The Learning and Development group was an amalgamation of different training groups that were established within the various plant business units. Human Resources felt that training was part of their domain and as such belonged to the corporate identity. Learning and Development, L&D, was designed as a more hands on and practical use of skills. We were brought together and located in a newly acquired area with an older building and warehouse facilities, actually the old Proctor & Gamble Distribution Centre in Hamilton. The plants had stood beside each other for decades and when operations ceased at the P&G plant, ArcelorMittal Dofasco bought the available properties.
L&D quarters were somewhat cramped at the start. Usually 2 or 3 people together in an office and it made it difficult at best to control the environment and my sensitivities. There were still more incidents in this building, nothing major, but enough to need Medical attention and oxygen to ease the symptoms. The symptoms seemed to be getting worse though; the choking, the feeling of suffocating, the heaviness of chest and even the simple act of breathing seemed to be too much at times. Each new episode seemed to take a little longer to recover from. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, recovery had been a few hours to a couple of days. Now by the mid-2000’s, the repeated incidents seemed to take away my ability to function for almost a week at a time and still the incidents continued.
As my family doctor was concerned with the growing inability to recover, I was once again sent to the Firestone Clinic. Again I had asked to go anywhere but to a Respirologist in Hamilton! This time I met Dr. McIvor. Dr. McIvor at least admitted that my respiratory problems began in 1995 with the initial accident. Whenever I would mention how I was feeling he would tell me to take my inhalers. All of my concerns were dismissed and again the feeling that other forces were at work with my healthcare took over. Requests for changes to medicine to see if something else would help were denied without reason. I felt like I was being dismissed with an “I’m the doctor, don’t question me attitude!”
At work concessions were made by the managers in the area such as being allowed go to my car whenever there was a Major Emergency practice drill, the L&D managers issued a note requesting perfumes and other fragrances not be used, and there was supposed to be schedules posted for when major repairs or floor work were going to be done. All in all it made working tolerable but still incidents would happen. The number of times I got phone calls saying, “oh you’re here, we’re painting, don’t use this entrance” or “oh you’re here, the floors are being buffed.” All usually ended with one of the bosses saying, “Why don’t you just go home for the rest of the day?” When I would ask about lost time, they would say, “Don’t worry about, we’ll work it out later. Just get out of here.” None of these were ever reported to Medical or to WSIB even though they happened with ever-increasing frequency. Sometimes-even weekly! Any odd smells that someone noticed would have the area bosses scrambling to get me out of the building and out of the area.
In April 2009, the then Director of HR, Graham Browne, was holding various meetings with the HR departments. Due to economic conditions we were being told to tighten our spending, not to order as many supplies unless necessary and so on. During his talks Mr. Browne mentioned that the biggest cost that ArcelorMittal Dofasco was facing was their legal fees. I had just received the date from my WSIAT Tribunal and approached my coach with a suggestion. If we could reach a severance deal, I would drop the tribunal, ArcelorMittal Dofasco wouldn’t have to have their lawyer spend a day or two at a hearing. I thought of it as a win-win and in return I wouldn’t talk about my experiences and accidents at work.
My coach, Ron Bailey, approached the Claims Manager and Mr. Primeau, her boss, with my proposal. It was turned down out of hand without any consideration whatsoever. During a meeting with the department manager I put forward my proposal again. It shocked him but I told him I was tired of being hurt and in my heart I feared more injuries and worsening health. Mr. Bailey took my proposal to Graham Browne and the decision was made to wait and see what happened at the Tribunal.
The events of the WSIAT Tribunal and waiting for the decision will be the next blog.