Boot Camp

Garrett Macklam-Harron and PEA achieve reimbursement for safety boots

Words by Jessica Natale Woollard, Photo by Zomboots

In June of 2023, PEA member Garrett Macklam-Harron finally received payment for his safety footwear, a year after he filed a grievance for the denial of this reimbursement.

It came after mediation-arbitration, which resulted in a payment for his safety footwear and also a path forward to ensure that members and managers were knowledgeable about the need for safe footwear in the forestry sector.

Boots Made for Walking, Safely

For years Garrett, a stewardship forester with the Ministry of Forests, has had a portion of his safety boots—required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as part of his work—covered by the Employer. He has held positions as a forester in the PEA and BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) in different offices around the province.

Significantly, the two collective agreements have identical language about the Employer covering a portion of boots. In both unions, Garrett had successfully claimed the $150 allowable every two years to receive reimbursement from the Employer for his much-needed safety footwear.

“It was just part of usual business every two years to (submit receipts for new boots),” Garrett says.

In 2021, he moved into a PEA position in 100 Mile House. When eight months in his boots began taking on water, Garrett did what he had done for years: he bought new safety boots and submitted his receipt for a partial reimbursement.

This time, the Employer said no; they would not reimburse the boots.

In response, Garrett provided the excerpt from the Government Licensed Professionals (GLP) collective agreement, which supported his position. He also provided a rational for boots being PPE, citing safe work procedures, WorkSafe BC, and Workers Compensation Board guidance.

The Employer still refused to reimburse the expense.

“It seemed strange to everyone that a safety item would need to be grieved to be able to be reimbursed, especially when there was language in the collective agreement that allowed for this particular PPE to be partially reimbursed,” Garrett explains.

With the Employer refusing to change their position, Garrett filed a grievance in May 2022, with the strong support of the PEA.

Hazardous Stomping Grounds

Foresters like Garrett clock serious mileage on their boots. In rain, snow, sleet, and sun, they collectively trek thousands of kilometers a year. Safety boots are an important piece of PPE to protect them from the many hazards they encounter.

As a stewardship forester, Garrett manages reforestation after wildfires and oversees the planting of millions of trees. He treads all terrains in his work, including ground damaged by fire, which frequently leaves behind abrasive scree, trees that have burned down to sharp points, root systems that have burned through to create a tripping hazard, and loose gravel among the slippery ash where soils have been burnt away. These conditions quickly degrade even high-quality safety footwear.


Working in the wildfires and in the woods, boots get beaten up more than just a hike up a mountain. Garrett Macklam-Harron


His role requires regular fieldwork as he identifies and assesses planting sites and surveys the planting and growth of trees.

Garrett’s work requires him to frequently work alone in remote areas, where he would not have an easy exit if he fell and or got injured.

“To be able to encompass areas where millions of trees can be planted, (foresters) hike a lot of kilometers daily,” he adds.

Union’s Perspective

Employers, unions and their members have a shared responsibility for safety. Safety is a particularly important consideration in conditions that are unstable and remote, such as in areas affected by wildfires. It is important that members can predict how collective agreement language will be applied and that managers have the tools they need to make good decisions.

An interesting fact in the PEA’s grievance was that in the 2022 round of bargaining, the Employer had expanded the definition of compensable footwear from “safety-toe footwear” to “safety footwear.” This change was retroactive to before the grievance was filed, and arguably broadened the types of footwear that was eligible for reimbursement.

In the grievance, it was the PEA’s position that the conditions Garrett was working in clearly necessitated the use of safety footwear under WorkSafe regulations, and that it was therefore compensable under both the former and current collective agreement language. The fact that the Employer denied the reimbursement given the hazards Garrett regularly faced in his work was perplexing and frustrating.

As the outcome in Garrett’s grievance relates to a single grievor, PEA advises members to get in touch with their union if their reimbursement requests are denied.

Fill Your Boots
By refusing to back down, Garrett has had a portion of his 2022 safety boots covered.

Meanwhile, at nearly two years old, those boots are quite worn, and they’re no longer waterproof, Garrett says.

Now a stewardship forester in Williams Lake, Garrett expects he’ll need to purchase a new pair come April.

“I’m in a different office, but I’m hopeful that I won’t need to grieve it to get them to cover the boots,” he adds.

This time, he may have support in numbers. The positive outcome of his grievance process is known among Garrett’s colleagues, and he and the PEA have worked to make sure that members know they should request reimbursement for their safety footwear.

The grievance outcome should encourage eligible colleagues to request that the Employer partially cover PPE required for their safety on the job, as outlined in the collective agreement.

The PEA invites more union members to put their best foot forward—and to do so safely.

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