OFL accuses Vale of whitewashing investigation into double fatality, calls for criminal investigation

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Feb. 29, 2012) –¬†Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan accused multinational mining corporation, Vale, of whitewashing an internal investigation into a 2011 double fatality at its Stobie Mine in Sudbury. A separate investigation conducted by the United Steelworkers (USW) that was released today found evidence of company negligence warranting a criminal investigation.

"From the outset, Vale tried to restrict investigations into the tragic incident, refusing to cooperate with the union and demanding control over findings and recommendations. Then, surprise, surprise, the company authored a report in January that declared that no one was to blame," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "Vale has gone to incredible lengths to bury the facts and cover its tracks. It is only because of the hard work of the United Steelworkers that the truth is beginning to come to light."

"It seems like the only way to convince Vale to put worker safety ahead of production targets is to escort company officials out of their offices in handcuffs," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison, herself a former miner who suffered from occupational disease. "There have been four fatalities at Vale mines in Canada in under a year yet no charges have been laid under the criminal code. It is time for the law to crack down on corporate greed that puts lives at risk."

Without the cooperation of management, USW Local 6500 conducted a separate investigation into the deaths of workers Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram in a flood of mud, rock and ore on June 8, 2011. This investigation revealed that the company had ignored documented concerns about excess water levels and failed to abide by provincial and internal safety requirements. Less than seven months later, two more workers died in Vale mines in Sudbury and Thompson, Manitoba. The OFL today supported the USW's call for a public inquiry into the safety of Stobie and other Ontario mines and a ministerial committee to review current health and safety legislation and enforcement.

The OFL launched its "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign after the December 24, 2009 scaffold tragedy at a west-end Toronto building. The campaign calls for criminal code investigations into all workplace fatalities. In 2003, the Criminal Code was amended through Bill C-45 (known as the Westray Bill) to include special criminal negligence provisions for companies that disregard the health and safety of workers. The intent was to hold employers criminally liable for the deaths of workers, but no convictions have been made in Ontario since the law came into effect.

"In Ontario, an average of 80 workers are being killed on the job every year. There have been over 500 deaths since the Criminal Code was changed and not one employer has been convicted." said Ryan. "How many more workers will have to die before justice is done and greedy bosses are sent to jail?"

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. OFL President Sid Ryan is the voice of Ontario's labour movement.