Oil Sands Blogger Fired for Safety Concerns

| Monday, October 25th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

The Vancouver Sun reported that Mike Thomas was fired from his position as an electrical apprentice after posting two blog entries that detailed his health concerns in two mining camps in Alberta. 

The tone of Thomas, adhdcanuck’s blog, is one of reserved conviction – a tone that he says would be much harsher, were he “permitted”.  The two entries written described health concerns such as the sanitary condition of washrooms, and the limited food selection that left many nutrients to be desired.  Thomas catalogued his complaints through several pictures and videos of the facilities.

Two days following his October 4th posting, he was terminated over the phone by the contractor he worked for upon the behest of Suncor management.  Like many other companies, Suncor cited policy that prohibited work site photos to protect trade secrets; policy that Thomas claims is a smokescreen to mask unsanitary conditions.   Thomas’s union is pursuing his claim of wrongful dismissal, while he continues to blog and gain support.

When employees complain about working conditions to no avail, they often use social media websites as a sounding board, either for personal release, or as a political podium.  Whether acting in haste, or with tactical precision, employees should be aware of the danger they face. 

It is common for an employee to blog or tweet about a horrible day at work.  What Thomas did was completely different – he posted his company’s name with picture and video as a call to arms, hoping to mount a resistance.  This need not be an issue of free speech, but of common sense.  If you publicly insult your employer, you should expect repercussions.  Employees should be careful what they post, and know that whether it seems fair or not, employers are not hesitating to terminate for blogging.  That being said, employers should still consider lesser punishment than immediate dismissal.  It is a good idea to come up with fair procedures that address defamatory blogging sooner, rather than later.

One Comment

  1. ADHDcanuck says:

    I would like to clarify that this was not a “call to arms” situation so much as “sharing my personal experience and judgement” scenario originally. All official, sanctioned, permissable means of reporting and complaint were exhausted thoroughly leaving no choice by public attention.
    Termination for blogging should fall directly under whistleblowing protections, especially when exposing unhealthy, or unsafe conditions. Far different from blogging about an unhappy experience, these are issues that are newsworthy and of serious public concern which outweighs corporate secrecy needs in any reasonable sense.
    We should be cautious when allowing corporate interests to supercede public intests especially regarding oppression of workers, secrecy, and coverups of injury, environment, health and safety conditions.
    The extension of a no camera policy from the jobsite to include company provided living accommodations is particularly disturbing for freedom of expression.
    It raises the issue of workplace safety, and how employer enforced living conditions affect that.
    Do we respect our workforce or do we allow them to be oppressed slaves?

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