Steelworkers renew call for safety inquiry- Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – June 1, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

United Steelworkers Local 6500 won’t wait years to improve mine safety while charges laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act against Vale and one of its employees are heard in court and a mandatory inquest is held into the deaths of two members.

The union is continuing its campaign to convince the Ontario Ministry of Labour to call a public inquiry into the June 8, 2011, deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram — and into mine safety, generally, in Ontario.

Nine charges laid Thursday against Vale and six against a supervisor fall short of the “urgent, comprehensive action” needed to prevent more mine deaths in Ontario, says USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand.

“We can’t stop here,” Bertrand said. “We have to continue to push to get this public inquiry … let’s get some answers about why people are getting killed underground.”

Bertrand and his union have been in contact with the Fram and Chenier families and they support the call for an inquiry, said Bertrand.

So do more than 10,000 people who have mailed postcards to Ontario Labour Ministry Linda Jeffrey asking for just that in a campaign launched by USW last month.

Jeffrey’s press secretary, Greg Dennis, said Thursday that the Labour ministry already does a number of things to protect miners in Ontario.

That includes regular mining safety blitzes, adding regulations to improve mine safety and conducting thorough, detailed investigations like the year-long one into the Stobie deaths.

Jeffrey meets regularly with the mining legislation and reg-u lations committee, said Dennis. “I don’t think there will be a stone unturned in their conversations about how to better develop health and safety.”

The work done by ministry inspectors shows “we are on top of health and safety in the mining industry. We recognize it is a very hazardous job.”

That’s not good enough for people like community leader Gerry Lougheed Jr., who is backing Local 6500’s postcard campaign.

Lougheed supports the call for an inquiry, and said it has nothing to do with charges laid until the OHSA or the mandatory inquest into Chenier’s and Fram’s deaths that will eventually be held.

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