The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Sid Ryan is calling on the Crown to appeal the $200,000 fine leveled against Metron Construction today for the deaths of four workers and the critical injury of another. Ryan had harsh criticisms for a judicial system that continues to let criminally negligent employers walk free after they put the lives of workers at risk.
“Today’s ruling is disgraceful. It says that a worker’s life is worth no more than $50,000 and many bad bosses across the province will simply chalk it up as the cost of doing business,” said Ryan. “If the judge had concerns about Metron owner Joel Swartz’s ability to pay the million-dollar fine sought by the Crown, he should have done the right thing and thrown Swartz in jail.”
“As long as bad bosses are allowed to escape personal responsibility by hiding behind the corporate veil, the justice system is failing victims and their families,” said Ryan. “Last year, 436 Ontario workers died from workplace accidents or occupational diseases and over 240,000 injury claims were filed. How many more workers must be maimed or killed before justice is served? This workplace carnage will not stop unless bosses find themselves behind bars.”
This strong reaction of Ontario’s labour movement followed a sentencing hearing at Toronto’s Old City Hall Courthouse, in which Metron Construction received a $200,000 fine for Criminal Negligence, but its sole owner and director, Joel Swartz escaped criminal conviction. Swartz struck a plea with the court last month to escape criminal charges and today received only Ministry of Labour fines totaling $90,000. Today’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, proceedings are still underway against Metron Project Manager, Vadim Kazenelson, and are expected to continue into the fall.
“It is shameful that it has taken twenty years to see an Ontario company fined for killing workers. Victims and their families can’t wait another twenty years to see bosses held to account,” said Ryan. “No financial penalty; no monetary damages can bring sufficient justice to those who have lost their lives, their livelihoods or their loved ones because of negligent employers.”
“We won’t stop campaigning for justice until bad bosses learn that they can’t buy their way out of criminal responsibility. When they sacrifice the lives of workers in pursuit of profits, they need to be escorted to prison in leg-irons,” said Ryan.
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.