April 28 Day of Mourning

Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living

As is done every year, this year also the International Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on job sites was observed across the country. As on every occasion, not only lives lost in the past were remembered and given the significance they deserve, but special attention was paid to commemorating the lives lost in the past year. The total figures for 2018 are not yet available, however for 2017, the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada reported 951 work-related deaths, up 46 from 2016. These deaths do not include workers who are not covered by the provincial workers' compensation systems, e.g., the self-employed, domestic helpers, banking employees and farmers.

The injuries and deaths of workers on the job include significant numbers caused by the negligent policies of the federal and provincial governments in eliminating regulations and reporting of workplace injuries and deaths. This is a is a practice linked to the neo-liberal anti-social offensive. In the name of eliminating red tape, making Canada open for business and letting nothing stand in the way of making private profit, a serious deterioration of health and safety for workers ensues. Such is the case of the three railway workers who died in February, in the prime of their lives, because of the aim of the railways to increase their profit margins without regard for the human factor/social consciousness.

Other very serious concerns this year are those of the truckers whose long hours of work to make ends meet and deteriorating working conditions have created problems that need immediate attention. Along with this we see the battles being waged by health workers, teachers and education workers who suffer tremendous stress-related health issues as well as post-traumatic stress because working conditions are untenable. The treatment by governments of injured workers is also traumatic. Also of note is the stress related to contracting out, privatization and restructuring in the public sector and throughout the economy. Irregular work has now become a dangerous growing phenomenon affecting 31 per cent of all workers who often find themselves racing from job to job without stability or security of employment and any organized defence of their rights to safe and healthy working conditions. There is the Phoenix Pay System which has not worked properly since it came into being in 2016, causing tremendous stress to workers who cannot count on their remuneration reaching them in time to pay their bills.

Thus the issue of health and safety has gone way beyond the workplace where in the past it could be dealt with by unions and labour law, at least in places with unions and subject to labour law. It has become a political issue which requires putting decision-making in the hands of those who the decisions affect as a matter of life itself, not as a matter of profit-making. In this regard, the workers' movement is grappling with how workers can hold companies to account when labour law no longer upholds a regime based on notions of fairness between the contending parties -- capital on one side and labour on the other. Meanwhile, governments overtly intervene in the economy to criminalize opposition to unacceptable dictate, claiming it harms the national interest.

However, most importantly, decision-making on the direction of the economy and who it serves must reside in the working people not the rich. It is unconscionable that the working people have no way to decide policy in their own name. At this time, a main feature of the situation is that workers have no reason to trust any of the political parties which belong to a cartel within which they compete to form party governments. The fact is that working people are subject to an electoral system where they are supposed to chose who they will entrust to act in their name. This alleged freedom of choice is what is called a democracy, where one gives people called representatives a proxy to act in their name. It is a fraud with very serious consequences including on the fronts of peoples' health and safety at places of work.

The slogan "Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living" appropriately guides the working people on the occasion of the Day of Mourning, to identify and take up the struggles that will permit them to exercise control over their lives.

This article was published in

Number 16 - May 2, 2019

Article Link:
April 28 Day of Mourning: Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living


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