Toronto – December 19, 2013 – December 24th marks the fourth anniversary of the Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy, in which four migrant workers were killed and another seriously injured after the scaffold that was supporting them collapsed at a Toronto worksite.
Immediately after the workplace tragedy, UFCW Canada joined other social justice and labour organizations in calling for jail time for the owner of Metron Construction Ltd. However, on July 13, 2012, Justice Robert Bigelow merely handed down a $200,000 fine against the company for criminal negligence, and the company’s owner evaded criminal conviction while facing $90,000 in fines for Occupational Health and Safety Act violations.
The verdict marked the first time in history that an Ontario company had been convicted in a criminal court for a workplace death since the Criminal Code of Canada was amended in response to the 1992 Westray Mine Disaster. But the leniency of the penalty sparked outrage among workers and led UFCW Canada and allies to call on the Crown to appeal the sentence. The Crown appealed, and in September 2013 the fine against the Metron company was raised to $750,000, while the original penalties against Metron's owner were left unchanged.
To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Christmas Eve scaffold tragedy, UFCW Canada has created a "December 24th – We Remember" poster that is freely available in both French and English for posting in workplaces and sharing online.
"We must continue to honour and remember 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 Paul Meinema.
“Having The Westray Act in place is one thing, but the full power of the law must be used to jail owners when workers are killed by a company's negligence. That should have happened here," Brother Meinema adds. "Companies must see that if you kill a worker, you go to jail. Until then, Ontario workers will continue to be the victims of careless employers."