Across the country this week, on April 28, ceremonies marked the annual Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured on the Job.
From 2010 through 2013, over 3,800 Canadians are known to have died as a result of workplace accidents and occupational diseases. Those are the official numbers. In fact, those numbers only include people with workers’ compensation benefits.
Many workplace injuries and exposures to possible sources of occupational diseases go unreported. The one million Canadians who juggle multiple jobs often can’t afford to take time off and don’t report incidents. Injuries sustained by the nearly half a million temporary foreign workers are not counted.
From the very beginnings of the labour movement, unions have sought to make everyone’s workplace safe. Unions believe it is fair and reasonable to expect that employers and employees will work together to ensure that workers return to their families without injuries after a day’s work. We also expect governments to hold employers responsible for the safety of the workplace.
Yet, rather than enforcing laws that could save lives, we have a federal government today that has weakened and in some cases eliminated basic health and safety protections across the federal sector.
The federal government refuses to move forward with a registry of buildings containing asbestos despite deadly exposure for construction, renovations and building trade workers.
Against the advice of health and safety experts, it eliminated protections from substances that damage the reproductive system and erased all references to workers’ protection from reproductive hazards from Canada’s Labour Code.
It changed the definition of “danger” to make it harder for workers to exercise their right to refuse dangerous work.
This needs to change. The labour movement has stood up for safe workplaces from the very beginning and will continue to do so.
Every year, April 28 is the day to remember those whose lives were lost and those whose lives were forever changed because of a workplace accident or occupational disease. It is also the day when we renew our commitment to make every workplace safe and healthy.
Campbell River Courtenay and District Labour Council