·  by Ron Palmer - United Steelworkers

Alberta Government signs precedent setting agreement for Westray Enforcement

It is not coincidental that Alberta moved occupational health and safety into the forefront on the National Day of Mourning. Labour Alberta, along with the RCMP and Alberta Justice, joined forces to sign the Westray Memorandum of Understanding. The memorandum between the ten police forces in Alberta and the provincial government defines the protocols for notification, investigation and communication between departments when there is a serious workplace incident. This will help investigators from all agencies coordinate information to determine if criminal charges may be warranted in addition to occupational health and safety violations.

Minister of Labour Christina Gray said that, “By signing this Memorandum of Understanding this ensures that these protocols with be in place in perpetuity.”

When asked by one reporter whether or not this was already happening, the Minister of Labour stated that, “The work already is happening. The government takes the health and safety of workers seriously, but this sets out the protocols so that there is consistency across the board in a way that protects the scene of the investigation and allows at any time for any officer to be able to pick the investigation and know where it is at.”

Assistant Commissioner RCMP K Division and Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police representative, Marlin Degrand stated, “This is something that has been on our minds for some time and is something that has been front of mind with the Alberta Chiefs of Police. The protocols have already been distributed to all chiefs of police in the province and to all 4 offices in K division."

President of United Steelworkers Local 1-207, Ray White spoke of how Westray came into being and how, as the USW was organizing one of the mines in Nova Scotia, the mine exploded from methane gas that had built up in the mine and was not vented out. From that point on, the United Steelworkers would ensure that a law was made to protect workers, and bring those found guilty of negligence when it came to workplace incidents to justice. Ray also provided details on how the United Steelworkers were working with various jurisdictions to bring enforcement of Westray to fruition, and this signing was a major move towards achieving that goal.

The Federal Government through the Prime Minister’s Office announced today that it would also be moving towards better enforcement of Westray.

Jared Matsunaga-Turnbull, Executive Director of the Alberta Worker’s Health Center also spoke, stating, “We are happy to see this initiative go forward. It will add to the toolkit of enforcement officers, ensuring that individuals who are criminally negligent are held to account. We believe this is an important step towards making workplaces safer for all working people in Alberta."

Minister of Labour Christina Gray and Assistant Commissioner of RCMP K Division Marlin Degrand sign the historical memorandum of Understanding in Edmonton, during the day of mourning press conference.

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