Westray Act Ignored Once Again

Families, Community Deserve Answers on Vale Miners' Deaths

SUDBURY, ON, Sept. 14, 2012 /CNW/ - Families and co-workers of Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier, and the entire community, deserve answers on the decision by police and Crown prosecutors not to pursue criminal charges, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

"There is extensive evidence that the deaths or Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier were avoidable and should never have happened," said USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand.

"We continue to believe that Vale showed a reckless disregard for the safety of its employees at the Stobie mine," Bertrand said.

"The evidence shows that ongoing safety hazards in the mine were ignored. We believe that Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier would not have been killed if these problems had been addressed."

The two miners died on June 8, 2011, after a torrent of wet mud and ore flooded a tunnel where they were working, at Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury. An eight-month investigation by USW Local 6500 uncovered damning evidence that the deaths could have been avoided.

Bertrand has requested a meeting with the Sudbury Crown Attorney to seek an explanation for the decision not to pursue criminal charges.

"Jordan's and Jason's families, their co-workers and our community deserve to know why, even in these disturbing circumstances, with so much evidence, that the Criminal Code doesn't apply to these deaths," Bertrand said.

"The Westray Act is supposed to protect workers and hold employers accountable," Bertrand said.

"We would like to know - what does it take for employers to face criminal responsibility when workers are killed on the job?"

The Westray Act amended the Criminal Code in 2004 to make corporations, their directors and executives criminally accountable for the health and safety of workers.

"Since 2004, more than 8,000 workers have been killed on the job in Canada, yet not a single corporate executive or director has been jailed for being criminally responsible - not one," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada.

"These shocking statistics are the reason why the United Steelworkers is launching a national campaign to urge provincial Attorneys General to take all necessary steps to ensure greater enforcement of the Westray Act," Neumann said.

"If the Westray Act is properly enforced, employers will be held to account for putting workers' lives at risk and ultimately we will see fewer fatalities," he said. "We are tired of workers' death and injury being considered an acceptable cost of doing business."

"The ongoing lack of accountability for the Vale deaths reinforces our union's demand for a commission of inquiry into mine safety in Ontario," said Wayne Fraser, USW District 6 Director.

"There have been significant changes in the industry and far too many deaths and injuries since the last health and safety inquiry was conducted three decades ago," Fraser said.

"A provincial inquiry is overdue and critical to the health and safety of workers throughout the industry."

The USW's full report on its investigation into the June 2011 fatalities at Vale is available at www.usw.ca/valefatalities.

SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Rick Bertrand, USW Local 6500 President, 705-675-3381
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Wayne Fraser, USW District 6 Director, 416-243-8792
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, bgallagher@usw.ca, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221


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