Long-awaited Federal Commitment on Enforcing Workplace Fatality Law a Welcome Move Forward, says Steelworkers

OTTAWA, April 28, 2017 /CNW/ - Leaders of the United Steelworkers (USW) in Canada said today's statement by the federal justice and labour ministers for better enforcement of the "Westray Law" is welcome news on the Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job.

"Our union has worked long and hard to stop the killing and enforce the law, since we won the Criminal Code changes in 2003 that are intended to hold corporations criminally accountable for workplace death and injury," said USW National Director Ken Neumann. "This announcement not only comes in time for the Day of Mourning, it has now been one week since three more of our members were killed in the forests of Vancouver Island in a lumber train derailment.

"Since the 1992 explosion of the Westray Coal mine, the USW has fought for justice for the 26 miners who died in that totally preventable disaster, and for their families, who continue to grieve. The same is true for thousands of families who have lost loved ones on the job.  We have met many of them in our struggle.

"We testified at the inquiry, lobbied for years to get the Criminal Code amendments now known as the Westray Law, and have campaigned to get it properly enforced."

Western Canada Director Steve Hunt said, "Too many times, even if charges are laid under the Westray Law, employers are excused with fines, which makes killing workers a mere cost of doing business."

Ontario-Atlantic Director Marty Warren added, "If the government is serious, then human and financial resources must be applied to education and training of police and prosecutors to finally get this right."

In Quebec, Director Alain Croteau said a recent court decision has ruled that charges laid under provincial health and safety legislation may be used to lay criminal charges in workplace fatalities.

"All the pieces of the puzzle must add up to just one thing – an end to the killing of workers," said Croteau. "A job must not be a potential death sentence – on any level."

USW leaders thanked the Canadian Labour Congress for its support in making the Westray Law a focus of the 2017 National Day of Mourning, commemorated each year on April 28.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca


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