·  Media release

Westray Disaster Anniversary Underscores Need to Enforce the Law

TORONTO - The United Steelworkers (USW) joins surviving miners and families today to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Westray mine tragedy in Pictou County, N.S.

"It is important to recognize the sacrifice made by the 26 miners who were killed in the early hours of May 9, 1992," said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

"Today we stand in solidarity with families and former co-workers to honour the memory of the Westray miners. They are victims for whom the law failed. We will never forget them and the price they paid for going to work," Neumann said.

"This also is a day to reflect upon what was lost and what has been learned," he added. "It is important to appreciate how the Westray mine disaster led to changes in Canada's Criminal Code. But the sad truth is that workers are still being killed on the job at a rate of 1,000 every year."

The USW's national focus in 2014 is on enforcing the Westray law that was passed unanimously in the House of Commons a decade ago, Neumann said. Known as the Westray Act, the legislation now holds companies, their directors and officers criminally accountable for workplace death and injury.

In the decade since the law passed, there have been over 9,000 workplace deaths across the country. Yet only a handful of those deaths have been investigated as potential crimes and not a single corporate director, executive or manager has faced jail time.

"We know that not every incident is a 'Westray,' but workplace deaths should be investigated as if they could be. That is not happening, so we are committed to ensuring the Westray law is enforced, just as we lobbied to ensure this law was passed 10 years ago," Neumann said.

The USW's campaign, Stop the Killing Enforce the Law, is calling on provincial and territorial attorneys-general to ensure the law is enforced to its fullest extent. Support also is being sought from municipalities across the country and to date numerous municipal councils have endorsed the campaign.

More information on the campaign and its goals can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca.

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For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Steve Hunt, USW Western Canada Director, 604-816-2554
Sylvia Boyce, USW District 6 Health and Safety Coordinator, 905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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