Remembering Workers Killed or Injured on the Job

May 1, 2012

On Saturday, April 28 over 100 people gathered on the New Westminster Quay boardwalk to observe the Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job. MoveUP Secretary-Treasurer emceed the event in her role as President of the New Westminster and District Labour Council, starting off the solemn event by mentioning the most recent tragic workplace accident in the province: the explosion that killed and injured workers at the Lakeland Mill in Prince George.

Next New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright welcomed attendees and presented his city’s proclamation recognizing the Day of Mourning. After the Mayor spoke, local poet Renee Saklikar read aloud an evocative poem she had written in honour of the farm workers killed in a 2007 Abbotsford van crash.

Next labour leaders took to the stage. In turn, Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress; Joey Hartman, President of the Vancouver and District Labour Council; and Irene Lanzinger, Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour spoke on the importance of paying tribute to workers who have lost their lives on the job, as well as the need to act to improve workplace health and safety.

All three also mentioned the sad lack of progress on holding employers accountable for negligence causing injury or death. Though this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Westray disaster, after which new legislation was introduced to allow employers to be held criminally accountable for negligence, Georgetti pointed out no employer has yet seen jail time. Lanzinger highlighted the example of the BC mushroom farm owners, whose negligence contributed to a gas leak that caused permanent disability and even death to some of their workers. For their negligence they were fined, but the fine will likely never be paid.

Finally, before the gathering closed with the “Piper’s Lament” and the laying of roses on the cenotaph, surviving family members of workers spoke. Trudy Spiller lost both her husband and brother to workplace accidents. She spoke passionately about their contributions to their family and communities before their deaths, pointing out the tragedy that their lives were cut short when they had so much left to contribute.

Mike Davis, whose father died in the construction accident at the Bentall 4 Tower, shared how much he misses his father and is angry at the unfairness of the situation, particularly at the fact that his father never got to meet his grandson (Mike’s son).

Finally, all those present joined in a moment of silence to honour those who lost their lives or were injured, and to reaffirm their commitment to making BC a safer place to work.