Rejection of Metron Appeal Welcomed, but Fight for Justice Continues: Steelworkers

TORONTO – Leaders of the United Steelworkers (USW) welcome the Ontario Court of Appeal decision to reject an appeal by lawyers for a Metron Construction Inc. supervisor sentenced in the 2009 deaths of four workers in a Toronto scaffolding collapse.

However, USW National Director Ken Neumann and Ontario Director Marty Warren call on the Ontario government to do more to enforce the law that should be applied in every workplace fatality.

For Warren, this is particularly important after the as-yet-unexplained death of USW member Tom Gowling (USW Local 16506) this week at North American Tillage and another worker’s death only days before, both in Hamilton.

“This rejection of the appeal should send a strong message to all employers, who must be held more accountable for conditions that lead to fatalities and serious injuries in too many workplaces,” said Warren. “We want this precedent to mean something to the thousands of families who have lost loved ones at work.”

Neumann said the appeal rejection validates the USW’s campaign for better enforcement of the ‘Westray Law,’ Criminal Code amendments proclaimed into law in 2004, aimed at holding corporations criminally accountable for workplace death.

“This is a victory for the campaign to enforce the law, which the USW has been fighting to make a reality across Canada for many years in every province and territory,” Neumann said.

“It is important to recognize Toronto Police Service Detective Kevin Sedore, who did what all police officers across this country should be directed to do by provincial and territorial justice ministers,” he added.

“As we have been calling for, Detective Sedore did the right thing on Christmas Eve 2009 – he saw the Metron scaffolding collapse as a crime scene. He investigated it thoroughly as such, instead of turning it over to regulators under the Ministry of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

Neumann said this kind of police work is key to the USW’s national campaign, Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law.

“Metron is not a unique case of negligence,” added Warren. “We call on the Ontario attorney general to put resources into training and directing police and prosecutors to investigate, charge and prosecute employers who we know are gambling with workers’ lives in the name of profit. Until that happens, workers remain vulnerable and disposable.”

Warren said that the jail sentence for Metron supervisor Vadim Kazenelson is fair, but noted that Metron owner Joel Swartz remains free.

“There is still a need for owners like Swartz to be held accountable,” he said. “This decision is not the end of issues raised by the Metron case. It is just the beginning.”

More details on the Stop the Killing campaign, including video testimony from families who have lost loved ones, can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca.


For further information:

Marty Warren, USW District Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, 416-243-8792, mwarren@usw.ca
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Sylvia Boyce, USW Health and Safety, 416-544-5971, 905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca
Gerry LeBlanc, USW Health and Safety, 416-544-5993, gleblanc@usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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