This year the long running Kamloops and District Labour Council Day of Mourning Ceremony has had to be cancelled due to the Pandemic and closure of City Facilities. Traditionally, Day of Mourning ceremonies and events have helped us mark an important day in our movement, allowing workers and families to come together every year to mourn for the dead, and re-commit to our fight for the living. This year, those activities must look very different as we all do our part to limit the spread of the virus and protect those most vulnerable to serious health impacts. We cannot gather in-person, but that does not mean that we will stand down on this important day.
We will come together online from inside our homes in communities across the country
We share the enduring message of Day of Mourning – to mourn for the dead and fight for the living – is ever more meaningful.
Right now, millions of workers who have been deemed essential are risking their wellbeing every day. Millions of people across the country go to their jobs hoping that others are taking all the right precautions.
We all read the story of Keith Saunders, who was exposed to COVID-19 at his job at a grocery store in Oshawa and passed away at the age of 48. Stories like this underscore the risk that many workers are undertaking to ensure that the essential services we all depend on continue during this pandemic.
We are still reeling at the accounts of care workers at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Ontario where a third of the residents have died and at least 24 staff members have tested positive for the virus. These same workers are now reporting that no precautions were being taken and sick residents were not being separated from healthy ones until after 16 people had died. There is great concern from many long-term care workers and so many other care workers about the threat of COVID-19. They are the ones on the front lines and it’s our duty to stand up for them.
And now many health workers are facing reports of a potential shortage of personal protective equipment. We owe it to all these workers to make sure they know their rights and that those rights are defended.
Our three basic rights at work, that are protected in health and safety statutes in every jurisdiction in Canada are:
- Right to know about the hazards in their workplace and receive the training they need to be able to do their jobs safely.
- Right to participate in decisions that could affect their health and safety.
- Right to refuse work that could endanger their health and safety or that of others. The right to refuse is not the first step to protect workers. This is a serious, sometimes necessary step that no worker takes lightly.
These are not frivolous rights, nor can they be pushed aside in the face of a pandemic. In fact, this pandemic highlights where these rights need to be strengthened.
There are over 1,000 workers who lose their lives every year in this country and many more whose lives have been changed forever because of something that happened in the workplace. In 2019, one hundred and forty British Columbia workers died from a workplace injury or disease. The best way to pay tribute to these workers is to do our best to protect others.
Once this crisis is over, we must commit to fighting for fair wages, adequate paid sick leave and proper job protections. As workers, retirees, leaders, activists and allies we must continue to come together to make every workplace safe and healthy for everyone.
On this Day of Mourning and in the context of this global pandemic, the Kamloops and District Labour Council will lay a wreath at the workers Memorial at City Hall to commit to continue to honour and remember the workers who have lost their lives and to remind us that we must continue to fight for the living.
What: On-line Day of Mourning Ceremony
When: April 28, 2020 at 10:30 am
Who: Sponsored by the BC Federation of Labour
What: Presentation to Kamloops City Council
When: April 28, 2020 at 1:30 pm
Who: Jim Waldie, representing Kamloops and District Labour Council
What: Day of Mourning Car Parade
Where: Assembly at the Kamloops Law Court Parking Lot
When: April 28, 2020 at 4:30 pm with Parade to begin at 5:00 pm
Who: Primary Organizers – USW Local 1-417 and supported by the Kamloops and District Labour Council