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January 2018, Week 5

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Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:05:10 -0500
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 [https://portside.org/] 
Material of Interest to People on the Left 

 PORTSIDE LABOR 

 CANADIAN JURY ACQUITS RAIL WORKERS IN LAC-MÉGANTIC EXLOSION CASE  
[https://portside.org/2018-01-30/canadian-jury-acquits-rail-workers-lac-megantic-exlosion-case]


 

 William Rogers 
 January 30, 2018
Left Labor Reporter [https://leftlaborreporter.wordpress.com/] 

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 _ Survivors of the victims also were glad that the that the workers
were acquitted because they thought that the wrong people were charged
with the crime. _ 

 Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS, Smoke rises from railway cars
that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac-Megantic,
Que., on July 6, 2013. 

 

After nine days of deliberation, a Canadian jury acquitted three
railroad workers of charges stemming from a rail derailment and
explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, a town in eastern
Quebec, Canada.

The jury reached its verdict after a four-month trial.

The explosion took place in July 2013 after a runaway locomotive with
no one on board jumped the tracks in downtown Lac-Mégantic.

The locomotive, owned and operated by the Montreal Maine Atlantic
(MMA) railroad, was pulling tanker cars containing crude oil. They
burst into flames on impact and exploded leveling most of the
buildings in downtown Lac-Mégantic

Tom Harding, the train’s engineer, Richard Labrie, a rail traffic
controller, and Jean Demaitre, the operations manager, all employees
of MMA, were charged with criminal negligence.

Harding, Labrie, and Demaitre expressed great relief at the verdict.

Survivors of the victims also were glad that the that the workers were
acquitted because they thought that the wrong people were charged with
the crime.

“I felt relief because these (men) are not the right people who
should be (on trial),” said
[http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-negligence-verdict-1.4474848?platform=hootsuite]
Jean Clusiault to reporters after the verdict was announced.
Clusiault’s daughter died in the explosion.

Clusiault added that he thought that MMA executives should have been
on trial instead of the three workers.

Lac-Mégantic Mayor Julie Morin told the same reporters, “The
company had a big role to play in this.”

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigated the causes
of the derailment and explosion and also concluded that MMA played a
big role in causing the accident.

The report, published in 2014, found that there was a chain of 18
contributing factors that caused the derailment and explosion.

Among those contributing factors were the company’s failure to
maintain the locomotive involved in the accident in good working
order, an insufficient braking system on the 72-car train, the lack of
employee training on the proper way to set the brakes, and an overall
lack of safety culture at the company.

Wendy Tardos, chair of TSB when the report was published, described
[http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42548824]MMA as a shortline
railway that made its profit by cutting corners on maintenance and
employee training.

The report also looked at the company’s practice of using one-person
crews on its trains like the one that leveled Lac-Mégantic.

The report was inconclusive about the role that the one-person crew
played in causing the accident, but shortly after the 2013 accident
Transport Canada, the federal government’s agency responsible for
transportation policies, banned rail lines from using one-person
crews.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen
[https://www.ble-t.org/default.asp] (BLET), which had been closely
following the trial, criticized MMA for its “dangerous practice”
of using one-person crews especially when it was transporting
explosive cargo like crude oil.

Shortly after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, the US Federal Railway
Administration (FRA) also began questioning whether it was safe for
railways to use one-person crews.

After extensive study, FRA proposed new regulations requiring
two-person crews on trains carrying crude oil and establishing minimum
crew-size requirements for most mainline freight and passenger rail
operations.

The rail industry in the US, which has been pushing to expand its use
of one-person crews in order to eliminate jobs and lower labor costs,
lobbied hard against the FRA’s new safety regulations.

After a long comment period and hours of testimony, FRA was prepared
to publish its new minimum crew size regulations.

But before that could happen, President Trump’s Office of Management
and Budget intervened, and the FRA pulled the regulation.

In Canada, the two-person crew rule remains in effect as the Canadian
government works to ensure that another tragedy like the one
in Lac-Mégantic does not occur.

The jury acquittal of the three workers may not be the last word on
the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.

MMA itself is facing criminal charges from the case, but the company
is now defunct.

So far, the justice system has tried to pin the blame for the
explosion on the three innocent workers and a company that no longer
exists.

Noticeably absent from this list of those being held accountable are
the MMA executives who as the former head of Canada’s Transportation
Safety Board said, made their profits by cutting corners on safety.

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