The United Steelworkers sent a letter asking for support for their new campaign regarding a 2004 act meant to hold top management accountable.
“There was some legislation in the House of Commons in 2004 after the Westray mining disaster,” Mayor Wayne Stetski said. The Nova Scotia coal mine explosion killed 28 miners in May 9, 1992.
“Legislation was intended to hold corporate executives, directors and managers criminally responsible for workplace deaths. They say 10 years later approximately 10,000 Canadians have been killed on the job yet not one corporate executive has faced one day in jail.”
Part of the campaign is asking city councils to pass resolutions expressing support for proactive action to protect workers.
Coun. Sharon Cross said she was disturbed by that information.
“We’ve had a lot of railroad derailments even here in British Columbia, never mind Lac Magantic,” Cross said. “A number of train employees have been killed and I’m sure there are many other examples if one wanted to investigate. I find it rather disturbing that there’s been no action and no criminal accountability.”
Coun. Angus Davis said he does have concerns, but also has faith in the industry side as well.
“I certainly have a concern in my heart for things that have not been done because those are disasters,” Davis said. “But at the same time I’ve been involved with the mining industry for lots of years and I’ve seen lots of bad things happen but I’ve seen lots of good executives from the mining industry take part in doing things to overcome some of the problems.”
Davis said the USW may be painting everything with one brush, as there are thousands of people in the mining industry.
Coun. Diana J. Scott thought council should just receive the correspondence for information, and not make follow up motions.
“It’s not really our jurisdiction,” Scott said, noting the paragraph that says it is not an area of municipal responsibility.
She also said it’s possible that the reason for no convictions of the executives could have more to do with the courts than an onus of responsibility.
Coun. Gerry Warner disagreed.
“We are elected officials, we’re community spokesman,” Warner said. “I think I would be willing to second a motion to have one of the union people come here and speak to us about the amount of injuries and deaths that occur in the workplace every year. I believe the logging industry alone is over 30 every year. And see if we can’t improve the situation.”
Cross initially made a notice of motion, but then took it back. Warner then put forward a notice that he would be making a motion next meeting on August 18.