TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 23, 2012) - The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) expressed frustration that Metron Construction boss Joel Swartz won't be facing jail time for the deaths of four workers and serious injury to another. While applauding the historic conviction of the company – the first in Ontario to face conviction for criminal negligence – the OFL made it clear that the $1-million fine sought by the prosecution doesn't deliver sufficient justice to the victims and their families.
"How many workers need to die before a boss is put behind bars?," demanded OFL President Sid Ryan. "The Company pleaded guilty in the worst construction accident in Toronto in fifty years, yet the owner of the company is still a free man. It makes no sense to me that the person who profited most from risking the lives of workers isn't being held to account."
The OFL launched its "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign 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 five workers plunging 13 stories during construction repair. The OFL's campaign called for the vigorous use of the Criminal Code of Canada provision that enables the prosecution of corporate executives, directors and managers who act wrongfully or negligently.
In response, the Ontario government created an Expert Panel on Workplace Health and Safety and launched a province-wide review that resulted in significant amendments to Ontario laws that were designed to prevent similar tragedies in the future. However, the OFL learned this week that while Metron's President and sole director pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Crown had dropped the criminal charges against him. A joint submission by the Ministry of Labour and defense council for fines of $22,500 for each count is current being reviewed by the presiding judge. Preliminary hearings for the criminal charges against senior Metron officer and site project manager Vadim Kazenelson are currently underway.
"Last year alone, 436 workplace accident and occupational disease fatalities were reported in Ontario and over 240,000 injury claims were filed. This carnage in the workplace is leaving too many grieving families," said Ryan. "Unless negligent employers face jail time, they will simply be able to buy their way out of responsibility. And, write this off any potential fine as the cost of doing business. Without full justice under the law, workers will continue to lose their lives while their employers turn a profit."
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario.