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Steelworkers cite Westray law in denouncing plea agreement

DCN News Services
Steelworkers cite Westray law in denouncing plea agreement

SUDBURY, ONT. — The United Steelworkers (USW) have issued a statement denouncing a plea agreement in an Ontario court that imposes a fine against a concrete manufacturer for a worker’s death, while dismissing a criminal charge against the company’s owner.

On Feb. 12, a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice in Sudbury accepted a plea agreement in which Rainbow Concrete pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing the death of one of the company’s employees, Rheal Dionne, the Feb. 14 statement explained. Dionne, 39, was killed on Feb. 15, 2017, when a concrete slab fell on the truck he was operating, trapping him inside.

As part of the plea agreement accepted, the Crown dropped a charge of criminal negligence causing death against the owner of Rainbow Concrete, Boris Naneff. It calls for a $1,000 fine against the company and a payment of $200,000 to Dionne’s family — paid over several months with completion in mid-2020.

“Abandoning the criminal prosecution of a company’s owner in exchange for a $1,000 fine against the company and a gradual, $200,000 payment to the grieving family does not provide justice for the family,” said USW national director Ken Neumann in the release. “It is a consequence that will not serve as a deterrent to employers who view such penalties for workplace deaths and injuries as a cost of doing business.”

Since the Westray law was enacted in 2004 to hold employers criminally responsible for workplace deaths and injuries, there have been more than 15,000 workplace-related deaths in Canada but very few criminal convictions, noted the USW statement.

“The consequences of workplace deaths and injuries must be more than a cost of doing business,” said Marty Warren, USW Ontario and Atlantic Canada director, in the statement, citing the Westray law.

The USW has initiated a campaign billed as Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law that calls on provincial and territorial governments to implement specific measures to ensure greater enforcement of the Westray Law.

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