April 27, 2017

April 28, Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job

Workers Strive to Provide the Right to
Safe and Healthy Working Conditions
with a Guarantee



April 28, Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job
Workers Strive to Provide the Right to Safe and Healthy Working Conditions
with a Guarantee

Defend the Right of Workers to Safe and Healthy Working
- Normand Chouinard
Stand With Fort McMurray Firefighters! - Peggy Morton
Workers Speak Out in Defence of Their Rights
Brutal Statistics on Fatalities and Injuries at Work
Canada Pays Its Respects -- Workers' Monuments and Memorials

April 28, Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job

Workers Strive to Provide the Right to
Safe and Healthy Working Conditions
with a Guarantee

April 28, 2017 is the 33rd annual Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job, a day when workers across Canada and around the world participate in ceremonies and meetings and observe a moment of silence to mourn the dead and fight for the living.

Once again this year, the occasion is marked by workers' striving to provide the right to safe and healthy working conditions with a guarantee. Besides their day-to-day fights with individual employers, they blame governments, and rightly so, for refusing to provide this right with a guarantee. It is governments which must hold all those who employ labour to account. Continuously today, employers and especially the big corporations get away with murder thanks to the refusal of governments to enforce regulations on health and safety or hold companies to account that bypass regulations in all manner of insidious ways. Instead, governments themselves are removing regulations which uphold health and safety. They claim such regulations are not good for business, which reveals what interests governments serve, and it is not those of the people. Far from holding the corporations to account, governments themselves wage an ideological offensive which criminalizes workers who stand up for their rights and against the degradation of their working conditions.

Powerful private interests claim that looking after the health and safety of workers is a cost of production that must be reduced if they are to succeed in their international competition with their rivals for profit and dominance in world markets. They demand that the issue of workplace health and safety be left in their hands as a private and even secret affair because revealing the health and safety conditions would make them vulnerable to their competitors! Governments are serving this dictate with a variety of measures, such as establishing "industry self-regulation" in the railways and other significant sectors of the economy. The Ontario government too has now amended the Occupational Health and Safety Act to introduce self-regulatory systems.

At the same time, the monopolies declare that they are totally committed to workers' health and safety. They proclaim that their facilities are the safest and that the workers produce there without injuring themselves. They put up signs everywhere that read "This workplace is accident-free." The real conditions and facts are something else.

Across the board, workplace safety is made a matter of workers' attitudes. Workers are blamed for accidents and disciplined when they are injured or when they object to unsafe working conditions. The Workers' Compensation Boards do the same, blaming accidents on workers' bad behaviour. They systematically challenge workers' claims on fraudulent grounds, such as claiming that a worker's injury was the result of a pre-existing condition, not their working conditions.

Every day workers face a wall of silence that they strive to smash to ensure that their needs and rights are respected and that all workers, without exception, are protected. Safe and healthy working conditions and appropriate compensation for workplace injuries is part of workers' exchange with their employer of their capacity to work in return for definite conditions that are acceptable to them. These conditions are now denied, creating an unviable situation in relations of production in the workplace and society.

Every passing day brings workers face-to-face with the need to turn the situation around in their favour as regards their health and safety and that of the public by intensifying their resistance and demanding a new direction for the economy which recognizes and guarantees the rights of all. To this end, workers are finding the ways and means to speak out and smash the silence on their working conditions. The slogan, Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All guides them to build unity in action and make sure they are not criminalized for upholding their right to refuse unsafe work.

On April 28, Mourn the Dead and Fight for the Living! This issue of Workers' Forum is dedicated to all those who are doing so today.

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Defend the Right of Workers to Safe and Healthy Working Conditions!

In the days leading up to April 28, the Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job, workers are thinking about how to pay tribute to their peers who have been injured or killed at work or have died or are ill as a result of their working conditions. Activities are being held across the country involving thousands of workers who will carry the same message, "One death is too many." The problem of how to participate in production without losing one's life or seriously injuring oneself is a daily concern for the working class as a whole.

On this important issue, too, there is a battle between the outlook of oligarchs who want to "take charge" of the "health and safety" issues of "their" employees and the outlook of workers everywhere who seek solutions to ensure their full safety at work. The workers know that the corporations, those who control them and their political representatives, block any organizing work of the working class to take control of its security. The systematic and conscious obstruction by corporations with the objective of destroying what the workers themselves want to build is one of the urgent problems to be solved. The message of the oligarchs is clear: "Leave your health and safety to us. Trust us. Don't listen to your organizations that just want to take your money. We will pay for you and everything will be fine." This message only aims to paralyze and make the working class, its organized and unorganized sections, passive. It also aims to sow doubt in our ability to transform our workplaces to make them safer.

The oligarchs' method is very clear: to intensify the exploitation of the working class by increasing hours of work and productivity while extorting concessions from the workers using the police powers of the state. This offensive inevitably leads to more dangers and accidents. To divert the workers' attention, "health and safety programs" take the form of an advertising campaign about the importance for the company that "their" workers adopt good behaviour. "Reward programs" for those who have no accidents further make workplace safety a matter of behaviour and attitude. This is not to mention the privatization of health and safety prevention, in which private firms are tasked with publicizing the latest products that will allegedly ensure our safety. In short, workers are told to leave their fate to the corporations under the pretext that there is no force more concerned to ensure workers' safety at work.

On April 28, this is what workers must reject. While paying tribute to their peers, workers must hold the political authorities and private corporations accountable. They must stop their obstruction and attempts to destroy what the workers want to build. It is a fundamental right of the working class not to leave their fate to the rich to protect them.

The workers must persist in their efforts to create the organizations needed to transform workplaces and make them safe at all levels. It is up to the workers to discuss, develop and decide on the agenda on all matters relating to their safety at work and to consciously participate in transforming the situation in their favour. The state and public and private workplaces should facilitate the affirmation of this right. Putting the full weight of workers' organizations behind this issue can make a difference. Without doing so, the working people are at the mercy of the rich.

Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!
One Death Is One Too Many!

(Translated from original French.)

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Stand With Fort McMurray Firefighters!

Results of a study have confirmed that many firefighters who fought in the rescue operations in Fort McMurray in May 2016 are suffering from ongoing health problems. Close to 3,500 firefighters were involved in battling the fire. They came from across Alberta and Canada and from as far away as the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Close to 90,000 people were forced to leave as the devastating forest fires raged. The people of Fort McMurray and emergency workers accomplished the evacuation of their city under extremely perilous conditions.

Post-traumatic stress has become another problem the people have to cope with because they were left to fend for themselves during the fire and since then are left to themselves to find solutions to the problems they face as a result of the fire. Meanwhile, the companies who hire the workers that have been brought to Fort McMurray to live while they work for them are let off scot free. While they build firewalls around their camps and work sites, they are not held responsible for building the same around Fort McMurray. This is unacceptable, because the damage caused by such a devastating fire could be avoided if the human factor is taken into account by governments in Canada.

The release of the study on the consequences of fighting the fire on the health of the firefighters coincides with the anniversary of that event. Dr. Nicola Cherry, an epidemiologist at the University of Alberta School of Public Health, and her team met the first wave of exhausted firefighters from Strathcona County as they returned from Fort McMurray last May to measure the toll the heavy smoke and ash had taken on their respiratory systems. Dr. Cherry reports that a "very large proportion" of the 355 firefighters surveyed were suffering from respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness.

The researchers later met with the firefighters again and found that one in five were still having respiratory problems caused or made worse by the fire. As well, one in six was suffering from mental-health issues. Dr. Cherry stated that the firefighters may develop more serious issues over time.

Dr. Cherry emphasized the importance of learning from the fire so that measures can be taken to provide more protection to firefighters in the future. She is calling on all firefighters involved in fighting the Fort McMurray fire to contact her to participate in the next phase of the study. Changes to protect workers' health could involve modifying the length of shifts, and the type of respiratory protection used.

Urban firefighters are exposed to a large and complex mixture of toxins from fires that can include combustion by-products of organic and synthetic material, solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals. Known carcinogens include asbestos, benzene, formaldehyde, soot, benzopyrene and dioxins.

Many forest firefighters continued to battle the blaze for many weeks. Wildland fire emissions include carbon dioxide, fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and acrolein, nitrogen, and sulfur oxides, as well as lower levels of carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, according to a study published in the BC Medical Journal.

Firefighters, their unions and the organized workers' movement fought a long battle for recognition of the long-term health consequences of their work and presumptive workers' compensation coverage. They experience higher rates of at least four types of cancer. A large study by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety provided definitive proof that firefighters face a greatly increased risk of cancer as a result of their work. But forest firefighters are still excluded from presumptive legislation which recognizes an increased cancer risk, and no presumptive coverage for respiratory illnesses exists in Canada. This shows the clear need to step up the collective efforts to defend workers' health and safety and their right to a livelihood when they experience illness or injury from their work.

The people of Fort McMurray, especially the firefighters, first responders, water treatment plant workers, health care workers, and all the workers who carried out their responsibilities with courage and dedication reveal what is most precious about Canada's working class and people. The duty of governments to make sure they are looked after when injured on the job must be enforced.

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Workers Speak Out in Defence of Their Rights

On the occasion of the April 28 Day of Mourning, Workers' Forum is publishing interviews with representatives of workers in steel, construction, the railways and the public service and representatives from injured workers and migrant workers which discuss the problems in their sectors and how they are working to uphold their right to health and safety. They show the all-sided attacks taking place against the rights of workers and the challenges workers are taking up to turn things around.

Doug Finnson, President, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference

A major problem is the complete unfairness in the present structure. Federal legislation allows the railroads to have their secret Safety Management Systems (SMS), self-regulating in secrecy, and the workers do not have equality when it comes to health and safety in the railroad industry in Canada. They do not have an equal seat at the table. The structure is dominated by the railroads, supported by the legislation. The workers in the railroads have minimal rights. We can't even find out what the SMS details are that govern us. We are facing a kind of private club of the railroads and the bureaucrats buried inside the Department of Transportation.

It is the bureaucrats buried inside these offices that are making the rules with the railroads. The Ministers come and go and it is naive of us to think that the present system of secret SMS is the creation of the Ministers themselves. Governance is in the hands of the bureaucrats and the railroads, not in the hands of the elected officials. The bureaucrats are buried inside these offices and the lobbyists for the railways are marching up and down Parliament Hill and they are just loving it. They are the ones making up the rules and the Minister comes along and says "well everything looks good, that is fine," but what does he know? With the secrecy of the SMS, the railways can justify almost everything. With this structure, in the daily life of the workers and taking the workers on an individual basis, the railways effectively block the concerns that workers have. This structure is limiting the participation of the workers.

As far as we are concerned, we are going to continue our fight on fatigue management. We are not going to give up on any of the struggles and we are going to continue our fight to break this wall of secrecy.

We also say that office workers should stay in their offices and let professional railroaders run the trains. To have unqualified people running trains has already caused close calls and accidents.

April 28 reminds us that we cannot change the past but we certainly can affect the future. While we are mourning those workers who have been killed or injured, it is up to the rest of us to keep fighting to get safe workplaces.

Frank Mesich, Health and Safety Co-Chair,
United Steelworkers Local 1005, Stelco Hamilton Works

A major problem is cancer in the workplace. Cancers are not being related enough to the workplace. There are many deaths whose cause was in the workplace but the company is saying that no, this is not the case. This is hard to prove, but when you are working 40 hours a week for years and you get continually exposed to coke oven emissions and benzene and light oil and other known carcinogens the probability is that you brought that from the workplace. At home I am not exposed to all these things and yet the company wants to tell you that it is your life style that caused it. Every day we have people coming into the union hall with different types of cancers. Right now we are trying to build an occupational clinic where you get everybody to come who has occupational diseases and we go through their work history and that sort of thing. This is an initiative of the local. We are in the process of establishing such a clinic. There are so many other issues, including mental health, and we have to keep fighting on all these issues.

As you know, U.S. Steel used to have a behaviour-based program. We are starting to get away from that. What is happening now is that we have kind of separate silos at Stelco, health and safety and human resources each have their own agenda. When we have an incident and something happens the Health and Safety Committee will investigate. At the same times sometimes Human Resources will come to investigate it, to see if somebody broke a procedure or a policy. We have been getting away from that to some extent but under U.S. Steel it was happening all the time, every time there was an incident. Now it is not happening as much but when there is an incident that has life-threatening potential HR usually gets involved. They seem to pick and choose when they want to do that. Sometimes HR is giving out punishment before the Health and Safety Committee has even investigated it to see what happened. There was an incident recently where there was a lockout issue with an electrician. Before the Health and Safety Committee even conducted an investigation HR had already investigated and handed out a punishment. But when we investigated the health and safety issue we found out that there was a lot more to it than just that the guys did not do what they were supposed to do. They were not trained properly. There was some confusion as to whose responsibility it was to do what. By continuing to ask "Why, why?" you go to the root cause, but by that time they had already suspended the people for two days each.

What they try to do is to scare the workers but do you think that by punishing the person the incident will not happen again? It is always done to blame the workers but in these situations there are many issues; there is the management issue, the training issue. Even when we keep bringing up the facts from the health and safety investigation the management of HR keeps challenging them.

My message on this April 28 is the basic message we keep bringing forward, which is to prevent workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses. We keep fighting for that.

Serge Bourgon, Head of Occupational Health and Safety Committee, Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal

One of the main problems is the lack of training and information provided to workers by the employer. To be able to understand a procedure, you often need training. Information is about having a working procedure, a protocol, and when the worker is not made aware of it that causes a lot of problems. It seems the employers think that to work with and inform the workers deprives the employers of a certain power. They do not like the worker to be in a position to be critical if a work procedure has not been respected by a superior. This causes incidents and accidents.

Take the case of a worker who operated a natural ice cleaning and polishing machine at Lac des Castors. The ice collapsed and the machine tilted and fell. The worker got away but she suffered post-traumatic shock which is still affecting her. Following this, it has taken us about a year and a half to establish a safe work procedure that takes into account all factors, including the thickness of the ice, the weight of the machine, etc. Yet we had another case this year where the ice collapsed under the machine and in our on-site investigation we realized that almost half of the workers doing this work had not been trained according to the procedure that took us so long to establish. The union discloses dangers, calls for safe work protocols; in other words, it insists on prevention. The employer is reluctant to invest in procedures in the field for prevention. 

There is also an issue with the contracts that are awarded by the city to others instead of having work done in-house by the blue collars. With regard to contracts that are being awarded to the private sector, generally the private companies are equipped to do the work and have the necessary accreditations. But when they themselves subcontract the work, there is no adequate monitoring of the workplace and it has been necessary to intervene in cases where the work was done in a totally unsafe manner by untrained people.

In non-profit organizations, to which the city is increasingly awarding contracts, health and safety conditions are even worse. People are hired as "cheap labour" and are being given more and more work in blue collar jobs and there is a serious decline in health and safety. We have seen cases of scaffolds badly situated in the soil and operated in a totally unsafe manner with unskilled personnel.

We are doing our best to intervene in those cases, even though we do not have jurisdiction because they are not our workers.

Simon Lévesque, Head of Health and Safety Department,

The goal of employers should be to review health and safety measures because they are ineffective. The health and safety record is not improving. It can be seen that, as far as the employers are concerned, the involvement of workers in health and safety is not important. According to articles 204 to 215 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, prescribing joint health and safety committees and prevention representatives, they should have been in place for years and yet we do not have them. These articles, which would lead to the direct involvement of workers, have never been promulgated.

At Hydro-Québec we met with workers before the fatal accident of La Romaine, but we are no longer listened to. We have been working in these trades for 25-30 years but supposedly "we know nothing." Workers who raise issues and complain about situations are gotten rid of and replaced by people who do not complain. It is easy to get rid of them, to lay them off, because there is no job security in construction. Correcting the situation entails costs and it costs less to get rid of the worker. When a death happens there are always a number of accidents and warnings that precede it.

At the FTQ-Construction we kept making efforts, we keep asking to have prevention representatives and we managed to get some. We have won them on some construction sites. We got them at the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, the Turcot Exchange, the Romaine work site and the Champlain Bridge. We had one at McKinnis Cement, but the site is built now. That is all, out of 25,000 construction sites in Quebec. For us to have prevention representatives is something crucial. If workers do not know what a prevention representative does, if they do not see them in action, it does not give them confidence to demand to have them. For us it is important to demonstrate that our prevention representatives are a plus for the workers through the example of their work. Construction is at the top of the first priority group in terms of health and safety according to the Act. We need a prevention representative who is a construction worker, chosen by the workers, trained by them and paid by the employer. We do have some health and safety committees but the ones we have are bogus and led by the employers and are just used by them to show that they are doing due diligence.

Denis St-Jean, National Health and Safety Officer,
Public Service Alliance of Canada

There are many problems in regard to the health and safety of workers. The most important one, as far as PSAC is concerned, is probably the issue of mental health and psychosocial risks in the workplace within the federal public service and with other employers because we also have members in all jurisdictions across Canada. We are talking here about workplace stress and anxiety that contribute significantly to mental health problems among our members. Even in terms of long-term disability, it is estimated that about 50 per cent of all claims over the last five years have been around mental health issues. These are only the claims that have been recognized because it is not always easy to go on long-term disability. These problems are linked to the transformation of work, the pace of work, the workload, as well as to instability in employment contracts, which increase psychological distress. For workers, precarious employment is an extremely important factor, part-time, casual, seasonal work, accompanied by anxiety to be able to get one's job back in order to survive. One of our concerns is to reduce the impact that the toxic workplace can create on people who have mental health problems that are not always related to work, such as bereavement, separations, divorces, those events of life. In the toxic workplace this creates additional difficulties. There are all sorts of organizations that do a good job of promoting mental health, but building a workplace that is part of the solution to manage workers' mental health problems is one of the most important challenges.

The PSAC has worked with various organizations to develop a national standard for psychological health and safety, a framework that allows for a better approach to implementing preventive measures. We participated directly in the drafting of this standard and incorporated a clause into the collective agreement to have a joint working group with employers to develop measures to implement mental health prevention programs.

In its work, the PSAC makes sure that mental health promotion and prevention are not done top-down, are not top management initiatives that find little response amongst workers who do not feel listened to. We work to ensure the participation of workers through regular surveys on this issue and by mobilizing them on health and safety committees and other bodies. We raise the issues of workload and human resource management, the need to develop resources that are representative of the interests of workers.

In conclusion, I want to say that mental health affects everyone. It is not always the workplace that is the problem, but the workplace can be part of the solution.

Peter Page, Coordinator, Justice for Injured Workers Newspaper

The first thought that comes to mind is the tragedies that happen each year, the hundreds of workers who are killed or poisoned by their workplaces. These tragedies are still going on so we are asking why the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) continues to put the employer first and the injured worker second. They are not considering compensation for the injured workers as a right and a social good but as a cost to society that has to be reduced.

They are concerned about the unfunded liability, about making Ontario open for business, which includes making our compensation system more competitive with other jurisdictions. Workers' compensation systems are being attacked across North America. With this idea of Ontario open for business if, for example, the state of Ohio has lower compensation rates, that would be an incentive for employers to move to Ohio so as not to pay compensation and face fewer regulations or for further attacks on our compensation system, and that is only going to increase the way Trump is eliminating regulations.

The way the compensation system treats injured workers continues to be a problem. The WSIB is not following what they were mandated to do a hundred years ago. The compensation system is not doing its duty. When a worker is injured they are not providing them with the benefits they are entitled to. They are pushing injured workers into poverty. This is ongoing and is actually getting worse. Policy changes at the Board are to reduce benefits of the injured workers. We want them to stop deeming ["deeming" refers to the practice used by the WSIB to decide the compensation that it will pay for loss of earnings as a result of workplace injury or illness. It reduces a permanently injured worker's loss of earning benefits under the pretence that the worker is employed. -- WF Note] Under deeming, when minimum wages go up it is a saving for the WSIB because they are deeming that an injured worker is earning more money at the phantom job that they do not have and benefits are reduced accordingly.

As we move forward we are concerned about the fact that the Ontario government is moving to some kind of self-regulation for employers, where employers would be like the fox in the henhouse, setting the rules for the workplace. They are reducing the role of the Ministry of Labour inspectors to go in and monitor workplaces. Letting employers self-regulate is going to be a serious problem for injured workers and for safety in the workplaces [as an example, Bill 70 was passed by the Ontario government which amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act to give the Chief Prevention Officer the power to accredit health and safety management systems and to give recognition to employers who use them. Employers are then able to benefit from things such as reduced inspections by the Ministry of Labour. This was done under the hoax of "lessening the burden on employers by taking away unnecessary proactive inspections " -- WF note]. We are also concerned about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union (CETA) and other global trade agreements whereby if a company moves to Ontario and open shop they do not necessarily have to follow our health and safety laws.

We are also pursuing legal actions like the one in Supreme Court in which the Ontario Network for Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG) intervened in a case out of Quebec to uphold the human right of the injured workers to an accommodation with suitable duties when the worker exercises their right to return to work. In the Ontario election in 2018 ONIWG is planning to play an active role so that the voices of the injured workers are heard.

Then there is our Justice Bike Ride that starts May 24 in Ottawa and ends up June 1 at the rally at Queen's Park. This year's theme is RIGHTS FOR ALL (details here).

If you are denied your right to compensation you are not getting the benefits you need and are pushed into poverty; therefore you are being denied your right to affordable housing and your other rights as a human being. We are saying that denial of the rights of one means the rights of all are being denied.

Sharmeen Khan, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

The major issue is the systemic inequality within the law, both the provincial law and the federal law, in regard to migrant workers. The contract that migrant workers have with their employer is the basis of their ability to stay in the country. It is what we call a closed permit, tied to the employer. If a worker works under unsafe working conditions and gets hurt, it means that the moment they lose their job because they were injured they can no longer stay in the country. They face deportation. That only happens to low-wage migrant workers. Other Canadian workers obviously don't face deportation. With that condition of the closed permit it is very difficult for migrant workers to defend themselves or receive benefits should they get hurt on the job and have to leave. A secondary issue, especially with the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in Ontario, is that there is not enough enforcement from the government in workplaces where there are migrant workers. The system is complaint-based and there is very little incentive to complain about the employer if your permit is tied to that employer. When it comes to migrant workers we are kind of juggling with the federal laws around the status of migrant workers and the provincial laws around standards and safety and these laws are often in conflict with one another and they are not coherent.

In our work, we put pressure on governments with campaigns. We do organizing, hold demonstrations, lobby, etc. We have a petition on our website that is asking for immediate steps by the federal government to eliminate the requirement for an employer-specific work permit and to grant migrant workers open permits. This is a first step to granting migrant workers permanent immigration status on landing. There is a Standing Committee which is reviewing migrant workers that has recommended the same thing but the government has not made any move to change that. We were hoping it would happen during the budget but is has not happened yet. We also train migrant workers so that they know the laws and what their rights are so that they can organize themselves, obviously with our support and solidarity.

Other workers need to stand in solidarity with migrant workers because they are amongst the most exploited section of the working class in Canada. We are saying that Canada has basically a labour apartheid where migrant workers have different conditions from other workers. No matter what your status is, a worker is a worker. These workers do the agriculture work that other workers do not want to do, they provide a lot of the food that we are eating, and with the care giving workers they are contributing to make our country run. Some of them work in very dangerous conditions with very little pay and some of them have been working here with renewed contracts for years and years and they can't get status. These workers should have a pathway to status.

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Brutal Statistics on Fatalities and Injuries at Work

The most recent statistics available on fatalities and injures at work are from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) from 2015. The statistics are brutal but it is claimed that they are lower than the previous year indicating an improvement. Those who deal with health and safety at the workplace and with injured workers across the country tell Workers' Forum that these numbers do not tell the real story. They only include cases that are accepted and covered by the compensation systems across the country. Not only are a growing proportion of workers not covered by these systems (especially those considered self-employed) but others are refused compensation by private interests which have taken over the compensation systems. The compensation system itself has become "a very litigious, difficult, cumbersome system," representatives of injured workers say, adding that it is also not funded properly. Workers report that their claims, when they are legally allowed to make a claim, are systematically being challenged.

The AWCBC says the number of lost time claims that are being accepted has been steadily decreasing since 1995 (from 410,464 in 1995 to 232,629 in 2015) while the number of fatalities has remained 915 a year on average. This likely indicates a high number of unreported injuries even amongst unionized workers, of challenged and rejected claims, and the massive shift of the workforce towards precarious employment of all kinds.

The statistics show that in 2015, the number of fatalities at work was 852, down from 919 in 2014. This means 2.3 deaths every day. Among the 852 dead, there were four young workers aged 15 to 19, 11 aged 20 to 24 and 28 aged 25 to 29 years.

Of these fatalities, 307 were due to traumatic injuries and disorders and 533 were due to diseases, the greatest number being 361 cases of malignant neoplasms and tumours including cancers.

On top of these fatalities there were 232,629 claims accepted for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, down from 239,643 in 2014. These included 8,155 from young workers aged 15 to 19, 22,052 from workers aged 20 to 24 and 23,839 from workers aged 25 to 29. The AWCBC defines a time-loss injury as "an injury for which a worker is compensated for a loss of wages following a work-related accident (or exposure to a noxious chemical) or receives compensation for a permanent disability with or without time lost in his or her employment." To be included in the statistical report, the injury must have been accepted by a workers' compensation board or commission. This means that cases not accepted by a workers' compensation agency are not included in the reports.

Internationally, the latest global figures date from the holding of the International Labour Organization (ILO) 20th World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in 2014. These figures were based on data collected in 2010-2011. They indicated that in 2010, 352,769 workers died of fatal accidents at work while 313,206,348 suffered non-fatal accidents. In 2011, the number of deaths attributed to work-related diseases was 1,979,262 while the number of deaths attributed to hazardous substances was 888,893.

According to the ILO, every year 2.3 million deaths take place worldwide due to occupational injuries (300,000) and work-related diseases (2,000,000). This means 6,300 workers die each day of work-related injuries and diseases. The biggest killers, according to the ILO, are work-related cancers (32 per cent), work-related circulatory and cardiovascular diseases and stroke (23 per cent), communicable diseases (17 per cent), and occupational accidents (18 per cent). The ILO is holding its 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work from September 3 to 6 in Singapore at which time up to date figures are expected.

Neo-liberal free trade agreements are major factors in the continued deterioration of living and working conditions in all countries, including health and safety at work. These agreements concentrate decision-making power on a supranational basis in the hands of the global oligopolies who consider health and safety regulations as impediments to their drive for profit and domination. Deaths and injuries take a particularly heavy toll on workers in the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean due to their super-exploitation

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported a year ago that global oligopolies such as Samsung, Apple, Wal-Mart and others directly employ barely 6 per cent of the workers who create the value of their global empires. The other 94 per cent work for smaller companies who subcontract to the monopolies, and face even worse conditions, without any support when it comes to health and safety.

This phenomenon is also apparent in countries like Canada where the working class has been divided into arbitrary categories such as "independent contractor," "temporary foreign worker" and "undocumented worker" in order to impose increasingly unsafe conditions.

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Canada Pays Its Respects --
Workers' Monuments and Memorials

L to R: Escuminac, New Brunswick Fishermen's Monument; Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
monument to workers lost at sea; Bathurst, New Brunswick monument to forestry, mining
and smelting workers.

L to R: St. John, New Brunswick Day of Mourning monument; Pictou, Nova Scotia monument
to those killed in Westray mine disaster.

L to R: New Waterford, Nova Scotia monument to Bill Davis, shot during a protest by striking miners; monument in Valleyfield, Quebec to Irish workers killed striking for better working conditions during construction of Beauharnois Canal; Ottawa monument to workers who
died constructing the Rideau Canal.

Memorial in Kanesatake to the workers who died in the 1907 collapse of Quebec City Bridge.

Monument in Buckingham, Quebec to forestry workers shot in fight to unionize Maclaren mills.

L to R: Sudbury Miners Memorial; Sudbury memorial mural to workers killed in 1929
Falconbridge disaster.

L to R: Kirkland Lake, Ontario miners' monument; Blind River, Ontario loggers' memorial;
Port Elgin, Ontario autoworkers' monument.

L to R: Elliot Lake miners memorial; Welland Canal Workers' Memorial.

L to R: Toronto memorial to workers killed in Hoggs Hollow disaster;
Toronto memorial plaque to nurses who died on the job during the 2003 SARS epidemic.

L to R: Monument to Chinese railway workers in Toronto; Memorial quilt for young workers
killed on the job; Hamilton April 28 Day of Mourning monument.

L to R: detail of mural of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike; Edmonton Day of
Mourning workers' memorial; Fort McMurray April 28 workers' memorial.

L to R: gravestones of coalminers in Estevan, Saskatchewan, and in Cumberland, BC of mineworkers' organizer Ginger Goodwin, and monument in Ladysmith, BC to mineworker
Joseph Mair -- all were killed defending workers' right to organize. 

L to R: Net and Needle fishermen's memorial in Steveston, BC; Lake Cowichan, BC forestry
workers' memorial park; Vancouver memorial to nineteen ironworkers killed in 1958
when a section of the Second Narrows bridge collapsed.

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Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  office@cpcml.ca