The local United Steelworkers union local wants the city to adopt a resolution demanding the federal government enforce the Westray Amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code.
On May 9, 1992, 26 miners died underground in a “preventable and tragic” mining accident in Nova Scotia, said Bob Macnair during a presentation to Williams Lake city council.
Macnair is financial secretary for Local-1-425 and reminded that sons, brothers and fathers didn’t come home to their families that day.
“The accident was caused by methane gas and coal dust and so far only 15 bodies have been recovered,” he said. It took 12 years, but in March 2004, the Steelworkers lobbied and brought in Bill C-35, which received a unanimous vote by all parties in the House of Commons.
An endorsement, which Macnair said by today’s standards is considered unusual.
The union has put its pedal to the metal and made similar presentations to communities across Canada.
“We represent 1,300 workers in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House,” Macnair said, explaining that members work in mines, mills, home support, truck driving and recycling.
When Coun. Ivan Bonnell asked if the union is doing other preventative measures outside the bill to ensure workers have the right to refuse unsafe situations, Macnair replied, “absolutely.”
The unions all belong to Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which meets regularly.
“All our safety representatives go to those meetings,” Macnair said.
When a worker refuses to work because of safety, certain steps unfold.
First a foreman goes to do an inspection, and if the worker is still unsatisfied then a WorkSafeBC representative is brought in to rectify the problem to the worker’s satisfaction.
“We hope council will accept our request,” he said.
“We have had fatalities here in our local and we’re not trying to send every CEO or superintendent to jail. But when there’s 1,000 people killed across Canada every year, we’re just saying when there are culpable circumstance enforce the law. Stop the killing.”
Council received Macnair’s request in principle and referred to committee of the whole for staff to put the wording together for a resolution.