TORONTO – The first-ever criminal charge under the Westray Law in Nova Scotia and increased criminal investigations demonstrate the effectiveness of the United Steelworkers’ (USW) national campaign to eliminate workplace deaths.
“Our union’s campaign to Stop The Killing, Enforce The Law is gaining support across the country and it’s making a difference,” says USW National Director Ken Neumann.
The RCMP has charged the owner of an auto repair shop in Dartmouth, N.S., with criminal negligence causing death in connection with an explosion that killed Peter Kempton, a mechanic, on Sept. 20, 2013.
“For too long workplace deaths have been normalized as something that just happens, but our union believes differently,” says Neumann. “Steelworkers believe that all workers have the right to come home safely from their jobs. We believe that only the enforcement of the Westray Law will get that message across to irresponsible employers.”
The so-called Westray Law amended the Criminal Code in 2004 to provide for criminal prosecution of employers and corporate executives, directors and supervisors in cases of negligence causing workplace deaths and injuries.
The criminal charge laid by the RCMP in Nova Scotia follows recent criminal investigations into the workplace deaths of a forestry worker in British Columbia and a miner in northern Ontario.
Most significantly, the owner of Metron Construction in Toronto has been convicted of criminal negligence that resulted in the death of four workers in 2009. With sentencing still pending, USW Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren says anything less than jail time would be a travesty.
“The consequence of killing four workers has to be more than paying a fine. We cannot reduce the loss of human life to the cost of doing business. Jail time is the only appropriate sentence in this case and the only measure that will provide any semblance of justice to the families of the workers who were killed,” says Warren.
USW Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt says the union is encouraged by the recent developments and is ramping up its campaign.
“The pressure that is being brought by Steelworkers and our allies is moving us in the right direction,” says Hunt.
“Our work will continue until Canada’s shameful record of 1,000 workplace deaths each year is a distant memory. Too many families have suffered. Too many children have lost parents and too many parents have lost children. Through the Westray Law, the tools are there to send a message. It’s long past time this message was sent.”
Details on the Stop the Killing campaign, including video testimony from families who have lost loved ones, can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca.
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