Traditionally, Day of Mourning ceremonies and events have helped us mark an important day in our movement, allowing workers and families to come together every year to mourn for the dead, and re-commit to our fight for the living. This year, those activities must look very different as we all do our part to limit the spread of the virus and protect those most vulnerable to serious health impacts. We cannot gather in-person, but that does not mean that we will stand down on this important day. We will come together online from inside our homes in communities across the country.
On April 28 we remember those who lost their lives or had their lives changed forever because of something that happened in their workplace.
On this day, workers, retirees, leaders, activists and allies across the country come together to remember and recommit to protecting workers and preventing further tragedies, and making every workplace safe and healthy for everyone.
In 2018, 1,027 workers across the country died because of their job. Many more work-related deaths aren’t counted by our workers’ compensation system.
This is unacceptable.
Though we can’t hold in-person gatherings this year, the enduring message of Day of Mourning – to mourn for the dead and fight for the living – is more important than ever.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live and work. While everyone is affected by the crisis, workers are on the front line. Many are doing critical work without the protections they need to keep themselves safe.
Many workers have been deemed essential and go to work every day so that others can stay home as we all do everything we can to stop the pandemic. We owe it to all workers to make sure they have the protections and supports to work safely. COVID-19 doesn’t mean we weaken those rights – it means we strengthen them.
Workers know that if we wait until the science is certain before implementing protections, many workers will pay the price. That’s why unions fight for the precautionary principle, which maintains that the absence of scientific certainty should not prevent prudent actions that may reduce risk.
As the world has faced this new and unknown contagion called COVID-19, governments and employers should be outfitting workers with all available protections, until the source of transmission is determined – not the other way around.
That means ensuring that front-line workers have the protective equipment they need, and the training to use it safely.
That means ensuring that all workers, including precarious and vulnerable workers, have access to job protections, adequate paid sick days and income supports to protect them through this crisis.
UMWA Local 7606 marks National Day of Mourning online.
The vigils we are holding this year to mark the National Day of Mourning will be virtual – yet another way COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work.
Though we can’t gather in person this year, the enduring message of Day of Mourning – to mourn for the dead and fight for the living – is ever more meaningful.
Right now, millions of workers who have been deemed essential are risking their wellbeing every day.
Millions of people across the country go to their jobs hoping that others are taking all the right precautions.
We all read the story of Keith Saunders, who was exposed to COVID-19 at his job at a grocery store in Oshawa and passed away at the age of 48. Stories like this underscore the risk that many workers are undertaking to ensure that the essential services we all depend on continue during this pandemic.
We are still reeling at the accounts of care workers at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Ontario where a third of the residents have died and at least 24 staff members have tested positive for the virus. These same workers are now reporting that no precautions were being taken and sick residents were not being separated from healthy ones until after 16 people had died. There is great concern from many long-term care workers and so many other care workers about the threat of COVID-19. They are the ones on the front lines and it’s our duty to stand up for them.
Our own lives too have been dramatically affected with everything from national and provincial regulations and social distancing laws to new protocols at our workplace requiring extra efforts to protect fellow workers, yourself and your family from the spread of COVID-19. And now many health workers are facing reports of a potential shortage of personal protective equipment.
We owe it to all these workers to make sure they know their rights and that those rights are defended.
Our three basic rights at work, that are protected in health and safety statutes in every jurisdiction in Canada are:
Right to know about the hazards in their workplace and receive the training they need to be able to do their jobs safely.
Right to participate in decisions that could affect their health and safety.
Right to refuse work that could endanger their health and safety or that of others. The right to refuse is not the first step to protect workers. This is a serious, sometimes necessary step that no worker takes lightly.
These are not frivolous rights, nor can they be pushed aside in the face of a pandemic. In fact, this pandemic highlights where these rights need to be strengthened. There are over 1,000 workers who lose their lives every year in this country and many more whose lives have been changed forever because of something that happened in the workplace.The best way to pay tribute to these workers is to do our best to protect others. Once this crisis is over, we must commit to fighting for fair wages, adequate paid sick leave and proper job protections. As workers, retirees, leaders, activists and allies we must continue to come together to make every workplace safe and healthy for everyone.
Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board Fatalities
January 1 to December 31 2019