The Lac-Mégantic derailment that occurred three years ago has left an indelible mark on the history of our country. The tragedy that took the lives of 47 people and virtually destroyed the downtown core of this beautiful Eastern Townships municipality is a painful reminder of the importance of making rail safety an absolute priority.
I find the recent job cuts in this industry very troubling. For one thing, Canadian Pacific (CP) plans to lay off or abolish the jobs of 500 track maintenance workers, who are responsible for the maintenance and repair of railways across the country. Their work is essential and must not be underestimated.
Corporate profits are one thing, but the 12,000 rail workers we represent feel that the industry is putting people’s lives at risk. Reducing railway maintenance or demanding more of workers who are already exhausted is the perfect recipe for another disaster.
As you know, the Teamsters Union has demanded for years that workers be given reasonable rest periods and that Transport Canada hire additional inspectors to keep a closer watch over rail companies’ activities. The commissioning of new, better assembled cars and the construction of bypass tracks are good ideas, but they are only part of the solution.
Railway safety does not begin and end with the Lac-Mégantic derailment. We must not lose sight of the fact that derailments occur across the country. Some have caused hazardous waste spills, while others have resulted in injuries or fatalities. Sometimes the smallest incident can be indicative of a much larger problem.
In conclusion, my thoughts go out today to the residents of Lac-Mégantic, particularly the relatives and friends of those who perished in 2013. They have suffered terribly and we owe it to them to ensure that our railway network is as safe and risk-free as possible.
Teamsters Canada will continue to work toward this goal over the coming months and years.
President of Teamsters Canada