Society President Scott Travers and Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Johnston hosted the Society of United Professionals' online Day of Mourning ceremony, the second of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
This year's remarks focused on the sacrifices of essential workers and the way in which Ontario's government continues to fail to protect workers from COVID-19. Travers called on members to phone their MPP and demand paid sick days for all workers to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Travers and Johnston read the following remarks before holding a moment of silence for workers injured and killed on the job:
On April 28, we mourn the thousands of workers injured or killed on the job.
While we mourn every single injury and death, this year demands that we pay special attention to the essential workers who were put at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 so the rest of us could stay home. Many of these essential workers are Society members.
While we are all grateful for essential workers’ contributions throughout the pandemic, governments have not done their part to keep them safe.
Health and safety should not be political but it is and I will not sugarcoat this. The provincial government has blood on its hands. Essential workers continue to be infected with COVID-19 and die because the Ford government refuses to narrow its definition of essential work, shutdown nonessential workplaces, and provide basic protections like paid sick days to everyone who is truly essential.
It has been a week now since Premier Ford pledged that his government would introduce the best sick leave plan in North America within a few days. But Ford still hasn’t come through with sick days.
On the Day of Mourning we often say that we mourn for the dead and fight for the living. As part of fighting for the living, I urge you to call your MPP today and demand real, permanent sick days for every worker.
I will now welcome our Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Johnston.
We must all accept that, while COVID-19 continues to spread, it cannot be business as usual. As much as governments and employers must do more, we all have a role to play to keep each other safe.
The most important things you can do are to stay home as much as possible, and wear a mask when you’re in indoor spaces outside your home or when you are within 2 meters of someone outside your household.
We know that one of the common effects of this pandemic is that people more easily lose their focus. It is also easy to be tempted to let our guard down on masking and distancing to enjoy a brief return to pre-pandemic normalcy. So we must be even more vigilant now about looking out for one another.
I also want to impress on everyone the importance of getting your COVID vaccine as soon as possible. When you meet the eligibility criteria it is your duty – to your family, to your colleagues, to yourself and to every vulnerable person you come in contact with – to get your shot.
Like workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities, even one COVID-19 case is an unacceptable failure and we must do everything in our power to stop this virus.
That is why I commit today, on behalf of the Society of United Professionals, to continue working with my colleagues, Society members, other labour unions, federations, employers and governments to ensure every worker returns home safe and healthy every single day.
By mourning those 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.
Thanks, Michelle. Now I will ask everyone to pause for a moment of silence to remember all who died from injuries and illnesses at work.
This concludes our Day of Mourning Ceremony.