As we approach the Day of Mourning on April 28, we remember the workers who were made ill, injured, or killed in the workplace. For no person should lose their life or health making a livelihood. And no family should be notified their loved one is not coming home.
In the first month of this year alone, eight workers were killed in Ontario. The police notified eight different families that they would never see their loved one again. The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) also notified the police of their legal duty to investigate those deaths under the Westray Law which makes it possible to prosecute corporate criminal negligence. But none of them have taken up that charge.
The OFL sent a letter to the Attorney General and Solicitor General appealing for police training on protocols and policies to guide workplace death investigations. We have asked for that commitment by May 9, 2022, the 30th anniversary of the Westray coal mine tragedy in Nova Scotia where bodies still lay buried far beneath the ground. As the Westray inquiry commissioner concluded, “Justice demands more.”
The pandemic has made us acutely aware that workers’ health and safety is paramount. It has also made it painfully clear that the Ford government is putting workers in harm’s way.
The provincial government is not only negligent, but criminal. Doug Ford has said no to permanent paid sick days, no to airborne COVID-19 precautions, no to proper health and safety enforcement, and no to testing access that could blunt transmission. His government has taken 1.5 billion dollars in workers’ compensation funds from the outstretched hands of widows and workers who continue to wait years for compensation, and placed it into the hands of employers.
Ford has allowed COVID to thrive in Ontario without considering the consequences. His neglect has led to tens of thousands of workers catching COVID from work exposures. The impact has been especially severe for persons with disabilities, many of whom have additional vulnerabilities in a system that already fails them. How will the Ford government provide support to workers with long-COVID? The answer is, they won’t.
The Conservative government is responsible for the deaths of workers across this province, and we cannot afford another four years of a government that pretends to be a “friend of the worker” while systematically favouring employers and developers.
We as workers and people across this province need to show the government that our province deserves more. In our bid to mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living, we are taking to the streets on May 1st. In communities across Ontario, we will flood the streets and take back May Day for workers and people across the province.
One death is too many, and the labour movement demands a future where work does not poison, hurt, or kill. Justice demands more for workers.