Union calls for criminal charges

Quebec union wants charges under corporate killing law brought in death of worker

A Quebec union is calling on the province’s attorney general to file criminal charges against a company for the death of a young worker in 2005.

The Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) wants the government to lay charges under the Criminal Code. The federal government made amendments to the Criminal Code in 2004 when it passed Bill C-45, clearing the way for criminal charges to be laid against corporations and individuals when a worker is injured or killed on the job.

Steve L’Ecuyer, a 23-year-old worker at Transpavé, a concrete products manufacturer in Saint-Eustache, Que., was killed on the job last October shortly after being hired, the union said.

FTQ president Henri Massé said they have been waiting in vain for seven months for the local police report, the findings of the workers’ compensation board (WCB) investigation and for the attorney general to decide whether or not to lay charges against the company.

Massé said each of the regulatory bodies is waiting on the other, afraid to make a decision for fear of setting a precedent. Serge Bérubé, the president of the Teamsters Quebec union local 1999, joined Massé in asking that the company be charged in the worker’s death.

L’Ecuyer was crushed by a concrete press, which the WCB had previously instructed the company to repair, after pallets with concrete had backed-up on the conveyor belt. The company’s security cameras captured the entire incident on tape, which was turned over to police.

One of the WCB investigators later discovered that the motion sensor that would stop the press if someone were to move past it was turned off at the time of the accident. The on/off switch for the safety device was kept in a locked cabinet for which the employer was responsible, the union said.

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In the May 12, 2004, issue of Canadian Employment Law Today, Norm Keith and Yvonne O’Reilly took an in-depth look at Bill C-45, the "corporate killing" law, and its implication for employers.

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