The union that represents mine workers in Thompson and officials from Vale gathered at the United Steelworkers Local 6166 hall on April 28 to recognize the National Day of Mourning, marked annually on this date to remember workers who were killed on the job.
Although no Steelworkers died in workplace incidents last year in USW Canada’s District 3, which covers Western Canada and the territories, all workers and employers need to remain vigilant, said USW Local 6166 president Warren Luky.
“We have a long ways to go,” he said. “There’s too many people who end up going to work and get injured.”
The risks mining entails were highlighted by Vale Manitoba Operations mines manager Rick Filion, who said that a previous workplace where he was employed had a plaque outside with the names of 47 people who had died there, three of whom were people he had worked with closely. Filion said he lost a cousin in a workplace accident earlier in the week and that it was a harsh reminder of the hazards worker face.
“The softest thing in the mine is us and there’s no forgiveness in our workplace,” he said.
Todd Burnside of USW Local 6166 said there were 1,081 Canadians killed in workplace incidents last year, 1,009 of whom were male.
The National Day of Morning was created by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984 on the 70th anniversary of the date the first Ontario Workers Compensation Act was approved in 1914. An act of Parliament in 1991 officially recognized the day in Canada and it is now marked in over 100 countries worldwide.
Former NDP Churchill MP Rod Murphy, who helped pass the legislation recognizing the day, said that when he spoke to schoolchildren on this day a year ago, many knew of people who had been injured or killed at work.
“It’s still happening,” he said. “It’s still something we have to work at.”
A ceremony marking the National Day of Mourning was also held in Winnipeg this morning.
“Every worker deserves to make it home safely to their loved ones at the end of every shift,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck in a news release.”While today is about mourning, it is also about recommitting ourselves to making workplaces safer to prevent these tragic losses in the future.”
More than 20 Manitobans died from workplace accidents and occupational diseases in 2022 and flags at all provincial government buildings in Manitoba were lowered to half-mast to commemorate the day.
“This day gives us all a chance to remember and honour the Manitobans who did not return home safely from work last year,” said Manitoba Labour and Immigration Minister Jon Reyes in a news release. “Of course, those lost were much more than workers. They were our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours. As we remember the past and look to the future, I call on all Manitobans to renew their commitment to occupational safety and health, and continue working together to ensure all workers come home safely.”