Criminal Charges Against Brazilian Multinational Should Send a Message to Canadian Government – Steelworkers

TORONTO – The United Steelworkers union (USW) says criminal charges against the former CEO of a Brazil-based multinational mining company one year after a dam collapse that killed more than 250 people sends an important message to Canada about enforcing laws to protect workers.

“Workers need to know that disasters like this are going to be answered with the strongest punitive measures possible,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann. “The death of 250 villagers and workers in one incident is catastrophic. But no worker should be at risk when they go to work, and no community should be put in harm’s way by corporate negligence.

“Canada’s provinces and territories, who are responsible for law enforcement under the Constitution, are guilty of not responding to workplace deaths with investigations and prosecutions under Criminal Code amendments that the union fought to achieve,” he said.

“Workers across Canada have been killed at a rate of about 1,000 a year, and companies have mostly evaded criminal prosecution by agreeing to pay fines. Killing workers should never be part of the cost of doing business.”

USW is calling on provincial attorneys general and labour ministers in every jurisdiction to properly enforce the 2004 amendments to the Criminal Code, which are meant to hold corporate executives criminally accountable for workplace deaths and injury. The amendments, known collectively as the Westray Law, were unanimously endorsed by Parliament more than 10 years after the 1992 Westray Coal mine explosion in Nova Scotia, which killed 26 workers.

“Police and Crown attorneys must be educated, trained and directed to apply the Westray amendments,” Neumann said. “And there must be greater co-ordination and protocols among regulators, police and Crowns so that health and safety regulators are trained to reach out to police when there is a possibility that Westray amendment charges are warranted.”

Neumann said the Jan. 25, 2019, collapse of a tailings dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is a stain on the world’s mining industry and must be addressed globally. 

“Our federal government should ensure that multinational companies operating in Canada have records that do not include putting profit over safety and human life anywhere in the world.”


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221; bgallagher@usw.ca

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