Category Archives: 2020 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,

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!**

Europe: Joint union statement for 28 April

The COVID-19 outbreak has shown us how vulnerable we are to an epidemic, and how devastating the effects can be: on life, on health, on society, on our economy.

It has demonstrated very clearly the importance of protecting working people (and all people) from disease, especially at the workplace.

It has also shown the importance of investing in good public health care, investing in good conditions for health care workers and other frontline workers, and the need to ensure good sick pay and other provisions to protect the wages and jobs of all.

For International Workers Memorial Day – 28 April – we commemorate all those who died from corona virus. We remember health care workers and all other workers who died from corona virus through exposure at work. No one should die from work!

Nurses, paramedics, other medical staff, and others who work in health care premises, including cleaners, are exposed to multiple occupational risks – biological (e.g. from viruses), chemical (e.g. from the many carcinogenic substances used in a medical setting), physical (e.g. from machinery noise, radiation, slips and falls) and ergonomic risks (e.g. from heavy lifting), psychological (e.g. from the intensity and emotion of the work and from shift work) and hazardous drugs.

Many other workers are also very exposed to disease. For example, care workers, rubbish collectors, teaching staff, transport, shop, construction, contact centre and fast-food workers as well as couriers and delivery workers are among those with high exposure to disease. Many of these workers also work physically close to others: risking to spread as well as catch diseases. Some posted and precarious workers live and travel in close proximity to fellow workers. Many are also in precarious working conditions, low-paid and unable to take sick leave – either because they are not entitled to sick pay, or because they cannot afford to: putting themselves and others at risk if forced to work when ill.

It is essential that all existing health and safety laws and agreements for these workers, and indeed all workers, are fully and properly implemented, involving social partners. It is also essential to review whether existing protections are adequate for dealing with risks such as corona virus. It is clear that many workers, including health care workers, did not for example have adequate personal protective equipment. Investment in health and safety equipment and workplace dialogue and debate about implementing health and safety measures need to be scaled up.

Health care services have been stretched to the absolute limit by corona virus. Public health services’ ability to tackle the coronavirus crisis has not been helped by staff shortages, and inadequate facilities and budgets. The OECD emphasised the importance of public health spending and investment in its recent report on responses to the virus. Trade unions call for increased investment in public health care, not just during the crisis but also afterwards to strengthen our health services ability to deal with this and other emergencies.

The coronavirus crisis has resulted in temporary measures to extend sick pay and income protection schemes to workers who do not normally have the right to sick pay and other protections, including self-employed and platform workers. This shows that there is a longer-term problem which needs to be fixed: all workers should have sick pay, unemployment benefits and other wage protection benefits. And adequate protections for their health and safety in the working life.

Joint ETUC & European trade union federations statement for Workers Memorial Day 2020

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:

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.