A group of workers badly burned in a 2011 explosion at Regina's Co-op refinery are starting a petition that could reform Saskatchewan laws.

The workers argue their injuries are the direct result of negligence. The workers have filed a statement of claim seeking compensation from the Co-op refinery and some of its contractors.

But according to Saskatchewan law, employees are not allowed to sue their employers. In Saskatchewan, injured workers are only allowed to pursue compensation through the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB).

Tavengwa Runyowa, the lawyer representing the victims, said the petition aims to change those laws.

"I'll call it a weapon for the powerless," Runyowa said. "It's brought about a conversation and this is their way, probably one of the few ways that people without power, who cannot just walk into a politician's office, to express themselves."

The petition will be delivered to Premier Brad Wall and Opposition leader Cam Broten. 

The deputy minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety defends the current WCB system, but Runyowa said this is all about safety.

"There's that certain percentage of employers who will make a financial calculation and they'll make the business decision that an unsafe workplace or conduct is worth it, if it means higher profits," he said. "And that's the attitude, from a small percentage of employers — that's the loophole we're trying to close."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story, published Dec. 8, 2014, indicated that inadequate cold-weather measures contributed to the Oct. 6, 2011 explosion at the Co-op refinery. That is not the case. Inadequate cold-weather measures were found to be a factor in a separate explosion which occurred Dec. 24, 2013 at the Co-op refinery. This version also includes updated information, indicating that the workers are suing the Co-op refinery, and some of its contractors.
    Dec 17, 2014 11:31 AM CT