National Day Of Mourning

Sisters and Brothers:

As we approach another April 28th – Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job I can’t help but feel frustrated that we are just treading water when it comes to preventing these tragic events.

Every year thousands of workers are killed, injured or made sick across Canada and the millions globally because of their work. In fact, this number is much, much higher because many deaths go unreported.  Unreported because in some places companies don’t bother to report or because workers who die of occupational diseases weren’t told that the chemicals they were using were dangerous.

There are candle light vigils, religious ceremonies, memorials, demonstrations and many other events bringing attention to a single fact – no matter where we are in the world and no matter how advanced our technologies, people are still dying because of their jobs.

This is a day to think about what happened and why, to think about how workplace injuries, diseases and fatalities occur, how they hurt people, their families, their co-workers and their communities.

I feel frustrated because after all the work we have done, we still see around 1000 workers killed each year in Canada.

I feel frustrated because governments across Canada fail to implement and enforce health and safety regulations or laws that can keep workers healthy and safe.

Last May, we remembered that it was 20 years ago that the Westray Mine exploded killing 26 miners.  As a result of this tragedy, we were successful in lobbying government to bring in legislation to hold companies accountable for workers health and safety. The key provision of that new law lays out the concept of corporate liability, stating that:  “Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

But, with the exception of a couple of fatalities, not much has changed-workers are still dying because of their work and no one is being held accountable.

Our commitment to the victims and survivors was to ensure that there would be “no more Westrays”.  We must continue to lobby and fight for improvements in law to ensure workplaces are made healthy and safe.

We are still losing lives and we must redouble our efforts to “Stop the Killing”.

As a labour movement, we have done great things to help make our workplaces healthy and safe. Without our efforts, our workplaces would be even more dangerous, hazardous and toxic than they are today.

Together, we have fought for and won occupational health and safety legislation.  That includes such essential rights and achievements as the right to refuse unsafe work, workers’ compensation laws and regulations, workplace inspections and enforcement, the right to know about workplace hazards and the right to participate in workplace safety.

Why don’t we treat workplace deaths the same as we treat any other death?

It’s about time we did.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of those killed and we also continue to pray for a full recovery for all the members that were injured due to their work.

Many of us will remember a coworker, family member or friend who died or was injured on the job this April 28th.

Remembering those killed or injured will leave us sad.

Last year and so far this year we have unfortunately had a lot to be sad about because of members we have lost or seen injured.  They are:

  • January 20, 2012, Carl Charlie, 42, and Robert Luggi, Jr., 45, employees of Babine Forest Products located in Burns Lake, British Columbia were fatally injured due to an explosion and fire at the mill. They were members of Local Union 1-424 in District 3.
  • April 23, 2012, Glenn Francis Roche, 46 and Alan Little (supervisor-former member), 43, employees of Lakeland Mills Ltd., located in Prince George, British Columbia were fatally injured due to an explosion and fire at the mill. Mr. Little was a supervisor. Brother Roche was a member of Local Union 1-424 in District 3.
  • June 25, 2012, Chris Reid, 28, an employee of PotashCorp at the Allan mine near Saskatoon, Saskatoon was fatally injured working underground. Brother Chris was caught and dragged into a conveyor. He was a member of Local Union 7689 in District 3.
  • July 17, 2012, Local 1-85 member Bailey Bertrand, age 24, was fatally injured when he was struck by a log while bucking logs at roadside. Bailey was working as a second loader for Lemare Lake Logging near Tahsis British Columbia on Northern Vancouver Island when the incident occurred.
  • September 13, 2012, Toby Childs, 38, an employee of Lemare Lake Logging located in Northern Vancouver Island, he was fatally injured when he was struck by a large branch that fell from a cedar tree while he was felling timber. He was a member of Local Union 1-1937 in District 3.
  • February 26, 2013, Fernando Borges, age 62, an employee of CN Rail succumbed from injuries sustained on February 20, 2013. Fernando was hit by an on-rail pickup truck vehicle that was slowly backing up during a rail replacement program. The incident occurred approximately 34 miles west of Edmonton near the town of Carvel Alberta. He was a member of Local 2004.

Remember, it’s not enough for us to be sad because of all these injured workers and lost lives. We need to get angry. And from our anger must come our determination to make real change in our workplaces.  Think about hazards and eliminate them.  If our workplaces are unsafe or unhealthy it is our right and responsibility to refuse the work until it is made healthy or safe.

Face up to abuses and end them.  Stand up to negligence and make it stop.

I want to challenge every one of us that between now and next April 28 to do something to make your workplace healthier and safer.

So this April 28, take the time to commemorate those who have been lost. Take the time to be sad. Then get angry, get motivated, get active and help make our workplaces healthy and safe.

Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

And remember, No More Westrays!

In Solidarity,

Stephen Hunt,
USW District 3 Director

Brother’s & Sister’s of Local 5890

Last year in Saskatchewan 60 workers died on the job and hundreds more were injured. Every one of those workers not only had their lives instantly changed but those of their family, friends and coworkers changed as well. It is a sobering reminder that we must take responsibility for our own safety. Teach our children about safety in their workplace. Exercise our rights to be informed, right to participate and right to refuse dangerous or unsafe work. We must hold accountable employers that fail to meet the highest safety standards and make sure that those that don’t are held accountable through criminal charges when a worker dies as a result of an employers negligence.

On Sunday April 28th, join your local and other workers for a Memorial Ceremony at Queen Elizabeth II Court, Regina City Hall at 1:30pm.

Solidarity Forever!