Toronto Transit union head condemns TTC for "slander" against worker killed in subway tunnel accident



    TORONTO, June 5 /CNW/ - ATU Local 113 President Bob Kinnear reacted
angrily to the Toronto Transit Commission's premature and selective release of
information related to the death of union member Tony Almeida in the
April 2007 subway accident. The Globe and Mail reported today that Almeida
"was high on marijuana when the work car he was driving crashed, according to
a high-ranking Toronto Transit Commission source."
    "This is a despicable attempt to shift blame to the victim of a tragedy
for which the TTC has already pleaded guilty," Kinnear said.
    "After an exhaustive year-long investigation, there is no evidence that
Tony was in the slightest way responsible for the accident and, in fact, he
could not have been. He was operating the flatbed work car, which runs on
rails, and had been given clearance by a supervisor to proceed back to the
yard as the shift had ended. He was proceeding at a normal speed when the
accident occurred.
    "He was killed because a moveable work platform had not been properly
retracted, which is why the TTC was fined $250,000 under the Occupational
Health and Safety Act. In no way could it have been his fault.
    "Moreover, the TTC source's claim that Tony was 'high on marijuana' is
speculative at best, as marijuana can be detected in the blood for weeks after
its use.
    "On behalf of Tony's widow and children, we condemn in the strongest
possible terms the TTC's outrageous slander against a man who is not alive to
defend himself.
    "The irony here is that Tony Almeida died while removing asbestos from
the subway. Asbestos is a potent carcinogen and a major lingering public
health hazard which is the result of past TTC decisions. Now the TTC wants to
taint his name and burden his children with a public image of their father as
someone who caused his own death through the use of marijuana. It is shameful
and will, at a minimum, poison labour relations at the TTC for the foreseeable
future."
    Kinnear also says the union will not comment further on the issue of drug
and alcohol testing of TTC employees until there is a specific proposal to
address. He did, however, reiterate longstanding union policy on the issue of
impairment.
    "Our union's policy on fitness for work has always been the same: If for
any reason you do not feel able to safely perform your duties, do not report
for work. Many prescription drugs can cause some degree of impairment, let
alone other substances, and we must always err on the side of safety.
    "We will await any specific proposal from the TTC in this area and will
comment at that time."





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For further information: Bill Reno, (416) 223-7366


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