Last year, 128 British Columbians were killed at work. Nationwide, the annual number of workplace deaths exceeds 1,000.
A Monday flag-raising at Simms Park paid homage to those who have lost their lives or been injured on the job.
The event, held on the National Day of Mourning, was a joint effort between the City of Courtenay, Work Safe BC, CUPE 556, the District Labour Council and the United Steelworkers Union.
“April 28 is not an easy day for any of us. It is, however, an important day for us,” said Dianne Robb, the City’s supervisor of community services and unit vice-president of CUPE Local 556. “The Day of Mourning is as much a day to remember the dead as it is a call to protect the living.”
She implored a crowd at the Simms pavilion to continue working together to protect employees.
“And please remember that it’s each of our jobs to educate,” said Robb, who credits the City for providing safe physical working conditions for employees.
The Steelworkers Union has launched a campaign — Stop the Killing. Enforce the Law — which lobbies senior governments for greater enforcement of the Westray Act, in reference to a 1992 coal mine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners.
The legislation passed in 2004, but the union says politicians are not living up to promises of holding corporations criminally responsible for workplace deaths.
“Justice is not being served,” said Anne Davis, first vice-president of the Campbell River, Courtenay and District Labour Council.
She feels employers need to double their efforts to better protect and save lives on the job.
CUPE initiated Worker’s Memorial Day in 1984. Since then, the observance has spread to more than 80 countries.