December 24th marks the second anniversary of the Toronto Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy, in which four migrant workers were killed and another seriously injured after the scaffold that was supporting them collapsed. Aleksey Blumberg, Vladimir Korostin, Fayzullo Fazilov, Aleksanders Bondarevs, and Dilshod Marupov were reinforcing and repairing balconies when the platform they were working on snapped in half and plunged them 13 stories to the base of a Toronto apartment building. The accident occurred just as the five men were preparing to go home for the day.
In October 2010, Metron Construction Corporation and three of its corporate officers were charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm and four counts of criminal negligence causing death under Bill-C45. This amendment to the Criminal Code allows for the criminal prosecution of corporate executives, directors, and managers who fail to uphold their responsibilities to keep workplaces healthy and safe. It was enacted in response to the 1992 Westray mining explosion that killed 26 workers in Nova Scotia.
Following the Metron incident, UFCW Canada, various community groups, and labour unions across Ontario called on the provincial Ministry of Labour to crack down on delinquent employers that neglect to safeguard their workers against fall-related hazards. The Ministry reacted by conducting 7,313 field visits to 4,455 worksites over a three-month period, during which 700 stop-work orders and 117 tickets were issued. However, even with this badly-needed safety blitz, four more workers died in scaffold accidents immediately after the Metron fiasco, and the struggle to stop workplace deaths continues.
To commemorate the second anniversary of the Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy, UFCW Canada has published a new We Remember poster that can be downloaded here. "We honour the victims of this disaster by fighting for improved workplace health and safety protections and by pressuring governments and employers to inform all workers of their right to refuse unsafe work," says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. "The Metron incident was entirely preventable. The company had several Ministry of Labour work orders laid against it in the weeks leading up to the tragedy and chose to ignore them. Employers need to understand that if they kill a worker in Canada, they will go to jail."
This year's poster stresses that the Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy is reflective of the health and safety threats and work-related injuries that Canadians face on a daily basis. "Four workers die on the job each day," it notes. "Enough is enough! Enforce the law and bring employers who kill to justice."
This is the last edition of Directions for 2011. Directions will return on January 3, 2012.