Steelworkers president calls on companies to appear at mining review
The recent workplace death of Vale millwright Paul Rochette was a prevailing subject at the United Steelworkers' 30th annual Day of Mourning ceremony Monday.
Rochette's name was the 44th on a list of United Steelworkers Local 6500 members killed in the workplace since 1985.
United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard said he was saddened and frustrated by Rochette's death at Vale's Copper Cliff smelter April 6.
“If we can send people to the moon, and we can send rocket ships to hook up in outer space, connect and bring them back safely, we ought to be able to make workplaces safe,” Gerard said.
In his speech, Gerard set his sights on the Ontario government's ongoing review of mining health and safety.
He said no mining companies operating in the province have yet chosen to appear during the review's public consultations in Sudbury and other mining jurisdictions across the province.
“I was shocked that after four fatalities in three years, Vale in particular didn't come to the hearing or ask to be heard at a future hearing,” Gerard said. “If they choose to not participate, I would think that makes the work we have to do that much more difficult.”
United Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said the mining industry, the labour movement and the provincial government all agreed to proceed with the mining safety review.
The review board includes vice chairs for labour and industry.
“We've got to continue to push for that mining review that has been agreed upon,” Bertrand said.
But Bertrand said he remains optimistic the mine safety review can help reduce workplace injuries and fatalities in the sector.
“I'm hopeful one day we'll get there,” he said.
The Day of Mourning started in Sudbury, but is now recognized in more than 100 countries.