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Unions seek more authority for Transportation Safety Board


OTTAWA, Ont.–The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees has given a thumbs-up to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) on the thoroughness of its final report on the July 6, 2013 rail disaster at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. In its report, TSB made significant recommendations with regards to the improvement of rail safety and safety management systems.

TSB identified the need for Transport Canada resources to be dedicated to continuous inspections and audits of safety management systems to ensure industry compliance with regulations.

Of great concern however is the length of time it takes for TSB recommendations to be implemented, the union noted.

Historically Transport Canada has taken years to implement some TSB recommendations while others have still not been implemented at all. Even in the statement issued earlier today, Minister Raitt was quick to point the finger at others but failed to recognize TSB’s report laid responsibility directly at Transport Canada’s door. In its statement, Transport Canada listed the action it had taken in response to TSB’s early advisories however failed to commit to implementing the final TSB recommendations, the union said in a statement. 

“TSB needs to be given greater powers,” said Christine Collins, National President of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees. “They determine the cause of accidents; they determine the faults and they make recommendations. I believe we need to give TSB the authority to implement these recommendations when other government bodies fail to act. Canadians need to know that their safety is the #1 priority.”

Meanwhile, the union representing 45,000 transportation workers in Canada says that the federal Transportation Safety Board (TSB) recommendations released today are weak and will not adequately protect the public from future accidents. 

“We’re very disappointed with the recommendations in the TSB report,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor’s National President, “Public safety has to be the top priority for rail transport reform. The Board wasted an important opportunity to make our rail system safer.”

Unifor supports a public inquiry into what went wrong at Lac Mégantic and how it can be prevented in the future.

According to Dias, the union believes the key recommendations of the report—audits and physical mechanisms—put too much emphasis on existing measures that are not effective or enforced. Instead, the union recommended increasing the regularity of full safety and maintenance inspections and closing loopholes that allow companies to seek exemptions to safety rules.

“People die when governments shirk their responsibility to monitor the movement of dangerous cargo. This is not an area where we can afford to cut corners,” said Dias. “The bottom line is that our rail safety system needs better enforcement of the rules, and that means more trained professionals on the job.”