Canadian border agents have not removed their name tags despite a federal tribunal ruling that states the tags present a hazard to employees.
The Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada ruling made last week says the agents can't be forced to wear them without the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) having addressed "the assessed hazard associated with the implementation of the new name tag policy."
That hasn't happened, according to the ruling and the union representing border guards.
The tribunal says the CBSA contravened Canada’s Labour Code in implementing the name tag policy.
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The Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada ruled the name tags were "a hazard" and that the CBSA "failed to take preventive measures to address the assessed hazard associated with the implementation of the new Name Tag policy."
Therefore, the CBSA will continue to ensure its border agents wear them during a risk assessment, a spokesperson said.
"The July 3, 2014 decision of the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal of Canada did not challenge the agency’s requirement for officers to wear name tags. The Tribunal decision requires that the agency implement additional preventative measures," CBSA spokesperson Esme Bailey said in an email to CBC News.
"The CBSA takes its duty to protect employees’ health and safety very seriously, and will work with the union to implement these additional preventative measures as soon as possible. Officers are still required to wear name tags during the implementation of these measures."
Jason McMichael, the first vice president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said he spoke with "the highest levels of CBSA management” and asked to have name tags removed from uniforms immediately.
“It doesn’t appear they will allow that. They don’t feel compelled by [OHSTC] direction," McMichael said. "We don’t believe our members have to wear the name tags, but before we issue anything that indicates that, we want to have a strong legal standing.
"We don’t want to do anything that gets them in trouble."
"I look forward to working with the CBSA to ensure the risk assessment is done with the safety of our members done at top of mind," McMichael said.
While that happens, agents will continue to wear name tags, McMichael said.
The name tag policy was designed to modernize the CBSA uniform and "reflect our commitment to service excellence and reinforce the professionalism and integrity," the CBSA said in 2012.
McMichael said the union is "vehemently against" wearing name tags.
"If the general public wants to go to the lengths of finding out who the member is they are dealing with, that information is available. If there is a complaint or they want to register a compliment, there’s a process," he said. "Our concern is the traveller who has had a bad experience and is impulsive and immediately goes to the phone book to get back at this officer.
"Up until a year and a half ago if there was a concern and they wanted to seek out some sort of revenge they couldn’t immediately find us in the phone book or on any level of social media or through a Google search."
CIU Local 0018 Windsor district branch president Ace Essex, who represents members that work at the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in Windsor, Ont., previously told CBC News some front-line border agents are so concerned for their safety they have started using pseudonyms on Facebook so they can't be found online.
Sukanya Pillay, executive director and general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, supports name tags on all law enforcement officers.
"I see name tags as a good thing. I don’t think there is any hard evidence it threatens officers any more than they are already threatened," she said. "The name tag is a confidence-building measure and an accountability check that can provide a lot of positives on the officers and the public."
Other law enforcement wear tags
For nearly five years, the Toronto Police Association fought similar policy. It lost its battle in 2011 when the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that name tags did not present a danger.
"Expert evidence ... did not establish that there was an increased risk of harm to members of the [Toronto Police Service] from the wearing of name tags," the board concluded.
Ninety Toronto police officers were disciplined for removing their name tags during the G20 Summit weekend in 2010.
Many officers did not wear name tags on their uniform during the summit, which in some instances made it difficult to identify them in photos and footage during subsequent reviews into police actions..
Front-line members of the RCMP, Canadian Forces, Correctional Service Canada and United States Customs and Border Protection already wear name tags.