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The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has been set up by the Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) to support workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie.

MONTREAL - A legal defence fund has been launched to help pay costs to be incurred by railway workers charged in connection with last year's tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has been set up by the Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) to support workers Tom Harding and Richard Labrie, who were charged May 12.

A website has been set up to allow online donations, at www.justice4USWrailworkers.org, or www.justicemetallosdurail.org. All funds raised will be used for defence costs for the affected workers.

"We are launching this fund in solidarity with these workers to ensure they have access to a full and complete defence," said Daniel Roy, the Steelworkers' Quebec Director.

"This type of trial can be very expensive and destroy lives. We are appealing to people's generosity to help ensure that these workers are not made scapegoats while those who are truly responsible for this tragedy come out of it without a scratch," said Roy.

"The charges against these workers and the proceedings that are to come are simply a smokescreen to divert attention from the real causes of this tragedy: deregulation brought in by the federal Conservative government, and the shoddy management of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

"In the spring of 2012, when Denis Lebel was Minister of Transport, his Department granted MMA an extremely rare authorization to run trains operated by only one worker. Curiously, it was at this time that the company decided to start carrying oil. What investigations were done at the time? How was train safety ensured? Why was this authorization granted when MMA had accumulated a number of infractions and its maintenance left much to be desired? Charging a pair of ordinary workers won't make these questions magically disappear," Roy added.

Contributions to the legal defence fund can be made by PayPal or credit card on the website www.justice4USWrailworkers.org, or www.justicemetallosdurail.org.

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For more information: Clairandrée Cauchy, USW/Syndicat des Métallos Communications, 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca