Action needed now to make worksites safe as province braces for boom in
EDMONTON, Sept. 16, 2011 /CNW/ - The delay of the criminal case against
companies involved in the deaths of two oilsands employees is bad news
for Alberta workers, says the province's largest labour group.
"Justice delayed is justice denied - and the families of these workers
have been waiting for more than four years for the court to hear what
happened," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of
Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers. "But this delay also
spells danger for people now working in Alberta or who will be working
here in the months and years to come," he says.
"The two workers who died in April 2007 at the Canadian Natural
Resources Ltd. (CNRL) Horizon project, and another four who were
injured, were Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) unfamiliar with Albertan
workplace procedures and safety standards. The Alberta government
failed to take the necessary measures to ensure our standards were
being maintained - and the workers paid the price with their lives,"
says McGowan. "Alberta is on the cusp of another boom in bringing in
foreign workers - we could have more than 100,000 TFWs here soon. We
need to learn the lessons from this tragedy now in order to ensure the
same fatal mistakes aren't made again. This trial delay makes learning
those lessons more difficult," he says.
The number of applications to bring TFWs into Alberta approved by the
federal government soared by 37 per cent between 2009 and 2010, rising
by 11,655 to a total of 42,885. Add that to the 57,774 TFWs already
working here in 2010 and Alberta could soon pass the six-figure mark.
A total of 53 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act have
been laid against CNRL, Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Company Ltd. and
SSED Canada Ltd.. The companies were to go to trial Oct. 3, but the
case has been put over until Oct. 1, 2012.
"The Alberta government had a hand in the accident in 2007. Alarm bells
should have gone off for provincial regulators when it became known
that CNRL was hiring a Chinese contracting firm. Inspectors should have
been at the site before ground was broken and should have made frequent
visits to ensure our safety standards were being met - but that didn't
happen," he says.
"We cannot ignore or fail to enforce our rules just because these are
foreign workers. The government must be more serious about its
responsibility to inspect worksites and enforce its rules, or more
workers will die or be hurt," says McGowan. "We have to make sure that
these foreign construction firms, whether they come from China or other
countries, are not importing Third World labour and health and safety
practices along with the temporary foreign workers that they use."
SOURCE Alberta Federation of Labour
For further information:
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888