B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has told Teck Coal to stop collecting certain employee information gathered from surveillance cameras.
Three employees had complained the company was using cameras at its Fording River Operations mine site northeast of Cranbrook to record them. This is in violation of the collection and use provisions of B.C.’s Personal Information Protection Act.
Teck said it uses video cameras throughout the site and in its office area to monitor and oversee production, to detect operational issues as they occur and to ensure safety and security under the Mines Act.
The cameras record continuously, and footage is destroyed after 30 days.
Cameras in a tool crib area exist only in case of need for a theft investigation or for a safety or operational situation.
The complainants alleged the cameras are not completely focused on the tool crib and can be moved by administrators. They asserted the real use is to observe employees and that the company had attempted in 2016 to discipline two employees seen standing around on video footage.
“They say that monitoring the conduct and work performance of employees is an affront to their dignity,” adjudicator Erika Syrotuck said in the May 19 decision.
Teck said management had look at the live feed and the situation there was no different than if a manager had observed a situation directly or through a report from someone else
A further five cameras in dispute are in office areas. Three are in hallways outside of the maintenance and administration offices while the remaining two are in the boardrooms and have been disabled and are being removed.
Those cameras are for theft and security breach issues, Teck argued. The tool crib cameras collected employee personal information in an active work area beyond the tool crib itself.
While the complainants had suggested the cameras were being used covertly, Syrotuck said union was provided with a full list of cameras, their locations and who can access them.
“I do not think that Teck is collecting the information covertly,” she said.
But, she added, “I conclude that the way that Teck is constantly recording its employees through the tool crib cameras does cause offense to its employees’ dignity.”
She said the use of the tool crib cameras was not justified given its intrusion on employee privacy.
For the office area, the complainants said key card access records say who is in and out of that area. Teck said there are many hours a day when no one is in those areas, making the cameras essential for security.
Syrotuck said it is reasonable to have the cameras on when no one is in the areas and to turn them off during working hours.
She said other than the theft of a candy bar from a machine, there was no evidence of theft to justify the cameras.
“Teck’s failure to demonstrate the effectiveness, combined with the intrusion on its employees’ privacy, lead me to conclude the collection of its employee’s personal information is not reasonable for the purpose of managing the employment relationship,” she said.