Toronto, 5 April, 2012 - By publicly dismissing an inquiry into mine safety, Ontario Labour Minister Lynda Jeffrey has trivialized scores of deaths and thousands of injuries suffered by miners over the last 30 years, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.
The Labour Minister dismissed the need for a mine safety inquiry on Wednesday - only two days after Timmins miner Trevor King was killed on the job and well before the circumstances of his death are fully understood.
"Even as another Ontario family grieves the tragic loss of a miner killed on the job, the Labour Minister glibly dismisses the glaring need for an inquiry into mine safety," said Wayne Fraser, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
"The mining industry has changed dramatically since the last significant health and safety inquiry was held three decades ago," Fraser said.
"How many more families have to endure the devastation of a loved one being killed at work? How many more miners have to be maimed on the job before this minister and this government decide to act?"
"Miners and their families deserve more than platitudes and lip service from the Minister regarding workplace health and safety," said Rick Bertrand, President of USW Local 6500, which represents 2,600 workers at Vale mining operations in Sudbury.
"We are talking about life-and-death issues and a system that hasn't been overhauled in 30 years," Bertrand said. "We are calling for an inquiry into mine safety because too many preventable deaths and injuries continue to occur in our industry."
On Feb. 29, USW Local 6500 released a landmark report into the 2011 deaths of miners Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram at Vale's Sudbury operations. The report, prepared following an exhaustive, eight-month investigation, concluded the deaths were preventable and that the province should consider criminal charges against Vale and its officials.
The report also provided 165 recommendations to improve mine safety, including the need for a public inquiry to modernize and strengthen the system.
"It is unacceptable for Ontario's Labour Minister to suggest that miners and their families should be content with the status quo," said Ken Neumann, the USW's National Director for Canada.
"The Minister's plan to simply maintain her working relationship with individual mining corporations doesn't cut it," Neumann said. "Things are not just fine as they are. Miners, who face hazardous workplace conditions, practices and policies on a daily basis, know the system can be - and must be - improved through a public inquiry."
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For more information:
Wayne Fraser, USW District 6 Director, 416-243-8792;
Rick Bertrand. USW Local 6500 President, 705-675-3381;
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5950;
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org.