Sinopec fine just a slap on the wrist

Edmonton - A $1.5-million fine to oil giant Sinopec will do nothing to deter them from practices that endanger workers, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).

At a St. Albert court room on Thursday, Jan. 24, the Canadian subsidiary of Chinese oil corporation Sinopec was fined $1.5 million for an incident that cost two of their employees their lives. According to the Alberta Federation of Labour, the fines are too small to make a difference to the massive corporation.

“One and a half million dollars doesn’t even amount to a rounding error in the annual budget of a monstrous global corporation like Sinopec,” McGowan said. “This fine does nothing to dissuade them from playing fast and loose with the safety of their workforce.”

Sinopec and two other companies were charged after a 2007 container collapse killed two temporary foreign workers at an oilsands project near Fort McKay, Alberta. A total of 53 charges were laid against the companies, of which Sinopec pled guilty to three charges of failing to ensure the health and safety of workers.

“Sinopec didn’t just import workers from the third world, they also imported third-world health and safety standards,” AFL President Gil McGowan said. “Alberta missed its chance to send a message that Chinese companies working in the oil sands need to play by Canadian rules.”

McGowan says it might be the largest safety fine in Alberta history, but that only shows that Alberta has a long track record of not aggressively enforcing its own workplace safety rules.

The two victims, 28-year-old Ge Genbao and 33-year-old Lui Hongliang, were just two of the more than 130 Cantonese-speaking workers who had been brought over from China for the Sinopec oilsands project.

“We shouldn’t forget the circumstances that led to the deaths of Genbao and Hongliang,” McGowan added. “The company did not get the construction plans certified by an engineer. The wires weren’t strong enough to hold up against the wind. It was a complete abdication of responsibility on the part of the employer.”

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email orokne@afl.org.


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