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Day of Mourning 2023: know your rights!

April 27, 2023

April 28 is the most sacred day of the year for the labour movement: today we honour those who have unjustly died on the job and we renew our commitment to fighting for ever safer workplaces and zero workplace fatalities. We refocus our efforts and energy to fight for the living, to prevent further deaths, injuries and occupational diseases.

In Canada working people and their unions have fought hard for health and safety legislation that is meant to keep workplaces safe and healthy, but it continues to fall short.

Injuries, illnesses and the fatalities caused by the workplace are not part of the job. No-one goes to work to be maimed, develop a life-altering illness or die – but still in our country approximately 1,000 workers die each year and many thousands more are injured.

The statistics are flawed and incomplete. They represent the claims that are acknowledged and accepted by workers’ compensation boards – which are frequently disputed by health and safety and workers’ compensation activists, including in our own union. They do not include the many workers who are wrongly denied coverage by workers’ compensation, are not covered because of job classifications or the many unreported incidents.  They also frequently do not include the thousands of occupational diseases and cancers – which we know to be life-altering and fatal. 

Whatever the numbers indicate, they are unacceptable — because we know that most deaths and injuries are predictable and preventable.

Steelworkers have a proud history in the fight for worker’s rights through collective bargaining and political action. It was the struggles of Steelworkers in many places across Canada that led to the recognition of the right to refuse dangerous work, a right that was later recognized in law. We have fought hard for the right to know, the right to participate and the right to refuse.

As Steelworkers, we take great pride in our health and safety activism and with this pride must come an unrelenting vigilance – a determination to do what it takes to reach no more workplace fatalities or injuries.

While we won the Westray law in 2004, we need to keep pushing on our Stop the killing, Enforce the law campaign to hold employers accountable for the choices they make to compromise workers’ health and safety and cause injury or death on the job. Cutting corners when it comes to safety and healthy workplaces are choices and corporate managers must be forced to do better and they must be held accountable when they fail.

Today and every day, we are deeply committed to improving all workplaces – through our strong negotiations, our vigilance on the job and our political action to ensure no-one goes to work only to never return home.

In solidarity,

Marty Warren
National Director for Canada

Scott Lunny
USW District 3 Director

Dominic Lemieux
USW District 5 Director

Myles Sullivan
USW District 6 Director

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