Mourn­ing the loss of work­ers

Labour coun­cil pres­i­dent re­peats call for mea­sures to re­duce work­place deaths, in­juries

The Compass - - OPINION -

Ed­i­tor’s note:

Sis­ters and broth­ers — we gather to­day to mourn the loss of work­ers who never came home from their jobs in our com­mu­nity.

Sadly, go­ing to work killed them — ei­ther through in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents or through work­place ex­po­sure to car­cino­gens that cause fa­tal ill­nesses like can­cer or as­besto­sis. Here in New­found­land and Labrador, last year 33 work­ers died from work­place ac­ci­dent or ill­ness. Across Canada, more than 1,000 work­ers lost their lives in 2010. That’s un­ac­cept­able. More can and more must be done to end worker fa­tal­i­ties.

And we call upon New­found­land and Labrador, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and em­ploy­ers to take ac­tion — not just send con­do­lences. The fact that over­all each year in Canada about 1,000 or more work­ers die be­cause their work­places are un­safe is to­tally un­ac­cept­able.

2012 also marks a tragic an­niver­sary in worker fa­tal­i­ties. Twenty years ago, the Westray Mine dis­as­ter in Nova Sco­tia in­stantly killed 26 work­ers when un­der­ground meth­ane gas ex­ploded. Their lives were need­lessly lost be­cause the own­ers of the Westray Mine cut cor­ners on safety to make big­ger prof­its, as the Westray In­quiry found out.

The labour move­ment fought hard for sev­eral years to win ap­proval in Par­lia­ment for the Westray Bill, which amended the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada to crim­i­nally pros­e­cute and jail em­ploy­ers who don’t pro­tect the lives of their em­ploy­ees. But sadly, in the nine years since the Westray amend­ments were passed, only two prov­inces have laid charges un­der the Crim­i­nal Code.

But since the Westray Mine dis­as­ter, more than 13,000 other Cana­di­ans have lost their lives due to ac­ci­dents on the job and work­place ill­nesses.the fam­i­lies and friends of those 13,000 work­ers at­tended funer­als — in­stead of re­tire­ment par­ties. Those work­ers’ fam­i­lies got a ter­ri­ble call from the po­lice or hospi­tal in­stead of an ex­pected call from their loved one say­ing: “I’m on my way home!”

Sis­ters and broth­ers, we don’t want to keep re­peat­ing our call for help at ev­ery Day of Mourn­ing. We want these un­nec­es­sary deaths pre­vented. We want the num­bers to go down each year, not up. We want ev­ery worker to be safe on the job and go home at the end of their shift.

So to­day we reded­i­cate our­selves to call­ing on gov­ern­ment and em­ploy­ers to take far more ac­tion to pre­vent work­place fa­tal­i­ties. Our sol­i­dar­ity — and our pro­found sad­ness at these tragic losses — de­mands noth­ing less.

— Deb­bie Mccarthy

Sub­mit­ted photo

Adrian Pye had the hon­our of cut­ting the Day of Mourn­ing cake dur­ing an April 28 cer­e­mony in Car­bon­ear in hon­our of those who lost their lives on the job. The cer­e­mony took place at the Con­cep­tion Bay Re­gional Com­mu­nity Cen­tre. Adrian was a close friend of Paul Pike of Shearstown, who died March 12, 2009. Pike was one of 17 peo­ple who per­ished when Cougar He­li­copters Flight 91 ditched in the ocean about 55 kilo­me­tres off the coast of New­found­land.

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