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(Halifax) – The union representing most municipal and highway workers in Nova Scotia, says it hopes charges in the trenching death of one if its former members sends a strong message to employers in both the public and private sectors.

The Town of New Glasgow has been charged with five counts under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the October, 2006 death of Michael Bonvie, who had just started working for the municipality and was a member of CUPE Local 281.

CUPE Health and Safety Representative Robert Wells says, “Just two weeks ago, we released the results of a survey from our municipal locals which showed that safe trenching practices in this province are, at best, hit and miss.”

Says Wells, “One of the charges in the New Glasgow case was ‘failing to ensure that adequate bracing was placed in the trench’, and we have just written the Minister of Labour urging his department to work with employers and unions to ensure that trench boxes are more widely available and, most importantly, are actually being used.

The CUPE survey showed that only 33% of our locals said their employer even had a trench cage or box that they could use.  This is unacceptable,” says Wells.

CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanagh says, “With charges now being laid in the New Glasgow fatality, it is our hope that employers in both the public and the private sector start taking their responsibility under the act to provide a safe workplace a lot more seriously.

What we are calling for is employer-provided training that takes place during work hours and is given to all employees who might possibly come close to a trenching operation – not just those who typically perform this kind of work,” says Cavanagh.

This is the least we owe the family of Michael Bonvie who continue to mourn his tragic loss,” says Cavanagh

The survey of CUPE municipal employees across the province revealed that working in trenches, in many cases, is still an accident waiting to happen.


For information:   

Robert Wells                               Danny Cavanagh                      John McCracken

CUPE Health and Safety Rep.     CUPE NS President                CUPE Communications Rep.

(902) 455-4180(o)                        (902) 957-0822 (Cell)             (902) 455-4180 (o)