Families to mourn members lost on the job
Members of the Baccalieu Trail District Labour Council (BTDLC) will join families from the Trinity-Conception region next week to mourn and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives on the job.
This year’s event will get underway at 4 p.m. next Wednesday, April 28 at the Conception Bay Regional Community Centre in Carbonear.
Sponsored by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the theme for the 2010 National Day of Mourning is “Is This the Day You Die At Work?”
The Baccalieu Trail District Labour Council represents unionized members and their families in Trinity and Conception Bays. The group has been holding the Day of Mourning since 2003 when they formed a committee and started compiling the names of workers from throughout the district who have died from workplace accidents. Their names have been engraved on a permanent memorial donated by the council. The plaque hangs in the Community Centre’s main foyer. The District Labour Council continues to search for other names to update their list and add them to the memorial.
“Graves of thousands of people who went to work not thinking it would be their last day on the job stretch across Canada and around the world,” says BTDLC President Debbie McCarthy. “ Workers’ deaths largely go unnoticed in Canada, except for the surviving family members and the friends and colleagues who are left to mourn the loss of a loved one,” McCarthy points out.
Lives forever changed
The CLC first declared April 28 as a National Day of Mourning over 25 years ago. Now recognized around the world, the day is set aside to help raise public awareness of the thousands of workers whose lives were forever changed and the hundreds who die every year.
The federal government officially recognized April 28 as a National Day of Mourning when Parliament passed the Workers Mourning Day Act in 1990.
Aside from a day of remembrance, it is also recognized as a day of action to improve workplace health and safety.
Even after a quarter of a century, and even though we have achieved improved legislation, regulations, and collective bargaining provisions, a record number of workers still die from workplace causes, the BTDLC spokeswoman says. She says, “government regulators must be held accountable for this carnage that seems to go unchecked.”
The labour movement feels governments are not putting anywhere near sufficient resources into enforcement, but their calls appear to be falling on deaf ears. “The abdication of responsibility by employers and governments must be aggressively challenged across the country. Employers who are responsible for most of these deaths are not held accountable,” the BTDLC spokeswoman asserts.
In 2008, according to the latest report from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada, some 1,038 people lost their lives at work including 23 in this province. In addition, in this province there were 4,239 accepted time-loss injuries between 1995 and 2010.
The inaccuracy of these numbers is a frightening thought. It is extremely difficult to prove injuries or deaths due to diseases contracted through the workplace, as anyone who has the misfortune of making a claim through their Worker’s Compensation Board can attest. There has also been a significant increase in fatalities caused by occupational diseases mainly asbestos related, even though it is suspected that the majority of asbestos-related fatalities are not being compensated.
“Even worse,” McCarthy suggests, “is the fact that many of the deaths and injuries are attributable to employer actions or negligence and were entirely preventable had the employer adhered to current health and safety laws.”
The Canadian labour movement continues to pressure respective governments to take action. “ We are calling for special prosecutors to be set up in each province and territory and, where appropriate, at the federal level. The task of these special prosecutors would be to both investigate cases and lay criminal charges when employer actions and inactions have resulted in serious injury or death.”
In this province the recent overhaul of the province’s occupational health and safety regulations raised minimum standards and should make a real difference in the health and safety of workers in every sector of the economy. This, however, will not happen without education of working people, and employers and enforcement and monitoring of the new regulations is critical. “ We must work to ensure this is achieved,” the BTDLC spokeswoman says.
“ We must stand up for the health and safety of working people and continue to fight for better health and safety laws and enforcement. We must ensure Occupational Health and Safety is more than checklists or what is known as paper safety - when it should be much, much more.”
Every accident is preventable - it is preventable because of strong laws, worker involvement, education and enforcement. It is preventable because we invest in safety, in train- ing, in systems and in technology. It is preventable because we put safety first, ahead of production, ahead of profit.
“I am sure we can all agree there is nothing (not profit, not production) more important than ensuring workers come home to their families at the end of the day. This should be the foundation of every decision we make,” McCarthy says.
On April 28 the labour movement is asking people to remember and mourn those whose lives have been taken. “Think of their fam- ilies and friends left behind and take action to force the lawmakers and legislatures to change their ways”.
Lobbying for changes on workplace health and safety and increased enforcement of regulations is one of the priorities of local labour councils.
Members of the BTDLC meet at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23 in Carbonear every second month on the last Thursday of the month. Union members interested in joining the council are welcome to come along for more information.
Next week’s Day of Mourning at the Regional Community Centre in Carbonear will include a wreath placing ceremony.