Canucks owners appeal $125,000 WCB fine for not providing safe vehicles for blueberry farm workers
The Aquilini family — real estate moguls who also own the Vancouver Canucks — has been fined a second time for failing to provide safe vehicles for workers on its large blueberry farm.
It is the second violation issued by the Workers’ Compensation Board in as many years, and came with a hefty fine of $125,277.
The owners of the Golden Eagle blueberry farm in Pitt Meadows, Francesco, Roberto, and Elisa Aquilini, failed to keep some farm vehicles used to transport workers in “safe operating condition,” according to the most recent addition of WCB’s WorkSafe Magazine.
“This put the safety of the firm’s workers and others at risk,” the provincial government agency said.
WCB noted this was a “repeated violation” because in May 2011, the Aquilinis were fined $62,701 for again failing to maintain farm vehicles at the blueberry operation.
At the same time, the family was issued another $62,701 fine for the “repeated violation” of failing to provide proper communication between workers and first aid attendants, after an employee suffered a “serious leg injury” caused by a falling steel wall.
John Negrin, a Golden Eagle representative, said the farm has addressed the shortcomings identified in the WCB report. That included malfunctioning vehicle lights, an employee driving without a licence, and a contractor allowing people to ride in the back of his flatbed truck.
“Our safety protocols and procedures [are] up to speed,” Negrin said Wednesday.
“Worker health and safety is and remains a top priority.”
However, he said the Aquilinis were appealing the $125,277 fine to ensure they were being treated fairly, noting that the company continues to work with WCB on safety issues.
“We feel [the fine] is a little bit onerous and excessive in terms of what actually was found with the violations,” Negrin said.
The family lost an appeal of the earlier $62,701 WCB fines.
In March 2011, members of the Aquilini family were charged with several environment violations — under the Water Act, the Fisheries Act and the Dike Maintenance Act — in relation to the diversion of water at its Golden Eagle cranberry plantation, also in Pitt Meadows.
Environmentalists complained the installation of a pipe and pump that diverted water from a side channel of the North Alouette River in the summer of 2009 resulted in the deaths of thousands of fish.
The matter is still before Port Coquitlam Provincial Court.
No criminal charges were ever laid.
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