Latin America: BWI affiliates mobilise for 2023 International Workers Memorial Day
BWI affiliates in Brazil, Peru, Panama, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia and El Salvador were mobilised during the month of April to advocate for the workers’ fundamental right to a safe and healthy working environment, culminating in events across Latin America and the Caribbean on 28 April to mark the close of the campaign.
The more than 60 activities in the region have included workplace inspections, occupational safety and health (OSH) training, awareness-raising activities such as picketing and leafleting concerning work-related accidents and diseases, and demonstrations demanding governments and employers take measures to prevent work-related deaths and injuries.
In Brazil, one of the activities organized by FETRACONSPAR – the Federation of Workers in the Construction and Furniture Industries of the State of Paraná – in the framework of 28 April, was an act in memory of the lives lost due to work accidents. At a location part of many commuters’ journey to work, 239 crosses were placed in reference to the workers who died due to work accidents in 2022 in Paraná (Observatory of Health and Safety at Work). The crosses bore helmets of all colours, representing the different positions on a civil construction site, from the bricklayer’s assistant to the chief engineer – a reminder that everyone is exposed to risks. The event was covered by the Brazilian TV channel with the highest audience.
In Panama, the closing ceremony of SUNTRACS’ annual campaign was attended by 250 workers, the Panamanian Minister of Labour, union and company representatives and other authorities. Part of the event was a theatre piece to inform the new generations that today’s guarantees of personal protective equipment (PPE) and occupational health training are the result of a historic trade union struggle. The event was also a tribute to Barbara Mejía, former OSH secretary of SUNTRACS, who was responsible for training a generation of union leaders in the field. The event was broadcast live and closed with a demonstration.
Peru, FTCCP – the Peruvian Federation of Civil Construction Workers – organised a conference on 26 April entitled ‘Protection and defence of the right to health in the construction sector’ with authorities and experts, in which they demanded the reduction of the weight of the cement sac in Peru from 42.5 to 25kg.
In Argentina, UOCRA – the Argentinean Construction Workers’ Union – organized activities throughout the week of 24-28 April with digital and face-to-face activism in defence of healthy working environments through the dissemination of flyers and videos on social networks, and the distribution of posters and leaflets in workplaces. Amongst the activities, a highlight is the OSH union training programme for young delegates so that they are skilled to defend the application of the fundamental right to OSH, through the detection of risks at different stages of the work and know how to identify the adjustments that must be carried out to control these risks.
On 27 April, the BWI regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean organised a webinar to launch an OSH Brigade Manual. More than 70 trade union representatives from the region registered for the event. Denilson Pestana, BWI LAC Regional President, opened the webinar with a candlelight tribute in memory of workers who have died due to occupational accidents or diseases, followed by a presentation by Juan José Guilarte – Senior Specialist on Workers’ Activities of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Office for the Southern Cone – on the ILO Conventions on occupational health and safety that have been upgraded to fundamental status; Mauro Posada and Ever Asprilla, OSH secretaries of UOCRA and SUNTRACS, respectively, presented how OSH is being used by their organisations as a strategy for trade union activism; finally, BWI LAC Regional Representative, Nilton Freitas, presented the Manual, a tool available to BWI affiliates for OSH training.