This year April 28th marks the third Day of Mourning since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Each year, on the Day of Mourning, people come together to “Mourn the Dead and Fight for the Living.” The pandemic has shown us the importance of legislative measures to keep us all safe. Let’s also take a moment to think about the human cost of Covid-19 and the impact it continues to have on workers.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed how vulnerable workers are,” says Daniel Legere, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “An issue that must be added to governments’ radar is acknowledging, defining, and having a plan to deal with long-covid. It affects at least 10%, and up to 50%, of people diagnosed with Covid-19.”
Without access to protected, paid sick days, workers have been forced to choose between going to work sick, or not getting paid, and in some cases losing their jobs. All workers should have access to 10 paid sick days per year as well as 10 emergency-leave days per year.
The failure to keep workers safe is a problem that existed before the pandemic, nonetheless. This has led to too many preventable deaths. Every year, approximately 1,000 Canadian workers die because of a workplace injury or an exposure that happened at work. In 2021, 13 New Brunswickers lost their lives because of a workplace accident or illness.
This year, May 9th marks the 30th anniversary of the Westray mine disaster, where 26 miners were killed in an underground explosion in Pictou County Nova Scotia. After a long advocacy campaign, changes were made to the Criminal Code of Canada to make sure that similar tragedies never happened again. Criminal charges are hardly ever pursued, though, following a workplace fatality. The federal government and the RCMP have educated federal health and safety officers and the police on the Westray section of the Criminal Code, but much more work is needed here.
“Despite the fact that too many workers are killed at work every year, police and prosecutors are not using the Westray amendments and are not investigating workplace fatalities through the lens of criminal accountability,” says George Nickerson, NBFL Vice-President responsible for workplace health and safety. “This needs to change. Goverments at all levels must make sure that existing health and safety laws and regulations are being enforced.”
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For information, please contact:
(506) 381-8969 (cell)
NBFL Vice President responsible for Workplace Health & Safety