Despite the rainy weather, about a dozen people gathered at Tudhope Park earlier today to mark the Workers’ Day of Mourning.
Mike De Rose, president of the North Simcoe Muskoka and District Labour Councill, says the annual in-person event had been paused over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it was important to be back physically present for the ceremony on Saturday morning.
“The Workers’ Day of Mourning is about honouring workers who have been injured or killed at work,” he explained. “Unfortunately, that is something that happens every year here in Simcoe Muskoka.”
People who have been impacted by workplace injuries or deaths, concerned workers, leaders of labour organizations, and local politicians gathered for the event.
“Often, we go to work every day and get lost in our daily jobs," De Rose said. "All jobs have elements of risk, and we always need to keep our own safety and the safety of our colleagues and co-workers at the front of our minds.”
De Rose says while no one plans on going to work to get injured or to not come home, the Workers’ Day of Mourning is a friendly reminder that everybody has a responsibility for safety and must do their part to reduce the number of injuries and deaths to zero.
In Canada, workplace safety is a huge issue, De Rose says. It is also an issue on a more local scale.
“Within our region, there was a workplace death this year,” he said. “It happens often, but it’s not often on the front page of the media.”
De Rose says workers should inform their employer if they are aware of unsafe equipment or unsafe situations.
“There are things that regular citizens, both workers and non-workers, can do,” he said. “They can call on our lovely Doug Ford government to support safe workplaces by mandating paid sick days for all workers.”
De Rose says citizens can also advocate for the provincial government to hold employers who are not providing safe workplaces or conditions responsible with fines and even jail time for repeat and egregious offenders.
“We want to ensure that all of the decisions that this government and really any government is making under the health and safety umbrella are data-driven and not politically driven,” he said. “We need to follow the science, the numbers, and address those concerns.”
Simcoe North NDP candidate Elizabeth Van Houtte was on hand to mark the occasion.
“I’m very proud to represent a party where workers are first and foremost,” she said. “We need to continue to fight until there is no one who is hurt or dies in the workplace."
Van Houtte says if the NDP is elected, they will boost the minimum wage to $20 so people no longer need to work two or three jobs.
“We have progressive policies that address the working people,” she said. “The middle and lower working people, as well as the youth who are just starting the career and going out and losing their lives or becoming permanently injured.”