BURNABY, BC, Oct. 28, 2013 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) is launching a national campaign to lobby provincial and federal governments for greater enforcement of the Westray Act, nine years after the union successfully lobbied for passage of the historic legislation in 2004.
The Westray legislation was passed unanimously in the House of Commons in response to the Westray coal mine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners on May 9, 1992.
"After the horror of Westray, politicians of all stripes were eager to support the Westray Bill and promise that no more Canadian workers would needlessly lose their lives due to corporate negligence. They've failed to live up to their promises." says Stephen Hunt, the USW's western Canadian Director.
The Westray legislation was intended to hold corporate executives, directors and managers criminally responsible for workplace deaths. Since the law was enacted in 2004, approximately 9,000 Canadians have been killed on the job, yet not one corporate executive, director or manager has faced a single day in jail.
Delegates to the USW District 3 Health and Safety Conference in Vancouver this week have heard from family members of workers who were killed at work. They are calling for coordination between government agencies and police to ensure workplace deaths are investigated properly and that employers are held accountable.
As part of the national campaign, the USW has created a website - www.stopthekilling.ca - to raise awareness of the need for governments to enforce the Westray legislation.
USW National Director Ken Neumann says it's time for elected officials to act to protect worker safety.
"When a law isn't being enforced, it's incumbent on elected officials at every level of government to fix it," Neumann says. "While politicians talk, 1,000 Canadians continue to be killed at work each year. It's time for real action to protect the safety of every worker in every province."
Key changes being sought by the USW campaign include:
- Education, training and direction for Crown attorneys to apply the Westray legislation;
- Assigning dedicated prosecutors the specific responsibility of handling workplace health and safety fatalities;
- Education, training and direction for police services to apply the Westray legislation.
- Greater coordination among health and safety regulators, police and Crown attorneys so that regulators are trained to reach out to police when there is a possibility that criminal charges under the Westray legislation are warranted.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Stephen Hunt, USW District 3 Director, 604-816-2554
Brad West, USW Communications, 604-754-1174