In Canada, and throughout the world, April 28 marks the National Day of Mourning in honour of workers who have lost their lives, been injured or fallen ill at work.
It’s a time to reflect and honour them all. It’s a time to recommit ourselves to fight for a better, safer Ontario.
No one should ever go to work afraid of injury, illness or death. But in 2021, this is a reality for many workers. More than 1000 Canadians die each year due to work-related causes; many of them preventable. Thousands of family, friends and loved ones suffer in the aftermath.
OPSEU/SEFPO proudly represents workers across the public sector, including those in high-risk settings like health care, long-term care, Corrections and in a variety of public-facing workplaces. We’ve worked extremely hard to keep our members safe, because even one death is too many.
We remember Connie Cerdan, who was a beloved member of our union family for 27 years. As a member from OPSEU/SEFPO Local 597 she was a dedicated employee at Montage Support Services where she worked as a support facilitator. Connie was a kind and thoughtful woman, who passed away earlier this year just days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, at just 66 years old.
Connie is the only OPSEU/SEFPO member who has passed from COVID-19. Her legacy will live on in our work and in our fight to build a better, safer Ontario.
The best way to honour those we’ve lost, like Connie, is to prevent future injuries, illnesses and death.
That’s why we’ll continue to fight for paid sick days and time off to quarantine, for those who need it. No one should risk missing their bill payments because they stayed home sick in an effort to keep others safe. We need to protect one another, because our solidarity is our strength in these difficult times.
We’ll continue to fight for better protection and access to PPE for our front-line workers who are risking their lives to keep Ontario safe and healthy.
We’ll continue to fight for better job and income security for those most impacted by endless lockdowns and those who’ve contracted the virus as well.
We’ll continue to fight for updated public health guidelines and directives to protect workers from airborne transmission in close contact, crowded and confined workplaces.
We’ll continue to fight, so that we’re better prepared. It’s going to take bold vision and a big investment in the public services and public sector workers who keep this province running. But saving lives is worth it.
So, as we take pause on this National Day of Mourning to honour those we’ve lost, let’s recommit ourselves to making Ontario a safer, healthier and fairer place to live and work; a place where all workers are respected and where workplace health and safety is the top priority.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer