Michelin security enforce policy against the Plaintiff selectively and for the sole purpose of retaliating against the Plaintiff for causing inconvenience and disruption by expressing legitimate safety concerns. Michelin took reprisals against the Plaintiff in such a manner for a veneer of legitimacy.”
The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proved in court.
In a Statement of Defence, Michelin’s lawyer for this case, Rebecca Saturley of Stewart McKelvey, stated the company denies much of the statement of claim and said the company did not intend and did not cause any loss to Buckle. She states Michelin also did not use any unlawful or wrongful means to interfere with the economic interests of the man and that there is not evidence of damage done to him as a result of Michelin’s actions.
She stated the company would like the claim to be dismissed with costs to Michelin.
Attempts to reach Saturley and a Michelin spokesperson were unsuccessful Friday.