VICTORIA – The CUPE BC Convention today honoured the memory of workers who have been killed or injured or experienced disease and illness as a direct result of their work. Convention delegates joined Victoria-area CUPE locals, other unions, members of the B.C. Legislative Assembly, and community members in Victoria to mark the Workers’ Day of Mourning.
Elder Sam George welcomed delegates to the event, held on the front lawn of the B.C. Legislature. He joined the event host, CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta.
“Workers in Canada continue to be killed at a completely unacceptable rate,” said Ranalletta. “Recent statistics show that nearly 1,000 workers are killed on the job each year Workplace injuries and illnesses claimed the lives of 181 B.C. workers in 2022.”
Canadian Labour Congress President Bea Bruske, BCFED Secretary-Treasurer Hermender Singh Kailley, Ambulance Paramedics of BC CUPE 873 President Troy Clifford also spoke in remembrance of fallen workers, as did CUPE National President Mark Hancock, who acknowledged the four CUPE members that died because of work in the past year.
- Sherri Anne D’Amour, CUPE 5167, Ontario
- Michael Boulanger, CUPE 4705, Ontario
- Wilmer Gonzalez, CUPE 2740, Saskatchewan
- Gérald Gauthier, CUPE 375, Québec
“When we lose a member, I always call their local. I don’t want to have to do that anymore. I don’t want future National Presidents to have to make these calls,” said Hancock.
It was CUPE’s National Health and Safety Committee that first proposed the idea for a day to honour workers injured or killed at work. CUPE also helped make Canada the first country to formally commemorate workers who’d been killed at work.
Decades later, the annual April 28th observance has grown into an international event marked by labour and social justice organizations around the world.
This year’s event was closed by Ranalletta who thanked CUPE BC Convention delegates for the work they do to end workplace deaths.
“I want to acknowledge all of you that sit on your local health and safety committees, who watch out for your coworkers,” said Ranalletta, who then ended by quoting Mother Jones. “Today we remember the dead, tomorrow we fight like hell for the living.”