Fam­i­lies to mourn mem­bers lost on the job

The Compass - - SPORTS -

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.

Death toll

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.”

Action needed

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.”

Ac­ci­dents pre­ventable

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.

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