Canada: Toronto G8 and G20 Summits – Employer Planning Issues

From June 25 to 27, 2010, the downtown core of Toronto will be paralyzed by the G20 and G8 summits. Additionally, for the week starting June 21, there is great uncertainty about the role of protestors in the downtown area and how their involvement may adversely affect already limited services to and in the area. Employers should assess how the summits may affect their ability to maintain normal business operations. During the week of the two summits, police expect that conditions in the downtown core will change frequently. Downtown employers will need to monitor conditions during that week as the conditions are likely to affect customer and employee access and attendance at the workplace.

Background Info

The G8 summit will be held in Huntsville (June 25-26), and the larger G20 summit will be held in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (June 26-27). Delegates from the non-G8 countries will begin to arrive in Toronto on Monday, June 21, 2010. The Globe and Mail has reported that up to 10,000 uniformed officers, 1,000 private security guards, and Canadian military forces will be deployed to provide security.

Two different security zones will be created around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and at least three major hotels nearby, including The Royal York, the Intercontinental and the Harbour Castle. The first zone, encompassing the Convention Centre, will be under the control of the military and RCMP. Anyone entering this zone will be processed through five levels of airport style security screening. A second perimeter will be under the control of the Metro Police. Both perimeters will be completely fenced in by unscalable, three-metre-high walls and access will be strictly controlled. However, the final locations of these perimeters will not be disclosed until approximately two weeks prior to the G20 summit.

Restrictions on Movement in the Downtown Core

Residents and workers in the area of the Convention Centre will have to register with the authorities to get access to their homes and businesses during the G20 summit. For those affected, accreditation (registration) is expected to commence the first week of May.

Both inside and outside the two security zones, access and movement of people and vehicles are likely to be significantly impaired.

It is reported that there will be approximately 83 motorcades transporting the delegates and Internationally Protected Persons (IPP) within Toronto; each motorcade will include between 10 and 50 vehicles. Some of these motorcades will stop all traffic on their route of travel, possibly for several hours. This will likely affect those who take surface transit (i.e. bus and streetcars) to and from work, those who drive to work, and all deliveries and outgoing courier packages. Taxis that are generally located in front of office buildings are not likely to be permitted during this period.

Currently, the TTC and GO Transit have announced an intent to operate on their normal schedules and it is intended that Union Station will remain open, albeit with only two points of egress (Bay St. and to the Skydome). Transit spokespersons make it clear, however, that depending on circumstances (i.e., protests) the transit schedules may be disrupted. Union Station will not be accessible from the PATH system. Restricting Union Station in this manner will essentially force all those who use GO Transit through one entrance; anyone who takes a train on a specific schedule will need to leave work earlier than usual to get to their train on time. It is important to understand that there is no guarantee that transit will operate normally during this week; motorcades, protests, and larger disturbances have the potential to divert or stop surface transit and close subway stations.

At some point on Friday, June 25, if not sooner, the PATH system will be closed to all traffic.

Security will noticeably increase starting on June 21, although it is assumed that Friday, June 25, through Sunday, June 27, will be the days when the downtown core area is in lock-down mode.

Protests

Every summit held thus far has attracted protestors and most have experienced some violence.

While Trinity Bellwoods has been designated as an official protest site, it is likely that protesters may choose to utilize the open spaces in and around the bank towers for their demonstrations. Indeed, at a gathering at Queen's Park on Sunday May 2, 2010, it was reported that certain protest leaders announced that they had no intention of using that park for their protests or of co-operating with the police in planning for protests. The Toronto Community Mobilization Network has sent a call for "anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-colonial, antiracist, anti-patriarchy, anti-ableist, and queer positive convergence" to offer "direct resistance" to the leaders of the G20 summit. Just as the police are not announcing the boundaries of the security zones until two weeks prior to the summit, apparently those planning protests in opposition are also waiting to announce specific places and times of protests prior to the official protest march scheduled for Saturday, June 26.

Thus, the week is likely to be fluid, making precise, advance scheduling difficult. This presents challenges to employers seeking to maintain business as usual.

Health and Safety Legislation

As part of an employer's planning process, the applicable health and safety legislation may be relevant. The statutes require that employers take reasonable precautions in the circumstances to ensure the health and safety of workers at the workplace. For provincially regulated employers, on June 15, 2010, amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act take effect, requiring an employer to take steps to prevent violence in a workplace. For federally regulated employers, such as banks, the Canada Labour Code defines workplace violence as any action, conduct, threat or gesture of a person towards an employee in their workplace that can reasonably be expected to cause harm, injury or illness to that employee.

Thus, the safety legislation is not likely to permit workers to lawfully refuse to attend work due to potential violent protesters. However, remember that employers have a general duty to take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of workers. This may include not placing employees at risk, if over the days leading up to the G20 summit the protesters are out in force and violent. It may also require advance planning to address circumstances if workers are unable to safely leave the workplace because protests are occurring at the end of the work day.

Proactive Planning Steps

  1. Many employers developed business continuity plans in anticipation of the H1N1 virus. It may be prudent to review those plans to determine if there are useful strategies to implement for this period.
  2. Employers who are tenants in office towers should be coordinating with their property managers who may be developing access strategies for the buildings for the week leading to the G20 summit. Employers should ensure that all employees have current access cards. Property managers will know if employees of their tenants will require G20 accreditation for access to the buildings during the week of June 21, 2010.
  3. Employers need to determine whether their workplace will remain open on Friday, June 25, 2010, and/or through the week leading to the weekend summit. If no, how will employee wages be treated? Will the day be unpaid? Treated as a vacation day? Required to be taken as a floating holiday or paid by the employer as if the employees were actually at work? Employers should be mindful of contractual and/or collective agreement obligations, as well as applicable employment standards requirements.
  4. Employers need to consider if they require temporary quarters to be rented for short term needs. Or, for those businesses with operations in other parts of the city and other parts of Canada, can the work be performed from the alternate locations?
  5. Employers need to develop a communications strategy to communicate late breaking news to employees. It is the sense of the unknown with respect to the fluidity of the conditions on the TTC and GO schedules and access to the office towers that makes some of the planning difficult. Lists of home emails and current phone numbers should be compiled. Employees should be instructed to check an internal web page for instructions in the event of an unexpected office closure or for directions in the face of changing protest conditions. If that is not possible, there needs to be some other communication coordination so that employees can be advised if the workplace will be adversely affected by the G20 conditions prior to the weekend.
  6. Employers will need to assign the responsibility for monitoring the conditions during the week, as it is anticipated conditions with respect to access in and out of the downtown core, and to individual buildings, may vary frequently. Toronto Police will be giving real-time information regarding the protests on Facebook and Twitter, so employers can expect when delays to employee travel times may occur and employees can know what conditions they will face commuting to (or from) work.
  7. If work is to be performed remotely by employees, record the time worked for those who are overtime eligible. Confirm sufficient numbers of technology licences exist to perform the work remotely and sufficient VPN capability.
  8. Based on G20 summit protests in previous hosting cities, Toronto Police recommend that employers encourage staff to dress down so that they fit in with the protestors and are not visible as targets coming to work.
  9. Visits by clients or staff from outside the downtown core area during the week of June 21 may be discouraged. Hotels seem to be fully booked in any event by visiting government officials, media, the military and police.
  10. Consider cancelling face-to-face meetings at the office that week as it will be difficult for external parties to find parking or even get to the downtown core given the road closures and IPP motorcades.
  11. Police have advised property managers that they may lock down buildings from time to time and will advise tenants if they believe it is in their best interests to remain inside. Some employers are stockpiling cots and food for their employees who may be forced to stay overnight.
  12. Underground parking will likely only be accessible to monthly pass/transponder holders. Drivers may choose to take the TTC, however its schedule may be affected by protestors.
  13. Arrangements should be made for advance delivery of office and operational supplies necessary for that week.

Important Numbers and Addresses for the G20 Summit

The Integrated Security Unit for questions about the summits. They say they will answer within 24 hours: Crg-grc@g8.g20isu.ca or 1-888-446- 4047

Link to Toronto police service Twitter site, which will provide information about road closings and other disruptions (active during the summits): http://www.g8.g20isu.ca

For people who want to inquire about payments from the government, to compensate for any damage or loss of income related to the summit, requests will be fi elded by the summit's management office. http://www.g20.gc.ca or 1-877-750-6042

The home site for the Government of Ontario's G8 and G20 site: http://www.ontario.ca/en/initiatives/g20_summit/ONT05_024455

The Federal Government's G20 site: http://g20.gc.ca/home

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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