Steelworkers Respond to Lac-Mégantic Tragedy

Jul 09, 2013, 11:54 ET from United Steelworkers (USW)

MONTREAL, July 9, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - In the aftermath of the train fire in Nantes and the devastating explosion in Lac-Mégantic, the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents 75 Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway employees, extends its thoughts and sympathies to the families and friends of victims of this tragedy.

We also wish to affirm our support to our members in USW Local 1976 who are enduring a difficult and painful situation, as well as our fellow USW members who live and work in Lac-Mégantic and the surrounding area.

For the benefit of ongoing investigations by the Transportation Safety Board and the Sureté du Québec, the USW will not be commenting publicly on the circumstances of the tragic events in Nantes and Lac-Mégantic. Union representatives continue to be available to all appropriate authorities to assist in the investigations.

The 75 members of USW Local 1976 who work for Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway have been represented by our union since 2000, prior to the purchase of the railway operations by the current owner Rail World Inc. in 2003. Since that time, three collective agreements have been negotiated between the union and the company, including the existing contract that expires in 2014.

The rail lines currently operated by the MMAR were previously owned by CP Rail, into the late 1990s. The sale by CP was part of the arrival of so-called "short lines" in Canada, some of which consist of rail operations that were abandoned by large rail companies. These short-line operations do not have the levels of resources that large corporations such as CN and CP Rail have to maintain rail lines.

Consequently, the United Steelworkers believes the federal government must tighten its regulatory measures with respect to operating permits and the safety and monitoring of rail transportation of hazardous products.

"Over the years the federal government has deregulated rail transport as well as the aviation industry," said Daniel Roy, United Steelworkers' Quebec Director.

"It is always dangerous to turn over the management and oversight of public interests to corporations while limiting or reducing the role of government. The federal government must reconsider its role and resume greater responsibility for the regulation and safety of rail transport," Roy said.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)