The BC Federation of Labour released the following statement today on the occasion of the Day of Mourning:
Every year on this day, we pause to remember workers who have been killed, injured or made sick because of their work.
This year, we mourn 206 British Columbia workers who died in 2021 from work-related causes. We mourn as well the many workers we’ve lost to drug poisoning, the tragic end of a journey that began with pain medication for a workplace injury.
Every one of the workers we lost last year was someone’s parent, a best friend, a beloved sibling, someone’s child or a treasured grandparent. The pain and loss caused by workplace deaths and injuries ripple across our communities and echo through the years.
There is a simple, fundamental right of every worker: to go home at the end of their day as safe and healthy as when they arrived for work. But all too often, that right takes second place to cutting costs or speeding production. And it’s workers and their families who pay the heavy price.
Recent years have seen important improvements in worker safety as well as support for sick and injured workers. Most recently, the BC government and Labour Minister Harry Bains brought in historic legislation to require protection and training for asbestos abatement workers — making BC the first jurisdiction in Canada to require certification of their employers.
We have seen progress on other fronts as well: stronger health and safety regulations; presumptive coverage for COVID-19 and — for workers in some fields — PTSD; improvements to Workers’ Compensation; and paid sick leave.
But there is much more to do to make the Workers’ Compensation Board a genuinely worker-centered organization, with a compensation system that treats injured workers fairly and as individuals. Working people must be able to rely on strong safety standards, inspection and enforcement. And employers must know that anyone who puts a worker’s safety at risk will be held rigorously accountable.
Workers have put themselves on the line to bring British Columbia through this pandemic and through the climate disasters of the past year. They are driving our province’s recovery and keeping BC growing. This province owes it to workers to take the action needed to safeguard their lives and their safety.
Today, we remember the dead. And every day, we fight for the living.