In the News June 12
Death of a Worker at Hamilton Plant
Steelworkers Union Calls on Ministry for Immediate Action
On June 7, the Director of District 6 of the United Steelworkers Union, Myles Sullivan, wrote to the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development calling for immediate action to protect the lives and well-being of the workers at National Steel Car. These include the approximately 1,400 members of Steelworkers Local 7135 working in the industrial plant, and 600 other employees.
In his letter, the director describes a “systemic culture of unsafe work entrenched in the operations of National Steel Car.” The letter says, in part:
“The union has been working hard to try to keep workers safe on the job, but there is a limit to our capacity, especially when National Steel Car seems determined to do the opposite.
“There was also extensive contact with the Ministry of Labour and its inspectors and senior management. Concerns were communicated regarding the employer’s obvious lack of commitment to the workings of the joint committee. There were also concerns with the lack of action taken by the ministry to do more extensive inspections of all equipment similar to the equipment involved in the fatalities, particularly the lifting and hoisting devices.
“Further to Ministry involvement, after a September 2, 2020 worker fatality on a crane at the workplace, the Ministry of Labour made several orders relating to crane safety, including some related to the proper fittings to be affixed to crane hooks to secure loads.
“The employer appealed five of these orders relating to the company being required to attach fittings to five crane hooks to ensure safety. The Company withdrew these appeals in May 2022, after it attached latches to the five cranes subject to the orders under appeal.
“What should be clear by these examples (and there are many more), is that we are seeing an employer that has repeatedly expressed little interest in maintaining a healthy and safe workplace and is potentially criminally negligent.
“What I am asking is that the ministry take a fresh look at this employer to put an end to this unnecessary carnage of workers at this site. The ministry must acknowledge that there is a culture at this worksite that puts production and profits far above the basic rights of workers to go to work without getting killed or injured. USW members are paying dearly for the potentially criminal negligence of management at National Steel Car and for the inaction of the Ministry of Labour.
“The union is both frustrated with trying to change the attitude and performance of this employer and that the ministry has been ineffective in creating change. We rely on your ministry to intervene when we find ourselves out of options. The ministry and its inspectors have the ultimate power in sanctioning an employer who appears to have a lethal ill-regard for the well-being of its employees.
“Three of our members have lost their lives. Three families and all of those around them have been needlessly devastated. Co-workers have been traumatized and go to work wondering if they too may be next.
“This situation requires immediate attention.”
(Photo: Hamilton and District Labour Council)
Workers’ Forum, posted June 13, 2022.