Major rail union applauds Ottawa's new legislation on safety

Teamsters say it's time to plug loopholes that allow railways to put profit ahead of public safety

OTTAWA, June 2 /CNW/ - Calling it the right thing to do, Teamsters Canada applauds yesterday's announcement from the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to put the clamps on railways flouting safety rules.

"Since the Railway Safety Act was amended in 1999, it is disturbing how many safety rules violations there have been by railways," says William Brehl, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, Maintenance of Way Employees Division, and a member of Transport Canada's Advisory Council on Railway Safety.

"In fact, over the last decade Transport Canada reports there have been more than 10,000 train collisions and derailments - and that is an average of three a day. Most are minor, some result in evacuations and even loss of life, and many are potential disasters with so many dangerous commodities being shipped around Canada by rail," he adds.

On Tuesday, The Honourable Rob Merrifield, Minister of State (Transport), announced that the Government of Canada will introduce legislation to improve railway safety in Canada because of "the importance of a safe and secure national rail transportation system, not only to communities across the country but also to Canada's economic well-being."

"For someone whose life is devoted to the labour movement, it is not easy for me to throw accolades at the Conservative government. But on this issue of public safety, the Conservatives are doing the right thing and we have to give them credit," Mr. Brehl says.

The proposed legislation calls for a tightening of the rules, hiring more safety inspectors at Transport Canada, whistleblower protection for workers reporting violations, stiff monetary penalties for violations and more.

"Will this legislation end all accidents and derailments?," Mr. Brehl asks, "No, probably not. But it may bring rail safety up to the levels we see in Europe and end this game of Russian roulette that Canadian railways have long played when it comes to public safety."

About TCRC-MWED

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees Division (TCRC-MWED), a division of Teamsters Canada, represents more than 4,000 maintenance of way workers at CP Rail and almost two dozen short line railroads. Its members are involved in inspecting, monitoring and repairing the tracks, bridges and structures on the network. TCRC-MWED's mission is to make sure that the railway is safe, in spite of any economic, managerial or other obstacles.

SOURCE Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC)

For further information: For further information: Lise Cyr, TCRC-MWED, 800-567-0571, lcyr@tcrcmwed.ca

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Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC)

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