|USWA calls for a public inquiry into CN's actions|
|August 29, 2005
The United Steel Workers of America union suggests that "CN is trying to hide" some of the facts
about the Wabamun derailment from its own staff. The union represents 3,500 front line CN track
USWA National Director Ken Neumann claims members of the Steelworkers union involved in repairs at Wabamun were given
misinformation about "the toxicity and risks of exposure to the products spilled in that derailment". As a result, some workers
experienced short term breathing problems.
"The breathing problems and irritation fortunately were short-term," Neumann said. "If these derailments continue, we may not be so
lucky in the future. CN must be brought to account for its actions that have led to increased health and safety concerns on the railway.
This is not strictly a union-management issue. This is a health and safety issue that concerns every worker and every citizen living along
the CN line."
Neumann added that when a union representative attended the Wabamun site, he was turned away and not allowed to speak with the
workers who were working at the accident site. "We want to know what CN is trying to hide. Is it the fact that materials being loaded onto
trains are poorly identified? Or is it that the railway knows that its practices are dangerous and reckless? The public deserves to know."
"Since privatization 10 years ago, available manpower has been a growing problem," explained Neumann. "Cutbacks and downsizing
have been compounded by the ongoing practice of deferred maintenance, so that not only is our members’ health and safety at risk, they
are spending more and more of their time on emergency repairs instead of on scheduled maintenance tasks. This means more
potential for exposure to dangerous materials that may be released in a derailment."
The union is sending letters to the federal Ministers of Transport and Labour, demanding a full public inquiry. Also copied are the chair of
the Transportation Safety Board and CN CEO and President Hunter Harrison.
CAW National Council 4000 Regional Representative Barry Kennedy is confirming whether CN dispatched any CAW members to the
Wabamun accident site to assist in the clean-up. "Normally, the company requires excavating equipment to move earth, fallen trees,
track and ties, etc. Its not uncommon for our members to be sent in to clean-up after a derailment." The CAW represents CN excavator
operators on the Mountain Region who work under Collective Agreement 5.4.
"We share in the concerns expressed by the USWA, and the need for a public inquiry into CN's conduct and practices following the Lake
Wabamun disaster," added Kennedy.