Every April 28th, workers across the country and around the globe gather to remember workers that were killed or injured at work. In Canada, on average, a worker dies every eight hours. Since the last Day of Mourning, three CUPE members have lost their lives serving the public.
Two of those members, Anne Marie Chassie and Ute Merritt, were flight attendants who died in a plane crash near Resolute, NU that also claimed the lives of eight passengers and two pilots. The full investigation into the crash by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Transport Canada is continuing. A third member, Stephanie Chaisson,a receptionist at a medical clinic in De Grau, NL, was gunned down at work by her estranged husband. CUPE has called for a provincial inquiry into this tragic incident.
Along with these three members, hundreds, perhaps thousands more CUPE members have gotten sick or injured because their workplaces are not safe. Some members are sick with a disease that was caused by, but never linked to their workplace. Other members are injured because of cutbacks, understaffing, and improper or insufficient training. Some are sick or injured because employers have not followed the occupational health and safety act in their province or jurisdiction. Others are sick or injured because the government has failed to enforce these laws.
In some jurisdictions, governments are cutting back on inspectors and leaving it to employers to police themselves.
Our members deserve better.
It was CUPE’s national health and safety committee that, in 1984, first proposed the idea of a day to remember workers who are injured or killed on the job. On April 28th, we pause to remember the workers that have been injured, made ill, or killed because they went to work to serve the public, and provide for themselves and their families. The day after April 28th, and every other day, we must continue to fight for the living. We must hold employers accountable to make sure they abide by health and safety laws. We must hold governments accountable as well to ensure they enforce the laws they pass. We must continue our struggle to ensure that all workers come home to their family safe and healthy, because at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.