On this April 28, the official Day of Mourning, Confederation of Canadian Unions mourns those workers who have been killed at work, and renews the commitment to fight for the living. Three Canadians die every day as a result of workplace “accidents,” and more still from industrial illness.
These deaths are preventable.
There can be no substantial improvements in workplace safety without substantial improvements in workers’ rights. Statistics show that unionized workplaces have consistently lower workplace injuries and fatalities. Employers and government must recognize that the path to safe workplaces will only be realized by an increase in labour rights across the board.
Laws that promote and support union certification and increase union density and collective bargaining coverage throughout our economy are necessary to provide protection for all workers in Canada. Safety is more important than profits. Life and limb are more important than flexibility and efficiency.
The current system of workplace safety legislation in Canada is failing workers. The system is based on volunteerism: the magic belief that workers and employers will cooperate on health and safety and become equal partners in the make-believe fairy tale of a “culture of safety.” The problem is that to be equal partners, the parties must share equal risk. This, however, is not the case, because companies aren’t killed at work. Only workers can lose their lives on the job.
It is the responsibility of government, and all of us that elect governments, to ensure a broad, sweeping and nationwide strengthening of inspection and enforcement of workplace safety legislation.
Corporations that run unsafe workplaces must be made to pay in a manner that truly affects their bottom line. Companies and managers whose negligence and disregard for the law cause the deaths of workers must be prosecuted. Inspectors and investigators must have their numbers and enforcement tools increased dramatically before these improvements can even begin to happen.
It comes down to value of life over that of profit. The Confederation of Canadian Unions believes we need to change the system so it is no longer profitable for employers to operate in a national workplace safety climate that kills three of us every single day.
Remember the dead. Fight for the living.