THUNDER BAY – “Our lives and our laws are worth the fight.” This was the message delivered by speaker after speaker addressing a crowd gathered at Lakehead Labour Centre, 929 Fort William Road to recognize Canada’s National Day of Mourning for workers who have suffered workplace injury, illness and death. “The government recently introduced legislation to change health and safety laws in Ontario, but we have some real problems with the bill. Workers deserve better,” said Melanie Kelso, President Thunder Bay and District Labour Council.
Kelso explained, the bill in its current form:
· politicizes the province’s health and safety system,
· threatens the autonomy of Ontario’s worker training centre and health clinics,
· gives bureaucrats extraordinary powers to publish policy that has the force of law without warning or oversight,
· places obstacles to joint health and safety committee recommendations for the employer, and
· fails to protect workers attempting to exercise their rights from employer reprisals.
“Ontario’s labour movement is demanding dramatic changes to the bill. If we achieve them it will be a start. But we need so much more. We need laws, strategies, training and enforcement to address the epidemic of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and occupational disease in this province. These are the leading causes of injury and death and have been for years. We have to get serious about these issues,” says Kelso.
According to the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board statistics, last year the families of 491 workers filed death claims and more than 242,371 workers filed occupational injury and disease claims. The outcomes of countless other workplace incidents and exposures go unreported, especially occupational disease claims.
In 1984, the Canadian Labour Congress, and its affiliated unions, established April 28th as the day to honour workers killed, injured or made ill. Today the day is recognized in more than 100 countries. In Ontario, Day of Mourning events will take place in more than 40 Ontario communities and many more workplaces. Everyone is welcome to attend Thunder Bay’s event 5:30 pm, 929 Fort William Road, Lakehead Labour Centre.