Almost 40 years ago, CUPE’s National Health and Safety Committee created the Day of Mourning. When they envisioned the day, the members of the National Committee wanted to remember the lives lost on the job. They also wanted to inspire workers to fight for the living and prevent further tragedies through workplace advocacy.

This is the second Day of Mourning since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We have now seen over a million cases in Canada, with more than 23,000 deaths. These deaths include people who contracted COVID-19 in the workplace.

Every year, around 1,000 workers die on the job in Canada. We will not know the full impact of COVID-19 on workplace fatalities until later this year. However, since the beginning of 2020, fourteen CUPE members have died as a result of their work. Ten of these deaths were due to COVID-19. This constitutes the highest number of workplace fatalities in a given year that our union has ever recorded.

Evidence from across the country shows that COVID-19 is spreading at work, not only in health and care settings, but also in schools, offices, transportation, and other sectors. Frontline workers, including many CUPE members, are being disproportionately impacted. At-risk worker populations, including workers from racialized and immigrant communities, are being infected at levels that are magnitudes higher than the general population. This can be attributed in part to the effects of precarious work and a lack of paid sick days. These conditions are also affecting workers’ mental health.

Every jurisdiction in Canada has a law that requires employers to provide workers with a healthy and safe workplace. Nevertheless, throughout the pandemic, workers’ health and safety demands have gone unheard. Many governments and workplaces are refusing to acknowledge how COVID-19 is spread and are failing to provide workers with appropriate protection.

A pandemic is no excuse for not following or enforcing health and safety laws. Employers and regulators are failing workers.

No one should lose their life at work. This year, as we mourn workers killed on the job, CUPE vows to keep up the fight to ensure safe and healthy workplaces for all.

Since the beginning of 2020, 14 CUPE members died because of work:

  • Victoria Salvan, CUPE 2881, Quebec
  • Warlito Valdez, CUPE 1936, British Columbia
  • Ronaldo David, CUPE 145, Ontario
  • Jean-Géthro Joseph, CUPE 2199, Ontario
  • Roger Desautels, CUPE 416, Ontario
  • Agary Akaekpuchionwa, CUPE 503, Ontario
  • Mariyan Beile, CUPE 2199, Ontario
  • Kurtis Cleaveley, CUPE 1000, Ontario
  • Aurèle Poirier, CUPE 4721, Ontario
  • Tyler Isaac, CUPE 1000, Ontario
  • Jean Claude Dianzenza, CUPE 204, Manitoba
  • Ingrid Salt, CUPE 1328, Ontario
  • Shihab Shams, CUPE 2191, Ontario
  • Antonio Gaerlan, CUPE 145, Ontario