On the occasion of the National Day of Mourning, April 28, the Workers’ Centre of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) issued the statement, “The fight for lives is the fight for rights!”:
The National Day of Mourning is held every year to commemorate workers who have been killed on the job and demand that those who have been injured or suffer illness due to workplace-related hazards and conditions get compensation and treatment as befits a human person at standards agreed upon by the working class.
This year, it is being marked in very difficult conditions. The difficulties facing the working people are not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its increased spread as a result of more virulent variants. The difficulties caused by the pandemic are made all the more serious because of the irresponsibility of governments who do not hold big business interests or themselves responsible for safety measures, especially at the places of work.
A main front of action in the past year has been holding big employers to account, including when they are the governments themselves, for not adequately protecting workers. In this regard, one aspect that is of particular concern and deserves attention is the mental health problems that have become acute as a result of everyone being forced to fend for themselves and work out on their own what’s what and what to do or not to do. Abuse has also increased tremendously, especially against women, minority, Indigenous and migrant workers. When they are abused, as when injured workers and retired workers are abused, all workers are abused. There can be no security when everyone’s lives depend on the mercy of governments who do not represent their interests and they are not permitted to organize and speak effectively in their own name.
Governments cater to the interests of big business and even enrich them while others suffer. This has been revealed time and again in the past year as a result of their response to the pandemic and the pandemic conditions themselves. Workers keep producing and delivering goods and services and must be compensated as a right when they fall ill or have to work extended hours or irregular shifts or require child care or help with the care of a family member. The violation of collective agreements and all kinds of abuses are taking place, backed by laws which claim such abuses are warranted. Workers are defamed as troublemakers and criminalized for standing up for their rights. It is unconscionable to accuse workers of being selfish, especially as it comes from those who enjoy positions of privilege and power and do not live the same lives as those who bear the brunt of their attacks.
Governments are also using the urgency of the moment to dismantle existing occupational health and safety regimes. They have concentrated into the hands of government ministers more arbitrary police powers to make and break regulations and rule by degree. The ensuing incoherence and crisis of confidence in government causes widespread insecurity and harm to the mental health of the population and to the fabric of the society itself. The extensive neo-liberal restructuring of the state is being carried out under the hoax of necessity to deal with the extraordinary circumstances, whether responding to COVID-19 or re-starting the economy. The aim of the rich and their governments is not to protect the population but to concentrate more power in their own hands under the wretched belief that this enhances their competitive edge. All of it further disempowers the workers and people who have no say in the decisions which affect their lives.
On April 28, let us go all out to find ways to affirm and express the right of all Canadian working people to healthy and safe working conditions, to adequate compensation as a matter of right when they are injured or made ill, and to the right to themselves collectively establish working conditions that are safe, for their own sake and for the sake of the society.
Workers’ Forum will do its part by publishing your interviews and contributions on this important fight for the rights and the lives of all right through to May Day 2021 when the workers of all lands will highlight the significance of the fights they are waging. Let us all speak out about our concerns, our working conditions and what we are striving for. This is a time when less than 30 per cent of workers are organized into trade unions in Quebec and less than 25 per cent in Canada as a whole. Furthermore, the degeneration of political parties into a mafia cartel party system also keeps the workers disempowered. The response must be to affirm the right to speak about matters of concern and make working conditions a matter of public knowledge. Informing workers of what is going on in sectors other than their own will help to mobilize and discuss where the fight for rights is headed. Together it is possible to assess the conditions and the work being done to change the situation in a manner which favours the workers.
Across the country, workers and their families are going through a difficult time. Their fight is a practical fight to resolve the crisis in favour of the working people not the rich. On this occasion, the Workers’ Centre of CPC(M-L) joins the workers across the land to mourn the loss of all those who have passed away as a result of COVID-19 or any illness or injury sustained at work. We join the demand for proper compensation regimes in opposition to the anti-social offensive and all measures to dismantle them.
Mourn the Dead! Fight for the Living!
Beyond the Statistics
The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2019, 925 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada. Of these, 882 were male workers, and 43 were female workers. Among these deaths were 29 young workers aged 15 to 24.
Add to these fatalities the 271,806 accepted claims (an increase from 264,438 the previous year) for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 33,615 from workers aged 15 to 24, and the fact that these statistics only include what is reported and accepted by the compensation boards and there is no doubt that the total number of workers impacted is even greater.
In Ontario alone as of April 16, COVID-19-related claims statistics from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board showed that 21,133 claims have been allowed (including 46 deaths up to March 31, 2021), 2,007 claims not allowed, 259 claims pending and 6,700 exposure incident reports received.
And it’s not just these numbers on which we need to reflect. With each worker’s tragedy there are loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers who are directly affected, left behind, and deeply impacted — their lives also forever changed.
In 1991, eight years after the Day of Remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress, the Parliament of Canada passed the Workers Mourning Day Act making April 28 an official Day of Mourning. Today the Day of Mourning has spread to more than 100 countries around the world and is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day, and as International Workers’ Memorial Day by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
For further statistical information visit: AWCBC National Work Injuries Statistics Program.
For more information, read
Workers’ Forum • April 27, 2021 – No. 34
April 28 — National Day of Mourning
Join Railway Workers in Demanding Safe Human-Centred Working Conditions
Workers’ Forum • April 26, 2021 – No. 33
April 28 – National Day of Mourning
Health and Seniors Care Workers Speak About Their Concerns