CUPE’S National Health and Safety Committee first proposed the creation of a national Day of Mourning 34 years ago.
That idea came to fruition in 1991 when the federal government passed legislation to establish April 28th as the Day of Mourning. It has grown internationally as the World Day for Safety and Health at Work and is recognized in more than 120 countries around the world.
When they envisioned the day, the members of the committee wanted to remember lives lost in the workplace. But there was a broader point. The day was also supposed to remind all workers that we need to fight for the living and inspire us to prevent further tragedies.
The most recent statistics show that over 900 workers died due to workplace-related incidents in 2017 in Canada. More than a quarter of a million workers were injured at work.
On each Day of Mourning, CUPE honours the members who died on the job. Over the past year, CUPE lost the following members:
- Judy Lavallee, Local 1550, Manitoba
- Wayne Harland, Local 500, Manitoba
- Tyson Titanich, Local 2515, Alberta
- Wayne Hornquist, Local 2093, British Columbia
- Lloyd Smith, Local 873, British Columbia
- Robert Boulet, Local 301, Quebec
- James Baragar, Local 1000, Ontario
- Diane Chicoine, Local 416, Ontario
Stopping workplace violence and harassment
One of the biggest ongoing threats to CUPE members continues to be workplace violence and harassment.
Too many CUPE members are assaulted at work. CUPE educational workers are assaulted by their students. Hospital and long-term care staff are assaulted by the patients they are trying to help. Front-line workers are threatened by people who can’t get the services they need. Others are bullied by ill-prepared supervisors.
More and more we hear about how workplaces are becoming toxic because they are starved of resources. In these situations, it is the most precarious and vulnerable workers who are most likely to be harassed. Employers and governments are not willing to properly fund services that can address violence. Government cut-backs and privatization of services are a big part of the reason that our members face increased violence and harassment at work. Although all workers are at risk, women and other equity-seeking workers are often at greater risk of experiencing violence and harassment.
Canada can – and must – lead by example to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace. We must challenge it when we see it.
This Day of Mourning, we are asking governments across the country to do more to prevent and stop workplace violence and harassment, including properly funding public services and programs for the most vulnerable of our society.
We are calling on employers to work with their unions and health and safety committees to:
- Develop policies and programs in cooperation with workplace health and safety committees;
- Offer training to prevent workplace violence, including harassment;
- Identify workplace hazards and develop an action plan for addressing them;
- Address domestic violence at work by conducting workplace risk assessments, offering training and safety planning, and ensuring supports are in place for workers experiencing domestic violence.
We want all workers to recognize the importance of safe and healthy workplaces, and to be confident that they can hold their employers accountable to provide that workplace.
This year, the Day of Mourning falls on a Saturday. We urge CUPE members to observe a moment of silence and lower flags to half-mast on Friday, April 27. Show your support by prominently displaying our poster at your workplace.
Together, we’ll mourn the dead and fight for those who continue to struggle with unsafe working conditions, poorly funded programs and power imbalances.