Lac-Mégantic engineer Thomas Harding’s firing ruled illegal

Click to play video: 'Lac-Mégantic trial: Tom Harding breaks silence following acquittal'
Lac-Mégantic trial: Tom Harding breaks silence following acquittal
WATCH: Tom Harding, one of three men acquitted of criminal negligence causing death in the Lac-Mégantic railway disaster, speaks out after the verdict. Global’s Mike Armstrong reports – Jan 22, 2018

The firing of Thomas Harding, the train engineer involved in the Lac-Mégantic train derailment, has been ruled illegal by an arbitrator.

Harding was acquitted in January 2018 after he was charged with criminal negligence causing death in connection with the derailment of a runaway fuel train that killed 47 people in the small Quebec town.

READ MORE: 3 men found not guilty of criminal negligence in Lac-Mégantic train derailment

The locomotive engineer, who had been on medical leave since July 2013, was slated to progressively return to work in July 2018 at Central Maine and Quebec Railway (CMQR).

The company, which took over from the defunct Montreal, Maine and Atlantic that operated the line at the time of the derailment, informed Harding on June 27, 2018 that his employment was terminated.

Story continues below advertisement

In the termination letter, CMQR said “the relationship of trust” between itself and Harding had been “irreparably destroyed” by his involvement in the Lac-Mégantic derailment.

WATCH: Lac-Mégantic children mark fifth anniversary of rail disaster

Click to play video: 'Lac-Mégantic children mark fifth anniversary of rail disaster'
Lac-Mégantic children mark fifth anniversary of rail disaster

The union representing Harding immediately filed a grievance following his dismissal, saying he was laid off and disciplined “without having the benefit of a fair and impartial investigation” as per the collective agreement.

As a result, the United Steelworkers asked for Harding to be reinstated in his work and reimbursed — but the company denied the request.

At a meeting in Montreal in early January, the arbitrator said CMQR’s “complete failure” to investigate as per the agreement prevented the company from issuing “any valid discipline” to Harding.

Story continues below advertisement

“This is not a minor ‘technical’ violation of the collective agreement, but rather a fundamental one,” wrote Graham J. Clarke.

READ MORE: Quebec minister demands Netflix remove Lac-Mégantic images from productions

In his ruling, Clarke has ordered the company to compensate Harding in lieu of reinstatement.

“Since neither party had addressed the appropriate quantum for those damages, that specific issue is remitted back to them for discussion,” he wrote.

The United Steelworkers said it would not comment on the ruling because Harding’s case is still ongoing.

— With files from The Canadian Press

Sponsored content