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Bill C-45, known as the Westray bill, which became law November 7, makes it easier to hold employers criminally responsible when they fail to protect workers.

This is the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of unions, said Anthony Pizzino, director of CUPE Nationals Health and Safety Branch. Weve been working through the Canadian Labour Congress and its a good conclusion.

Pizzino said the new law, which imposes a greater legal liability on employers to protect workers and public safety, follows well the work CUPE did in updating Part II of the Canada Labour Code.

These changes put Canada on the leading edge of the health and safety movement in holding those responsible criminally liable for negligence in the workplace, he said.

Pizzino says the work of the branch, especially Health and Safety representative Rob Wellss work during the Westray inquiry, helped pave the way for the important changes. CUPE had standing at the Westray inquiry representing coal mine workers who were part of the mine rescue team.

In the Westray disaster of May 9, 1992, 26 miners lost their lives, but neither the corporation nor its officers were ever held accountable despite years of investigations and inquiries.