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BC Ferries appeals order to take back Queen of the North captain

VICTORIA – The Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal is considering appeals of the decision that ordered British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. to reinstate the captain who was in charge the night the Queen of the North sank.

Both B.C. Ferries and the employee have appealed the decision, said Donna Freeman, a spokesperson for WorkSafeBC. Details about the case are confidential, she said, but there are situations where each side may disagree with different aspects of an order or a decision.

Neither B.C. Ferries nor the lawyer representing Captain Colin Henthorne responded to requests for comment by publishing time.

Henthorne was to be reinstated by May 25, 2009, the Tyee reported, according to a February order based on a decision where “WorkSafe BC found that the employer had taken prohibited discriminatory action against a worker (dismissed the worker, at least in part, for raising occupational health and safety concerns) contrary to section 151 of the Act.”

That section of the Workers Compensation Act protects workers who speak out about health and safety concerns where they work. It includes provisions to prevent an employer from firing a worker to prevent him or her from testifying “in any matter, inquiry or proceeding” on an issue “related to occupational health and safety or occupational environment.”

CBC reported in March that B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the government-owned company would comply with the order. "WorkSafeBC has issued an order that BC Ferries must reinstate the captain for the Queen of the North," she said. "BC Ferries does respect the decision of WorkSafeBC and we will be reinstating that individual shortly."

The WCAT may take up to six months to make a decision on the appeals, Freeman said.

The February order also required the company to try to reach an agreement on how much money it owes Henthorne for lost wages, benefits and interest since April 15, 2008.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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