Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (July 2016)
Article by Jeff Cottrill, Editor
Less than two months after a reported at Canada’s largest newspaper took her own life, the publication has agreed to an external review of its workplace culture, but the union representing its journalists is pushing for a broader investigation into how that culture may have contributed to tragedy.
Award-winning Toronto Star global-environment reporter Raveena Aulakh, 42, committed suicide in late May, 2016. In a June 07, 2016 editorial, Star public editor, Kathy English, revealed that Aulakh had been involved in a relationship with senior manager Jon Filson – one that had ended shortly before the tragedy – and that she had accused Filson of also being involved with managing editor Jane Davenport, his supervisor.
English wrote that senior management at the newspaper had conducted an internal investigation following the revelations and allegations made by Aulakh in e-mails sent to several people in the newsroom, and that both Filson and Davenport had been fired from the paper following the internal investigation.
Paul Morse, president of Unifor Local 87-M, says his union has agreed to participate in the Star’s upcoming external review, but will continue to call for a fuller, independent investigation. He explains that the employer is planning to hire a clinical facilitator who will examine the newsroom culture.
“But they have placed severe restrictions on that,” Morse claims, adding that the facilitator will not be allowed to look at anything surrounding the Raveena situation at all.
“We are looking for an investigation where somebody can come in with relatively free reign and to look at all the aspects that need to be looked at and ask the tough questions, and then hope come up with some significant recommendations and help the Toronto Star move forward in its healing,” Morse adds.
Unifor Local 87-M filed a grievance under a collective agreement in the wake of Aulakh’s death, seeking a full, external investigation of the paper’s workplace culture.
“There are some serious questions that need to be asked about the culture of the newsroom itself, the interaction between management and employees and how to move forward in healing that particular situation,” Morse adds. “We believe that there are factors at play that have contributed to its becoming a more toxic workplace that it might have been in the past, and really, only an external investigator at this point is going to be able to get at the roots of those issues, if they exist.”
A recent memo to newsroom staff from John Honderich – Chairman of Torstar, the corporation that owns the newspaper – and Star Editor Michael Cooke reportedly states that management does not agree with the union’s allegation of a poisonous work environment, but admits that staff members have raised “legitimate concerns”.
As I read this report, I could not get my attention of the “Violence and Harassment” legislation enacted in 2010 (and updated since) that would have given Aulakh something to consider when this affair began.
It is true I do not know who initiated the affair but it would be safe to assume it was not her since the senior manager was in another relationship as well.
Harassment occurs when someone
- Makes unwelcome remarks or jokes about your race, religion, sex, age, disability or any other of the grounds of discrimination;
- Threatens or intimidates you because of your race, religion, sex, age, disability or any other of the grounds of discrimination;
- Makes unwelcome physical contact with you, such as touching, patting, or pinching.
Where was her chance to contact someone for protection? Was her union rep. ever contacted? Did the company have a violence and harassment as defined by the OHSA?
All good questions but not enough answers and someone dies. Tragic!
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ and ‘Violence and Harassment’.
Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
CEO & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.