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Company seeking BC liquor distribution change was fined in US

A company pushing for privatization of British Columbia's liquor distribution system was last week fined $283,000 for health and safety violations at a Pennsylvania plant.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Exel Logistics "intentionally failed to report 42 serious injuries over four years to workers at the plant in Palmyra, Pa., or 43 percent of all such injuries in that period at that plant," according to a New York Times report.

The Tyee reported last week that Patrick Kinsella, a long time BC Liberal strategist whose consulting company Progressive Strategies donated to Premier Christy Clark's leadership campaign, had registered to lobby on Exel's behalf for changes to the province's liquor distribution system.

As part of the B.C. budget, the government announced it intends to privatize that system, and will sell two warehouses to the private sector through a request for proposals process. About 400 BCGEU employees work at the warehouses. The sale of surplus assets is expected to raise some $700 million to help the government balance its budget in 2013-2014.

The six-month investigation into violations at the plant where Exel workers packed Hershey's chocolates found the unreported injuries, many of which were related to lifting and moving heavy boxes, required medical treatment, according to the Times.

The Times quoted David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labour in charge of OSHA: "It was very clear to us that dozens of injuries had not been recorded . . . Exel understood exactly what the law was on reporting. They were aware of these other injuries, and they just did not record them.”

He stressed the violations were "Not just paperwork . . . It’s lives and limbs."

An Exel spokesperson, Lynn Anderson, told the Times the company will contest the citations and fines and that the matter involved one area of one site.

Exel has operations in more than 500 facilities in the United States and Canada.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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