On April 28, Society members remembered workers injured and killed on the job, and vowed to fight for safer workplaces as part of the annual Day of Mourning. To mark the day, Society representatives delivered these remarks:
Sisters, brothers and friends,
I am honoured to be here today on behalf of The Society of United Professionals. On this day – as workers do every April 28th in Canada and around the world – we gather to mourn those who have been killed, injured or fallen ill on the job. Sadly, thousands of Canadian workers continue to fall prey to this fate each and every year.
As Society members and employees, we are proud of the work we do. But we are also proud mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. No worker should ever leave home worrying that their pay cheque will come at the expense of their health or their family’s loved one. The only way to eliminate this worry is to eliminate workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
Getting to zero workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities will not be easy but it can be done. Zero is a commitment that everyone in the workplace must make – from the CEO to frontline workers and everyone in between. Such tragedies should never be thought of as just the cost of doing business, or merely an accident. If we work hard, work smart and work collaboratively – worker with manager, employer with union, government with the labour movement – every single workplace injury, illness and death can be prevented.
Among the most dangerous trends in Society-represented workplaces is harassment and bullying. Unlike other types of workplace incidents, bullying and harassment often don’t carry the physical evidence of a slip and fall, a repetitive strain injury, or an occupational disease. But make no mistake, the anguish and suffering that haunts victims of harassment and bullying is devastating. Doctors know this, too. Medical professionals say that workplace harassment and bullying leads to mental health issues that can require workers take short- and long-term disability leaves. These mental health issues tear apart families and in the most tragic cases result in suicide.
Like all other injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace, harassment and bullying is entirely preventable. Whether it’s the perpetrator, witnesses or management, everyone has an obligation to act. What we know for sure is that whether it’s the lunchroom or boardroom, the best way to end a bully’s reign of terror is for a witness to call the bully on his or her behaviour.
Whether it’s bullying or any other type of workplace health and safety risk, one of the best tools we have to eliminate workplace tragedies is the Joint Health and Safety Committee. JHSCs help by raising awareness of health and safety issues in the workplace, recognizing and identifying workplace risks, and developing recommendations for how the employer should address these risks. So I want to recognize that JHSCs perform critical work and are a key element of a well-functioning, collaborative Internal Responsibility System for every workplace.
Through the Joint Health and Safety Committee and other initiatives, our union is firmly committed to working with all of our employers, as well as other unions, community agencies and all workers so no worker has to worry whether they will return home at the end of their day.
Thank you for the honour of being invited to participate in this commemoration of workers who have lost their lives and sacrificed their health. By remembering what we have lost, we will never take for granted what we have, and we will never stop fighting for a better future where every worker has a safe workplace.