April 22, 2009

Day of Mourning -- April 28

KELOWNA - The North Okanagan Labour Council will remember workers who have been killed and injured on the job in a ceremony at Kelowna's Ben Lee Park on Tuesday, April 28, 2009.
The Day of Mourning ceremony will take place at the site of a tree the NOLC planted in the Rutland park in 2000 as a memorial to workers who died or were injured in the line of duty.
The ceremony will get underway at 4 pm. and the public is invited to attend.
The Day of Mourning is held annually on April 28.
"The day has two purposes," said North Okanagan Labour Council President Glenn Nowag, "to remember workers who have been killed and injured on thejob, and also to fight for better safety for workers who are still on the job."
Established by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984, the Day of Mourning is now observed worldwide.
Labour councils and community groups throughout the province host ceremonies and events to mark the day. This year is the 25th year that the Day of Mourning has been observed.
In 2004, while marking the 20th anniversary of the Day of Mourning, it was noted that 2003 ended with the highest number of deaths and injuries in 20 years (963). We know that hundreds more deaths occur due to exposures to carcinogens and toxins in the workplace, but they are never identified or accepted as work-related by Workers' Compensation Boards.
Sadly, we must announce that, in 2007, the last year we have complete figures to compare, we reached a new record for workers killed on the job or from workplace causes -- 1,055.
After a quarter of a century, where we have achieved improved legislation, regulations, and collective bargaining provisions, a record number of workers died from workplace causes.
In 2007, according to the latest report from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, 1,055 people lost their lives at work. That's almost a 10% increase from 2004. That's four people every work day.
Here in British Columbia, 125 workers lost their lives in 1998 because of their jobs. By 2007, the number has climbed to 140. That's a 12% increase in theworkplace over the past decade -- another 3 workers dead every other year.
Over the past 25 years, successive governments have pledged their support to workers and their unions. They announced new workplace health and safety laws and regulations -- some of the in the world.
Unfortunately, they have failed to provide the resources needed to enforce those new laws. This is the reason why Canada's workplaces claim a growing number of lives every year: the laws are not enforced, so reckless employers are allowed to carry on without consequence.
"Clearly the Federal government needs to make compliance and enforcement as reality. At provincial and territorial level, we need to push for special prosecutors to be appointed and trained to enforce the law," concluded Nowag.
In 2000, the NOLC purchased trees at Ben Lee Park and near the Veteran's Memorial in the memory Lane linear park in Vernon as permanent markers forthe Day of Mourning.
April 28 was chosen as the day of remembrance because this was the day that third reading took place for the first comprehensive Workers Compensation Act (Ontario 1914) in Canada. Parliament recognized the Day of Mourning in 1991.
In 1992, the B.C. government designated April 28 as a day to remember those who have suffered as a result of the hazards of work. The NOLC hosts or takes part in Day of Mourning ceremonies each year.
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Vernon-Monashee NDP candidate Mark Olsen released the following statement about the Day of Mourning:
"On the Kranz Overpass in Vernon there's a modest monument. It marks the tragic death of a worker on the bridge in August of 1987. The monument's location, on a busy and sometimes dangerous bridge, reminds us that every year, thousands of BC workers are injured on the job, and hundreds killed as a result of workplace injuries or occupational diseases."
According to the latest statistics released by WorkSafeBC, in 2007, 173,538 injuries were reported and 139 of these were fatalities. The BC Federation of Labour believes that the number is closer to 380, reflecting more accurately the number of people who died from occupational diseases due to exposure to workplace toxic hazards.
Most troubling is that the 2008 WCB Penalty Report shows that fines levied against offending employers fail to reflect the seriousness of the injuries and fatalities.
Olsen continued, "Is this the message we want to send - that in BC workers' lives are cheap? Not only is this unfair to workers, it is unfair to the majority of BC employers who provide good training and equipment and comply with safety regulations."
Olsen concluded: "I urge you to join me in observing the 2009 International Day of Mourning by rededicating yourself to ensuring that all BC workers are safe on the job. Support stronger health and safety regulations, improved standards and enforcement, and fair and just compensation for the victims of workplace injuries and disease. BC workers have the right to expect a safe and healthy workplace."


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