TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 4, 2013) - The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Sid Ryan applauded yesterday's appeal court decision to increase the fine against Metron Construction from $200,000 to 750,000 for the 2009 deaths of four workers and the serious injury of a fifth.
"You cannot put a price on a life and no financial penalty can bring these workers back or fill the void left in their families, but the magnitude of this fine will send a powerful message to employers that the lives of workers can't be written off as the cost of doing business," said Ryan.
Last summer, Ryan had harsh criticisms for a judicial system that allowed a criminally negligent employer to walk free after putting the lives of workers at risk.
That strong reaction of Ontario's labour movement followed a July 2012 hearing that sentenced Metron Construction to pay a mere $200,000 fine for criminal negligence, while its sole owner and director, Joel Swartz, escaped criminal conviction. Swartz struck a plea with the court to escape criminal charges in favour of paying a $90,000 fine to the Ministry of Labour.
Metron's sentence marked the first time in history that an Ontario company was 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. It concluded a criminal investigation that began after 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, the historic conviction was marred by the paltry penalty that was levied against the convicted company. The OFL said the ruling sent a "disgraceful message that a worker's life was only worth $50,000" and called on the Crown to appeal the $200,000 fine leveled against Metron Construction.
A year after the appeal was filed, the court ruled yesterday that the $200,000 fine was "demonstrably unfit" and ordered a new fine of $750,000. A 15 percent Victim Fine Surcharge of $112,500 was also levied against the company, bringing the total fine against Metron up to $862,500. Despite the dramatically increased penalty, the OFL stands resolutely behind its 'Kill a Worker, Go to Jail' campaign demanding jail sentences for negligent employers.
"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 employers sacrifice the lives of workers in pursuit of profits, they must be marched from the board room to a prison cell."
To read the court ruling, visit: http://www.ontariocourts.ca/decisions/2013/2013ONCA0541.htm
A trial against Metron Project Manager, Vadim Kazenelson, is expected to begin this fall.
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.