April 28th - Day of Mourning
April 15, 2009, 9:35 AM EST
The 25th anniversary of the National Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job will be marked April 28.
The Canadian labour movement began the Day of Mourning in 1984 - with April 28 chosen because that was the date in 1914 when the first comprehensive workers' compensation act was passed.
In response to the lobbying of Canadian unions and the NDP, the Government of Canada finally proclaimed the day as a National Day of Mourning in 1991. Since that time this commemorative day has spread to over 120 countries and regions across the globe.
It's a day to remember the more than two million workers who die, the more than 1.2 million who are injured and the more than 160 million who fall ill each year due to unsafe, unhealthy or unsustainable work and workplaces.
On April 28th we will remember the CAW's first fatalities of 2009; Shara Flanigan died on January 14th, followed by Ken Fraser on January 20 and Harjeet Singh on February 28.
The CAW remembers the 265 members killed on the job since 1980. These include 159 deaths from occupational diseases caused by asbestos, silica and isocyanate exposures suffered by CAW Local 456 members who worked at Holmes Foundry and Insulation.
We also remember the 36 FFAW members killed on the job since 1987 and in addition we must not forget the 70 CAW members who have died as a result of a traumatic incident in the workplace.
In a letter to CAW local union presidents, CAW President Ken Lewenza stresses that it's critical to reaffirm that health and safety is a fundamental right for all workers. Occupational cancer is a major concern. The International Labour Organization estimates that cancer is by far the most common work-related cause of death, with one out of every five workers being at risk, leaving accidents and other occupational diseases well behind.
"We must pressure the federal government to stop the export of chrysotile asbestos and lobby all provincial governments to ban and have all forms of asbestos removed from our workplaces," Lewenza said.
Lewenza is urging all CAW members to take action, but also to take a moment on April 28 to stop and remember all workers injured or killed on the job.