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On National Day of Mourning governments must do more to protect workers


On the eve of Canada’s National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, governments must redouble their efforts to ensure greater safety in workplaces, the leadership of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union said today.

Citing figures that show an average of four Canadians die on the job each day of the workweek – about 1,000 in total each year – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said: “As unionists, we must push for even stronger measures to our health and safety laws. But we know that laws are only as good as the ability to enforce them is. So industry self-regulation isn’t the answer.

“We need more health and safety officers to enforce the laws … and we need more Ministry of Labour inspectors to ensure that all workplaces are properly monitored for their adherence to safety.”

The OPSEU president also said too often the public forgets the impact on families who lose a loved one due to a death in the workplace.

“Let us remember, too, the families left behind. Daughters who will grow up without a father; sons who might never know a mother.”

OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida noted that at 1,000 deaths annually, Canada ranks disturbingly high on the list of nations in the  Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD) when it comes to workplace fatalities.

 “Our numbers are going up in contrast to other OECD countries where deaths on the job have been declining,” he said.

Although recent provincial legislation has made it a crime if an owner or operator of a company is found guilty of death caused by unsafe workplace practices, Almeida said: “I’m hard pressed to think of even one case where a CEO has gone to prison because a worker died unnecessarily under his watch.”

More than 50 National Day of Mourning events are planned across Ontario on April 28. To learn more about a remembrance event in your city or region, please visit www.whsc.on.ca and follow the links.

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Warren (Smokey) Thomas

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida