March 2013 - Not Under The Pine Press
A midsized facility in Etobicoke, Ontario, that makes peanut butter for industrial use has recently started enforcing a ban on nuts in the workplace. According to the company's HR representative there are numerous employees working in the onsite offices that have serious peanut allergies and/or brazil nut allergies. "We are taking into account the health of our employees...it just makes sense. You can't have employees having anaphylactic attacks at the work place...productivity would be negatively impacted."
The situation came to a head three months ago when this factory, which used to produce jams and other fruit based spreads, changed production to peanut butter. At the time there were employees with nut allergies who were offered a severance package and politely asked to leave. However, this enraged allergy activists and the local food manufacturing employee union (LFMEU 2127). A court battle ensued with affected employees arguing a violation of the charter of rights, their right to work, and other such rights.
An out of court settlement has been agreed to by both sides. The company has agreed to transfer the employees to non-production based jobs and strictly enforce what they are calling a 'no nuts in the office' policy.
The Allergists United movement has claimed a victory here, sighting this as an example of compromise and inclusion by the 'non-allergic'. "Even in a situation as extreme as a peanut butter factory those with nut allergies can, and should, be included," spokeswoman R. Walsh announced at a local meeting last Thursday afternoon.
The owner of the factory, who is rumoured to have a peanut allergy himself, was supportive of the ban through the entire process. He was previously quoted, in 2008, as saying, "a healthy worker is a productive worker." Which may be part of the reason the bargaining went so smoothly.