TORONTO, ON – The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) applauded yesterday’s Ontario Court conviction against furniture retailer, New Mex Canada Inc., for a 2013 workplace tragedy that claimed the life of a worker. The conviction saw a $250,000 fine levied against the company for Occupational Health and Safety Act violations but Justice Jill Fletcher took it one step further when she slapped two of the company’s directors, Baldev Purba and Rajinder Saini, with 25-day prison sentences. Now the OFL is calling for criminal consequences.
“For years now, the OFL has been demanding jail time for employers convicted for putting workers’ lives at risk, so yesterday’s prison sentence is music to my ears,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “Workplace fatalities have risen 36 percent over the past five years and the only way to stop this carnage in the workplace is to put negligent bosses behind bars.”
This conviction follows an OFL campaign, called “Kill a Worker, Go to Jail,” that was launched shortly after the Christmas Eve tragedy in 2009 that shocked workers across the country. The collapse of a swing stage at a west Toronto high-rise resulted in four workers plunging 13 stories to their deaths and a fifth was seriously injured. In 2012, Metron Construction received Ontario’s first criminal conviction for workplace negligence and the company’s fine was tripled the next year to $750,000.
“We are very happy with this court decision. There is no question that workers and their families will sleep better tonight knowing that negligent bosses are finally going to jail,” said Ryan. “However, this decision does not go far enough. This employer should be facing criminal charges in addition to Occupational Health and Safety violations. A mere 25 days in jail and $250,000 fine does not send a strong enough message. A worker’s life should be worth far more.”
Yesterday’s Ontario Provincial Court decision followed the January 18, 2013 death of forklift operator who suffered from a fatal blunt force trauma to the head when he fell from an order picker. The machine had been modified with an additional platform that did not have a safety guardrail. A Ministry of Labour investigation found multiple violations of Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failure to provide health and safety training to workers, lack of fall-protection equipment and safety harnesses and multiple other health and safety hazards.
“We won’t stop campaigning for justice until bad bosses learn that they can’t buy their way out of criminal responsibility,” said Ryan. “When employer negligence leads to a worker’s death, it is not an accident, it is a crime … and those responsible must be sentenced to the full extent of the law.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.
Source: Ontario Federation of Labour
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