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Lac-Megantic verdict a tremendous relief for accused and all workers

(Source: United Steelworkers press release, January 19, 2018)

LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. — The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes today's jury's acquittal of three workers charged in the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) train derailment in the heart of this community that left 47 people dead in 2013.

"Nearly five years later, this verdict is a tremendous relief for these workers and their families," said Steelworkers' regional coordinator Pierre Arseneau.

"It is unfortunate that the Crown did not hesitate to come down hard on workers, but it's an entirely different story when it comes to corporate executives," said Alain Croteau, the Steelworkers' Quebec Director.

"We saw it with the MMA railway bosses, as we've seen in cases where workers are killed on the job," Croteau said. "The Westray Law that came into effect in 2004 called for criminal penalties for corporations and their leaders for criminal negligence in workplace deaths. But to date there have been only four convictions, despite thousands of workplace deaths across the country since the law was passed."

Following the Lac-Mégantic disaster, United Steelworkers members led two major fundraising campaigns, in 2013 and 2014. The first campaign provided a $125,000 donation to the Red Cross to assist the victims and their families. The second campaign raised $212,000 to assist with the costs faced by the two union members charged in the court case, locomotive engineer Tom Harding and rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, with the latter also assisted by the non-profit organization Juripop.

To this day, neither Edward Burkhardt, MMA's CEO and Chairman, nor the company, have had to face the courts.

In its report on the Lac-Mégantic disaster, the federal Transportation Safety Board pointed to negligence and a deficient organizational and safety culture at MMA.

For its part, the federal government had authorized a regulatory change that allowed MMA to operate its trains with only one engineer on board, without investigation. Following the disaster, the government reversed course and prohibited single-engineer trains transporting dangerous goods.

Monday, January 22, 2018

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