Twenty five years ago, the Workers Mourning Day Act was passed declaring April 28 a day to remember workers killed, disabled or injured in the workplace and workers afflicted by industrial disease.
In these years, thousands of Canadians have been killed at work, hundreds of thousands suffer occupational illnesses, and millions have been injured simply trying to earn a living.
Today, workplace health and safety is evolving as quickly as our workplaces themselves. Our union is addressing critical issues such as mental health, domestic violence and violence prevention in the workplace. While efforts are being focused on reducing the stigma for victims, there are still barriers in gaining necessary recognition and support.
Sadly, in the case of asbestos, knowing the risks has not been enough to protect workers from deadly diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Since 1996, asbestos has been the leading cause of occupational death in Canada.
Recently, the labour movement has made great strides towards making workplaces safer and communities healthier. For many years, labour has demanded that the federal government implement a comprehensive national ban on asbestos. PSAC is also calling for a National Registry to publicly identify buildings owned or leased by the federal government known to contain asbestos.
To date, the federal government has committed to banning the use of asbestos-containing materials for any new construction (whose design is not yet complete) and any future renovations. These actions are simply not enough. Members currently working in government owned and leased buildings may not be protected from the known risks of asbestos exposure.
Today we remember those who lost their battles, those who were left behind, and those who continue to suffertoday. In their memory, we must solidify our commitment to the next generation. To make our workplaces safe, we need to believe that it’s possible! Let’s use our rights and knowledge about workplace and community hazards to hold employers and government to account.
This year, let’s all continue the fight for a national ban on asbestos!