April 28, 2020: Day of Mourning in a time of COVID-19

This year, union activists in Ottawa will be marking the National Day of Mourning on April 28th with a virtual candlelight vigil.

Ottawa (28 April 2020) ― This year, union activists in Ottawa  and across Canada will be marking the National Day of Mourning on April 28th with virtual candlelight vigils. These virtual gatherings are happening across the country to align with public health directives that are keeping essential workers safe through the COVID-19 crisis.

This year the Day of Mourning will be different

Every year more than 1,000 workers lose their lives in the workplace, and many more work-related deaths aren’t counted by Canada's Workers’ Compensation system.

Traditionally, Day of Mourning ceremonies and events have helped us mark an important day in the labour movement, allowing workers and their families to come together every year to mourn for the dead, and re-commit to our fight for the living. On this day, workers, retirees, leaders, activists and allies across the country come together to remember and recommit to protecting workers and preventing further tragedies, and making every workplace safe and healthy for everyone.

This year, those activities must look very different.

Because we must all do our part to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect those most vulnerable to serious health impacts, we cannot gather in-person. But that does not mean that we will stand down on this important day. We will still come together online from inside our homes in communities across the country.

Highlight the rights every worker has to protect themselves

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and work. This year, more than ever before, it is important to highlight the rights every worker has to protect themselves.

We owe it to all workers to make sure they have the protections and supports to work safely. COVID-19 doesn’t mean we weaken those rights – it means we strengthen them.

Workers know that if we wait until the science is certain before implementing protections, many workers will pay the price. That’s why unions fight for the precautionary principle, which maintains that the absence of scientific certainty should not prevent prudent actions that may reduce risk.

Personal Protective Equipment, job protections, adequate paid sick days and income supports

As the world has faced this new and unknown contagion called COVID-19, governments and employers should be outfitting workers with all available protections, until the source of transmission is determined – not the other way around. That means ensuring that front-line workers have the protective equipment they need, and the training to use it safely.

That means ensuring that all workers, including precarious and vulnerable workers, have access to job protections, adequate paid sick days and income supports to protect them through this crisis.

Defend our basic rights at work

That means we need to defend our basic rights at work that are protected in health and safety statutes in every jurisdiction in Canada. Those three basic rights are:

1.    Right to know about the hazards in their workplace and receive the training they need to be able to do their jobs safely.

2.    Right to participate in decisions that could affect their health and safety.

3.    Right to refuse work that could endanger their health and safety or that of others. The right to refuse is not the first step to protect workers. This is a serious, sometimes necessary step that no worker takes lightly.

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NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE