Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

August 21, 2012 05:00 ET

OFL Applauds Crown's Appeal of "Manifestly Unfit" Sentence in Metron Scaffolding Tragedy

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 21, 2012) - The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Sid Ryan today applauded Ontario's Attorney General for appealing the $200,000 fine leveled against Metron Construction for criminal negligence claiming the lives of four workers and seriously injuring another on Christmas Eve 2009. Calling the sentence "manifestly unfit," the Crown's appeal alleged that the trial judge erred in his sentencing assessment and in his approach to two sections of the Criminal Code.

"The criminal conviction of Metron Construction was historic, but the imposition of a trivial sentence for the deaths of four workers was a disgrace to the families of the survivors and set a shameful precedent," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "If a worker's life is only worth $50,000, then bosses can simply chalk workplace fatalities up as the cost of doing business."

The OFL had been calling for jail time for the Metron owner Joel Swartz ever since the December 24, 2009 collapse of a swing stage at a west Toronto high-rise that resulted in five workers plunging 13 stories during construction repair. However, on July 13, 2012, Justice Robert Bigelow handed down only a $200,000 fine against the company for criminal negligence and the company's owner evaded criminal conviction, facing only $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. However, the leniency of the penalty sparked outrage among workers and led the Ontario Federation of Labour to immediately call on the Crown to appeal the sentence.

"We are pleased to see that the Crown is objecting to this disgraceful sentence," said Ryan. "What message is the court sending to employers when a company whose criminal negligence causes the deaths of its workers gets a slap on the wrist and the owner escapes jail time?"

"Last year, a GTA grocery store found guilty of health and safety violations was fined $350,000 for the death of just one worker. Surely to goodness a Criminal Code conviction should set a higher standard than a Ministry of Labour fine and four workers' lives should be treated with at least four times the severity," said Ryan. "We hope the Appeal Court will rectify this travesty of justice and send a stern message to employers that health and safety negligence will not be tolerated."

To download a copy of the appeal, visit: http://ofl.ca/wp-content/uploads/NoticeofAppeal.pdf.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For more information on the OFL, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

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