Labour groups mark day of mourning for workers killed on the job

Labour groups are remembering workers killed or injured on the job.

Marches and ceremonies are being held across the prairies as part of the National Day of Mourning.

The Alberta Federation of Labour says the provincial government has ignored warnings to improve workplace safety.

President Gil McGowan says government figures show the number of Alberta workers killed on the job jumped by almost 25 per cent last year — to 136 deaths from 110 the previous year.

In Saskatchewan, 45 workers were killed and almost 39,000 reported workplace injuries.

A walk to the Manitoba legislature organized by Safe Workers of Tomorrow will end with remarks by the province’s labour minister, Jennifer Howard.

“We warned the government time after time that more needed to be done to save lives and prevent injuries as our economy recovered,” McGowan, whose organization represents 140,000 workers, said Thursday.

“Sadly, our warnings were largely ignored and the result has been more preventable deaths – more families missing loved ones.”

McGowan said the new fatality figures in Alberta make a mockery of Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk’s assertion that the province has been making progress in reducing workplace injuries and accidents.

The government has increased the number of safety inspectors but McGowan says much more needs to be done.

He points out that the government has failed to respond to a judge’s two-year-old recommendation to include agricultural workers in safety legislation. He also says there’s been no full response to “shocking” gaps in health and safety enforcement revealed by the auditor general last year.

The labour federation has repeatedly called for improvements to workplace safety that include posting full safety records of employers online, increasing prosecutions against employers whose unsafe worksites cause injury or death and giving inspectors the power to issue tickets for violations during inspections.

It also wants mandatory worksite health-and-safety committees that include workers.

Saskatchewan Labour Minister Don Morgan says everyone needs to “evaluate and renew their personal commitments to safety at work, at home and in their communities.”

Toronto Star, Thurs Apr 28 2011

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