Steelworkers Consider Private Prosecution in B.C. Worker's Death

Lack of criminal charges in mine worker's death highlights need for Westray Act enforcement, says United Steelworkers

BURNABY, BC, Oct. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) is considering pursuing a private prosecution after the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch decided not to lay criminal charges in the death of mine worker John Wilson.

"We have legislation in this country to hold corporations and their executives criminally responsible when workers' lives are put at risk, but this legislation is not being enforced," says Stephen Hunt, the USW's western Canadian Director.

"The tragic death of John Wilson is further evidence that changes are required to ensure enforcement of the Westray legislation that was enacted in 2004," Hunt says. "More than 8,000 Canadians have been killed at work since then, but the Westray legislation has never been used to put a single corporate executive or manager in jail."

John Wilson was killed in February 2008 at Craigmont Mine near Merritt, B.C., when his excavator overturned into a tailings dam. He drowned.

A B.C. Ministry of Mines investigation determined the company violated several provisions of the Mines Act and the Health and Safety Reclamation Code for Mines.

Among those violations, the investigation determined that "the mine manager failed to ensure that the workplace was free of hazardous conditions, and specifically, failed to ensure that third-party affixments to mobile equipment did not pose a hazard to the operator when working in and near water."

The USW is spearheading a national campaign to stop the killing of workers and demand greater enforcement of the Westray legislation, Hunt said.

The legislation was enacted in response to the Westray coal mine explosion that killed 26 workers in Nova Scotia on May 9, 1992.

"After the horror of Westray, politicians of all stripes were eager to declare their support for the Westray Bill and promise that no more Canadian workers would needlessly lose their lives because of the negligence of corporations. They've failed to live up to their promises," Hunt said.

"When a law isn't being enforced, it's incumbent on elected officials at every level of government to fix it. While politicians talk, 1,000 Canadians continue to be killed at work each year. It's time for real action to protect the safety of every worker in every province."

The union's national campaign will seek support from Canadians to highlight the lack of enforcement of the Westray Bill and lobby the federal and provincial governments to work cooperatively to ensure the safety of workers.

SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-816-2554
Brad West, USW Communications, 604-683-1117, 604-754-1174, bwest@usw.ca


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