NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 8 -- Workers employed at Quebecor World, Inc. facilities in Covington, Tenn., and Corinth, Miss., urged the Tennessee and Mississippi state governments to investigate allegations that the printing company repeatedly violated state workers' compensation laws. Quebecor may face thousands of dollars in fines if the states determine that the company violated the laws.
In letters to the Tennessee Department of Labor and the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission, the Quebecor World employees alleged that the company refused to file workers' compensation claims, retaliated against workers for filing compensation claims, failed to report injuries, discouraged workers from reporting injuries, and denied workers required treatment providers.
The six Quebecor workers who contacted state regulatory agencies have incurred numerous medical expenses and lost wages as a result of their on-the- job injuries that they maintain the company is obligated by law to pay.
"Quebecor's violations of workers' compensation laws literally add insult to injury," said Richard Finnie who works in Quebecor's Covington, Tenn. plant. Finnie injured his wrist while working as a stacker in the plant's pressroom. After visiting the emergency room, Finnie claims the company refused to abide by his medical restrictions and pressured him to take unpaid leave. According to Finnie, the company did not inform him of his right to file for workers' compensation or follow any of the procedures set forth by the workers' compensation law.
"It's important to expose this problem so none of our coworkers will have to go through this," says Mary Brawner, a worker at Quebecor's Corinth, Miss. facility. Brawner suffered a workplace injury to her wrist and requested that the company file a worker's compensation claim on her behalf. She believes Quebecor did not file the claim, and asserts that the company has refused to reimburse her for medical expenses she incurred associated with her on-the-job injury. Brawner stated that the Company has provided no reason as to why it will not reimburse her for these expenses.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Quebecor World more than 140 times over the past five years for unsafe working conditions in its printing plants. Since 1998, Quebecor's health and safety record has been worse than those of its major competitors-R.R. Donnelly, Banta and Quad Graphics-combined.
Quebecor World workers in Tennessee have particularly suffered. A Tennessee OSHA investigation faulted Quebecor in an accident that caused the death of Donald Wilkerson, an employee at the company's Clarksville, Tenn. plant, who was crushed in a shrink-wrapping machine in December 2002. During a fire in the company's Memphis plant in August 2003, fire suppression equipment failed to activate-endangering hundreds of workers' lives. Two workers were hospitalized, and one had severe burns on one-third of his body. Faulty fire safety equipment also endangered the lives of workers in Quebecor World's Dickson, Tenn. plant during another recent fire.
"We believe the alleged workers' compensation violations identified in Mississippi and Tennessee are just the tip of the iceberg," said GCIU Research and Contracts Director Alan Tate, "and we are investigating whether the company engages in similar practices in other states."
Quebecor World workers are trying to form a union with the Graphic Communications International Union as part of the [email protected]
campaign. Workers want a union to gain safer jobs and to have their rights' respected on the job.
The [email protected]
campaign, launched in December 2003, is an unprecedented effort by Quebecor workers and their unions throughout the world to win basic human rights on the job at Quebecor World's facilities worldwide. These rights, which are enshrined in the conventions and declarations of the International Labor Organization, include the right to organize a union free from management interference, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the right to a safe and healthy workplace.
Quebecor World Responds to Union Allegations
Quebecor World strongly denies allegations contained in a union sponsored press release that it has violated workers' compensation laws. Quebecor World has received no communication from either the State of Tennessee or State of Mississippi relative to its handling of workers' compensation matters. Should any inquiry be forthcoming, Quebecor World will cooperate fully and with confidence that our practices meet all state standards.
Quebecor World has a well-developed safety program that includes the proper handling of workers' compensation matters. Quebecor World uses the services of leading insurance companies to manage workers' compensation claims. If an injury occurs, an injury report is filed with the insurance company which investigates the claim and, if accepted, manages the claim through its completion.
This program is in effect in all locations including our operations in Tennessee and Mississippi. This program, including the use of an outside insurance carrier, ensures that all possible workers' compensation matters are handled in a timely, effective and lawful manner. Under no circumstances does Quebecor World fail to report work related injuries, discourage employees from reporting any work related injury or retaliate against any employee for filing a workers' compensation claim.
The union press release includes other false and misleading information about Quebecor World. For example, after an extensive OSHA investigation into a tragic and fatal accident at its unionized Clarkesville, Tennessee facility the Company was found not to be at fault.
Quebecor World has solid relationships with the union members of its workforce and is one of the most highly unionized companies in the printing industry. Approximately one-third of our U.S. employees or more than 7,000 are union members. This compares to approximately 12% of public and private sector unionized employees in the U.S.