Tag Archives: Canada

Canada: Cargill Covid-19 infections a 21st-Century Version of the Westray Explosion – USW Canada

Just a few weeks before the 28th anniversary of the Westray Mine explosion that killed 26 workers in the early hours of May 9, 1992, the United Steelworkers union (USW) says calls for a criminal investigation into the death and infection of workers at the Cargill meat processing plant in High River, Alta., are justified.

“The events leading up to the death of a worker who died at Cargill this month are eerily similar to those leading up to the explosion of the Westray mine 28 years ago,” said USW Western Canada Director Steve Hunt.

“An inspector, despite recommended social distancing and safety warnings in the COVID-19 pandemic, declared the workplace safe not long before one worker died and hundreds more tested positive. At the Westray Mine in 1992, inspectors declared the mine safe, despite clear violations of safety protocols and a buildup of methane-producing coal dust.”

Hunt said the Cargill situation is as predictable as the mine explosion, with workers working in close proximity and little or no protective gear.

At the Westray Coal Mine in Pictou County, N.S, in 1992 the USW was in the process of organizing workers, whose primary concern was the safety of the mine.

“Workers were signing union cards because they knew the company was negligent and they feared for their lives,” Hunt said.

Hunt testified at the subsequent inquiry undertaken by Justice Peter Richard, whose conclusion was that the disaster was the result “of incompetence, of mismanagement, of bureaucratic bungling, of deceit, of ruthlessness, of cover-up, of apathy, of expediency, and of cynical indifference.”

The Inquiry ultimately led to the 2003 unanimous passage in the House of Commons of amendments to the Criminal Code. Called the Westray Law, the amendments are intended to hold corporations and their directors and executives criminally accountable for workplace death and injury. The USW has campaigned for many years for better enforcement of the Westray Law.

“Too often employers plead guilty to negligence in workplace death or injury in exchange for a fine. Killing workers should never be just a cost of doing business.  Cargill is no exception. This must be given a full investigation and, if warranted, result in criminal charges.”

Hunt said in 2020, deadly infection caused by COVID-19 is as much of a workplace hazard as any so-called “accident” involving heavy equipment, poor safety protocols or control.

“We are now living in an era with added risk to workers,” he said. “The Westray Law must apply in this case, and be investigated through a criminal lens.”


For further information:

Stephen Hunt, 604-816-2554, shunt@usw.ca


Canada: Day of Mourning action call by CUPE

National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job

On April 28, the National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job, we remember all the workers we have lost. On this day, CUPE also joins with the Canadian Labour Congress and other unions around the county to demand that all governments enforce the laws, including Westray provisions in the Criminal Code and occupational health and safety laws.

We urge CUPE members to observe a moment of silence and lower flags to half-mast on Tuesday, April 28. Show your support by prominently displaying our poster at your workplace.

Every day in Canada, workers lose their lives on the job. Their deaths are preventable and should not happen. It boggles the mind that we lose almost 1000 workers every year.

In 2017, the most recent year that full statistics are available, the officially recorded number of workplace fatalities rose to at least 951. As with every year, we say “at least” because we, in the labour movement, have always known that the number is higher.

Last year, a new report called Work-Related Death in Canada has attempted to quantify the number of workers lost who are usually uncounted. These are people who are not in the compensation system, or are self-employed, or work “off the grid” in precarious work. Or they are considered to have had a “natural” death, or were commuting to and from work, or who died from an occupational disease or cancer that was never related back to their working conditions.

If we include all the uncounted, the research suggests that there may be 10-13 times as many people dying because of work in Canada than we officially accept in our compensation system.  But while there may be no insurance payment for those left behind, their loved ones are gone just the same.

We implore governments and employers to invest in prevention, including strong health and safety committees. We call for a robust enforcement regime to enhance prevention through pro-active inspections, and to punish those employers who refuse to fulfill their duty to ensure a safe workplace. We also call on the federal government to reinstate the definition of danger that existed in the Canada Labour Code before Stephen Harper weakened it without consultation in 2014.

Day of Mourning poster

Day of Mourning flag **New Design!**


Canada: Janitors’ union ‘invisible to essential’ campaign

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2 in Canada has launched an ‘Invisible to Essential’ campaign, calling on property owners, managers and cleaning contractors to work together to make immediate improvements to cleaner’s working conditions. SEIU Local 2 represents more than 10,000 janitors across Canada.

The campaign demands include an immediate Can$2 per hour raise; keeping cleaners employed during the crisis; and ensuring all cleaners are working safely with the required training and Personal Protect Equipment (PPE).

Local 2 represents janitors in  the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

More information can be accessed at: www.justiceforjanitors.ca/campaigns/from-invisible-to-essential/SEIU

Canada: This national Day of Mourning, Tell your story – CLC

April 28th marks the National Day of Mourning, to recognise the hundreds of workers who lose their lives or have their lives changed forever because of something that happened in their workplace.

The vigils we hold this year to commemorate these workers will be virtual – yet another way COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work.

Tell your story and what this day means to you right now.


Canada: Paper and related workers start year long safety campaign on 28 April

United Steelworkers

Global unions target safety at work in pulp, paper, graphical and packaging in a year of action

Leeann Foster, lfoster@usw.org, 412-225-5964
Jess Kamm Broomell, jkamm@usw.org, 412-562-2444

Workers in the pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors, represented globally by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI, are using this 2019 Workers Memorial Day to kick off a yearlong campaign around the three fundamental worker rights needed to make work safe: (1) The Right to Know – workers must know the hazards and risks in their workplace; (2) The Right to Act (commonly known as the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work Without Punishment); and (3) the Right to Participate in the programs and structures that manage safety in the workplace.  Each of these Rights will be highlighted with action by workers across the global pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors.

May and June 2019 will focus on a Worker’s Right to Know. Right-to-Know laws typically focus on a worker’s right to know the hazardous substances and dangerous chemicals they work with, but workers require information on so much more that could endanger them at work.  Workers require:

  • Information on all workplace hazard information, including dangerous chemicals and materials but also hazardous tools, equipment, work processes and the way work is organized;
  • An accurate evaluation of hazards.  Where gaps in knowledge exist they should be filled;
  • Hazard and risk assessment done with workers participation.  The only people with the moral authority to assess a risk are those who must face it;
  • This means industrial hygiene surveys belong to workers.  Toxicology studies belong to workers.  Ergonomic surveys belong to workers.

“We invite the global pulp, paper and packaging sectors to work with workers and their representatives to fully facilitate the right to know and, by doing so, build safer and healthier workplaces, “ said Joaquina Rodriguez, president of UNI Graphical and Packaging.

“All health and safety standards exist because of trade union action and we invite the pulp, paper, graphical and packaging industries to share information, build safety programs and provide a safeguarding course for their workers, “ said Leeann Foster, IndustriALL Pulp and Paper Working Group Co-Chair and Assistant to the International President at the  United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW).

Similar international mobilizations will be conducted in September/October 2019 around the Right to Act and focusing March/April 2020 on the Right to Participate, culminating with Workers Memorial Day 2020.

Workers Memorial Day, observed by unions across the globe on April 28 of each year, is dedicated to remembering those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the struggle for safe jobs.  Worldwide, more than 380,000 workers die tragically at work each year, and another 2.4 million die from work-related illness.

The pulp, paper, graphical and packaging sectors are extremely dangerous, with a number of fatalities and even more life-altering injuries occurring across the globe annually. Transparency with workers on information relating to their health and safety and employer engagement with workers and their unions is fundamental to address loss of life and limb in the industry.

The two international unions, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI, bring together unions on all continents across these four industries. See more on the two global union websites: www.industriall-union.org and www.uniglobalunion.org.

Canada: 951 fatalities in Canada in one year – HEU

Every worker should be able to return home, at the end of the shift, healthy and safe.

But the most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada show that in 2017, there were 951 workplace fatalities in Canada, 46 more than the previous year.

And among these deaths, 23 were young workers aged 15-24.

In addition to the fatalities, there were 251,508 accepted claims for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 31,441 claims from young workers. These statistics only include what’s reported and accepted by the compensation boards, and doesn’t reflect the total number of injuries that go unreported.

But statistics don’t tell the whole story. Loved ones, family members, friends and co-workers are also directly affected.

Health care workers now have the highest injury rate of any sector in the province. And in long-term care, the injury rate is four times higher than the provincial average.

Across the health system, workers are rushed off their feet – coping with extreme workloads, short-staffing and hospitals that are routinely admitting more patients than they are designed to accommodate.

All this puts health care workers at a heightened risk for injury and illness. That’s why safer, healthier workplaces are a top priority in all unionized work sectors.

But developing and enforcing health and safety programs in a health care system fragmented by privatization and reorganization is an ongoing challenge.

In the recent round of bargaining, the Facilities Bargaining Association, led by HEU, negotiated new language to tackle the unacceptable high injury rates that deal directly with workload, violence, and the ability of OH&S stewards to enforce members’ rights to safe workplaces.

The FBA secured $8.5 million to establish a new Provincial Occupational Health and Safety agency that will benefit all health care workers. And they bargained measures to address workload, establish regional workload committees, strengthen OH&S representation, fund OH&S stewards to work on pilot projects focused on injury prevention, create an MSI prevention project, and more.

As we mark this year’s National Day of Mourning, we renew our commitment to hold all employers accountable for ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, and strengthen our resolve to use every tool we have to make health care a safer, healthier work place for all our members.

To learn more about Day of Mourning events in your community, check with your local labour council or visit the Day of Mourning BC website.

HEU news release

Canada: Governments are “largely ignoring” the Westray safety law – IAM

Day of MourningApril 28 is a Day of Mourning for thousands of Canadian workers killed or injured on the job each year, or who die from work-related diseases. On this day, we mourn, but it is also a time to insist that all levels of government do more to enforce existing health and safety laws and vigorously prosecute violations when a worker is killed or seriously injured.
The labour movement worked for years to get changes to the Criminal Code so that corporations who kill are held criminally liable. This amended law, often called the Westray law, holds employers accountable if they fail to take steps to protect the lives of their employees.
Unfortunately that law is largely being ignored by governments. There have been only a handful of prosecutions for criminal negligence and only one conviction.
It is time for fair and equal treatment before the law for workplace injuries and deaths. We have made progress protecting workers’ health and safety, but together we have to keep fighting for safer workplaces for everyone.


Canada: PIPSA calls for more action to stop workplace fatalities

Worker's Day of Mourning

Each year, on the National Day of Mourning, we commemorate those who lost their lives, were injured or became ill due to a work accident or occupational exposure.

Join PIPSC members and labour activists across the country in ceremonies this Sunday, April 28.


We continue to call on employers and governments to do more to prevent such fatalities from happening in the first place. Take action with workers in Canada and email your labour minister to demand:

  • proactive inspections, a robust enforcement regime, strong health and safety committees, and a systemic approach to prevention,
  • a strong, effective workplace health and safety committee,
  • ensure consequences when employers do not fulfill their duty to ensure a safe workplace, and
  • call on your federal counterpart to reinstate the previous, stronger definition of danger in the Canada Labour Code. The right to refuse unsafe work is one of the three basic rights at work in Canada.

Take the time to discuss occupational health and safety issues with your co-workers, as well as about how accidents could affect their lives.

Accidents happen so fast! Yet many are avoidable.

Canada: OFL statement for the Day of Mourning: One is too many. No one should die on the job.

On the National Day of Mourning we remember workers killed or injured on the job and commit to continuing the fight for laws that improve and enhance worker health and safety across Ontario and Canada.

“Workplace injuries and deaths are fully preventable, and the Ontario government must put health and safety first by putting worker safety at the forefront,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley.

Precarious jobs are dangerous jobs, and the PC government took away decent work laws with Bill 148, and cancelled the $15 minimum wage, leaving millions of workers trapped in precarious work.

Workplace injuries are on the rise in Ontario. In March it was reported that lost time injuries have increased by 33 per cent since 2015 and in 2018 work-related fatalities rose to 228.

The OFL’s enduring theme for April 28 is “Mourn for the Dead. Fight for the Living.” As part of its campaign, the OFL continues to ensure that criminal investigations are held whenever a worker dies on the job.

The labour movement has won victories by pushing for criminal investigations into worker injuries and deaths, demanding that criminal charges are laid when it is appropriate. The “Kill a Worker, Go to Jail” campaign was instrumental in the conviction of a construction manager after four workers were killed and one injured at Metron Construction.

“Every worker should come home safe to their family at the end of the day,” said Buckley.

This April 28, the OFL joins the Canadian Labour Congress in calling on provincial and federal governments to make the changes that will improve workplace health and safety across Ontario and Canada

  • Enforcing the laws that keep workers safe, including Occupational Safety and Health requirements in every jurisdiction and the Westray provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada.
  • Focusing on prevention. Investing in prevention the best way to save lives. Proactive inspections, a robust enforcement regime, strong health and safety committees, and a systemic approach to prevention are needed.
  • Ensuring meaningful worker participation in developing and monitoring the systems that will make workplaces safer. A strong, effective health and safety committee is a powerful tool for making workplaces safer and protecting the lives and health of workers.
  • Punishing the bad actors. When employers do not fulfill their duty to ensure a safe workplace, there must be consequences.
  • Calling on the Federal government to strengthen the definition of danger in the Canada Labour Code.

You can take action by writing to the Minister of Labour in favor of these changes for worker health and safety.

The OFL Power of Many is a campaign by the Ontario Federation of Labour and its allies in communities across Ontario, working together to protect and win decent work laws, strong public services, along with equality and justice, as well as safe and healthy workplaces and communities for all.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

Canada: PSAC- One is too many: No one should die on the job

Who’s counting?

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning when we remember those who have lost their lives or suffered injury and illness because of their work.

Every day there are opportunities to prevent workplace injury and death, but we can’t do it without the data we need to drive our decision-making.

In Canada, we collect statistics on many things including the weather, but we fail to accurately record the number of individuals who have died as a result of their work. Because of this, we do not learn the lessons that would allow us to prevent future tragedies.

Apart from data compiled by Workers’ Compensation on workplace injuries and fatalities, no Canadian department or agency is actually counting occupational fatalities and injuries.  The widely quoted 951 fatalities in the 2017 statistics (the most recent year available) from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Board of Canada (AWCBC) should not be used as the sole benchmark for work-related fatalities or injuries.  The AWCBC figures only account for approved compensation claims, not the actual total of injuries and fatalities that occurred in any given year. Recent Canadian research demonstrates that work-related fatalities could be as much as 10 to 13 times higher than official data indicates.

This lack of reporting means thousands of injuries and deaths are missing from occupational health and safety statistics. These include workers exempt from coverage like the self-employed, banking employees, domestic workers, many farmers and agricultural workers, commuting fatalities, stress-induced suicides, unapproved occupational diseases, employees of private clubs, and temporary or undocumented workers.

In addition, in the federal sector, when a person dies due to a particular hazard, the compensation board does not provide the root cause analysis to employers. The Coroner does not give employers a notice of death, nor is the root cause of the injury or fatality necessarily considered in the required hazard prevention program – as though every fatality is “an accident.”

Let’s push to make 2019 the year that the government of Canada begins to accurately document and use evidence-based recording to prevent workplace injuries and save lives.  One is too many — no one should die on the job.

News release