TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sep 20, 2013) - Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) blasted the criminal justice system for failing to bring criminal charges against Vale Canada Limited and its executives for the 2011 deaths of two miners in Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury.
"When a company's negligence causes worker deaths, a crime has been committed, but when the judicial system fails to prosecute that company criminally, a second crime has been committed," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "Even a one million dollar fine for regulatory infractions is a miscarriage of justice when the Vale bosses responsible for putting profit ahead of worker safety are allowed to walk free."
In letters sent to Ontario's Attorney General and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services the OFL demanded answers as to why the Canadian managers of Brazilian mining giant Vale were not criminally charged for the deaths of two miners buried by a "run of muck" after the company ignored documented concerns and violated safety standards. While the September 17 sentence made history as the largest total fine ever meted for Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act violations, the OFL lambasted the judicial system for failing to uphold the Criminal Code of Canada. The OFL called on Attorney General John Gerretsen to press the crown to lay charges and demanded that Minister Madeleine Meilleur use her powers under the Police Services Act of Ontario to impose province-wide directives and guidelines requiring criminal investigations of every workplace tragedy to determine whether employer negligence was at fault.
"It is a cruel irony that Canadian workers have learned that Vale will escape criminal conviction in the same week that a U.K. court set trial dates for a Welsh mine boss and company charged with manslaughter and gross negligence for a 2011 flood in the Gleision mine that claimed the lives of four workers," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison, herself a former miner who suffered from occupational disease. "While courts around the world are imposing criminal consequences on negligent employers, Ontario's legal system is failing to defend the lives of workers."
The OFL launched its "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign after the December 24, 2009 scaffold tragedy at a west-end Toronto building. The campaign calls for criminal code investigations into all workplace fatalities. In 2003, the Criminal Code was amended through Bill C-45 (known as the Westray Bill) to hold employers criminally liable for the deaths of workers. To date, only one Ontario company - Metron Construction - has been convicted criminally for a workplace fatality and not one negligent employer has been sentenced to prison. Despite damning evidence released in 2012 by the United Steelworkers (USW) demonstrating that the deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram in the Stobie Mine were preventable and Vale had failed to abide by provincial and internal safety requirements, criminal charges have yet to be laid against the company.
"Vale has already plead guilty for health and safety violations, so the next step is to hold the company and it's managers criminally responsible for the fatal result of those shortcuts," said Ryan. "For Vale, fines are simply the cost of doing business. The company is totally unrepentant and went to incredible lengths to bury the facts and cover its tracks. In Ontario, an average of 80 workers are being killed on the job every year. This carnage in our workplaces will never stop until negligent bosses are marched from their executive suite to a prison cell."