Won't Advance Severance Pay to Westray Miners

Disgusting. Really disgusting.

Nova Scotia Government
Won't Advance Severance Pay

Cabinet Decision

This article appeared in the
The Globe and Mail
Friday, 9 January 1998

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia government will not advance $1.2-million in severance pay to former unionized workers at the Westray coal mine.

The cabinet decision yesterday means that 117 workers who never received severance pay when the mine exploded in 1992 must wait until the bankrupt mine's assets are sold.

There was a danger of setting a precedent for other bankruptcies, Premier Russell MacLellan said. The province would also require too much time to get waivers from all parties involved to free claims on company assets.

A Labour Standards Tribunal recently ruled that the unionized workers were entitled to severance pay of twelve weeks plus interest.

A union spokesman for the former Westray workers said he was disgusted by the cabinet decision.

"All we want is them to treat these people right and they don't do it," said John Kingston, a staff representative for the United Steelworkers of America. "I think it's disgusting. Really disgusting."

He said most workers stand to collect between $6,000 and $12,000.

"This is just another blow for these workers," he said from Sydney. "I've had telephone calls from people who are in bankruptcy ... sitting here waiting."

NDP Leader Robert Chisholm also condemned the cabinet's decision. "I don't think it's right. I don't think it's fair. I think it shows that this government continues to hold a double standard."

The government is also facing pressure from 30 non-unionized Westray workers for payment of severance packages. Mr. MacLellan said a decision on that issue has not been made.

Twenty-six miners died in the May 9, 1992, explosion at the mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia. An inquiry later cited lax safety standards.

Go To:   Westray Scrapbook Fifty clippings about the Westray coal mine disaster
Go to:   Main Westray Coal Mine Disaster page
Go to:   Westray Public Inquiry online transcript of testimony
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