UFCW Canada

UFCW Canada

November 28, 2011 16:03 ET

Agriculture Workers Die but Company Owners Go Free in B.C. Judgement

LANGLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Nov. 28, 2011) - The owners of two B.C. mushroom-growing operations have avoided jail sentences, despite the fact they admitted to breaching safety regulations that could have the saved the lives of three agriculture workers and prevented two other workers from suffering irreparable brain damage.

The three workers died in 2008 after being overcome by toxic gas inside a Langley-area mushroom compost barn. During the trial, the agriculture operators pleaded guilty to ten provincial health and safety charges including failure to identify a confined space and failure to provide safety training to the workers. The operators faced a possible maximum of $618,000 and six months in jail. But instead, a B.C. Provincial Court judge passed on the jail time, and instead fined the two companies and their owners $350,000 in a judgement handed down last week.

"A prison sentence would not undue this accident, but it would tell other agriculture operators, loud and clear, that safety must not be ignored," says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. "Instead, the operators go free, while three workers are dead, and two others are left with a life sentence of brain injury," says Hanley.

"This harvest of death and injury must end. Governments continue to be callously indifferent when it comes to the labour rights and safety of domestic and migrant agriculture workers," says Hanley. "And workers at farms that aren't unionized are afraid to raise any concerns for fear of being fired or repatriated. On top of that, the law may call for workplace safety training but the reality is that it rarely happens at non-union agriculture operations," says the UFCW Canada leader.

UFCW Canada is the country largest-private sector union, and for more than two decades has led a campaign to promote the human, labour and workplace rights of agriculture workers. The union also represents workers at a number of agriculture operations in B.C. and Quebec, and operates ten agriculture worker support centres across Canada in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance.

Contact Information