Court fines supervisor $22,500 in the deaths of two Jamaican Migrant Workers

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) decries the denial of justice for families of the deceased

TORONTO, Jan. 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) decries the denial of justice for the families of Ralston White and Paul Roach, two migrant workers killed while working near Ayton, Ontario in September 2010. On Tuesday January 10th, 2011, four individuals associated with Filsinger farms were set to go to trial on multiple charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), in one of the first OSHA prosecutions involving migrant workers. These individuals were to be held accountable for the deaths of Jamaican migrant workers Ralston White and Paul Roach, who died of environment asphyxiation as a result of a confined space accident at Filsinger's Organic Farms.

If the case had gone to trial the four individuals would have faced the charges for failing to: ensure a written program for a confined space inside a vinegar tank was developed and maintained before the workers entered the tank; ensure the workers received adequate training in accordance with the relevant plan and followed the plan before entering the tank; ensure adequate written site rescue procedures had been developed and were ready for immediate implementation; ensure that each worker entering a confined space inside a vinegar tank was adequately protected against suffocation and other hazards by adequate means; appoint a person to perform adequate tests before and while workers entered a confined space inside a vinegar tank; ensure that where atmospheric hazards existed in a confined space inside a vinegar tank, the confined space was purged, ventilated or both, before workers entered; take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that the workers did not enter a vinegar tank; provide information, instruction and supervision to the workers on the dangers of working inside a tank.

However due to an agreement between the Ministry of Labour and the legal representative of the accused, all charges were dropped against three of the four individuals. A fourth person pleads guilty to a single charge of failing to 'take reasonable precaution to ensure that the workers did not enter a vinegar tank'. This same individual, a supervisor, was also fined $22,500 for the deaths of Mr. White and Mr. Roach. The owners of the company were not found responsible or penalized in any way. The fine, according to the presiding judicial official, was meant as a 'deterrent' to other employers.

J4MW believes that this agreement is not a deterrent but instead sends the message that employers will go virtually unpunished for workplace violations. "This decision tells employers that the Ministry of Labour will go easy on them if workplace violations cause the deaths of migrant workers," says Tzazna Miranda Leal, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW). "Two people died and company gets off the hook and a supervisor gets a slap on the wrist. This will not make migrants feel any safer," continues Miranda Leal.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is renewing its calls that the provincial government enact the following steps to protect workers:

*Snap inspections for all workplaces and accommodations where migrant workers live and work  *A coroner's inquest into the details relating to these workplace deaths; *an appeals mechanism built into the SAWP and TFW so that migrant workers cannot be arbitrarily and unilaterally repatriated to their homeland (anti-reprisal protection) *Industry specific regulations for the agricultural industry under the Occupational Health and Safety Act *increased labour rights and protections for all migrant workers;  and a criminal investigation into this workplace fatality as mandated by section 217.1 of the criminal code of Canada.

The code states that: Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.

SOURCE Justicia for Migrant Workers

For further information:

Chris Ramsaroop, organizer justicia for migrant workers 647 834 4932

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Justicia for Migrant Workers

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