Workers paid respect to men and women who have been killed on the job at a National Day of Mourning ceremony held in Port Alberni on Sunday.
More than 70 people attended the special service which included a wreathe laying ceremony, at the Steelworkers Hall on Montrose Street. Representatives were there from the Alberni District Teachers Union, CUPE, United Commercial Food Workers as well as other labour groups.Also in attendance was Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser and Port Alberni Mayor John Douglas.
The day took on added significance as attendees paid their respects to the more than 300 workers who were killed in a garment factory in Bangladesh.
“This is like our Remembrance Day because people get killed and injured in their workplaces,” said Port Alberni District Labour Council president Dave Warrender. “Our motto today is the mourn for the dead and fight for the living.”
According to the BC Federation of Labour website, the federal government passed the Workers Mourning Day Act in 1990, which established an official day every years to commemorates workers killed or injured on the job. The day is known as Workers Memorial Day elsewhere around the world.
Also according to the BC Fed. the three leading causes of death in the workplace are exposure to harmful substances, transportation accidents and contact with objects and equipment.
At Sunday’s ceremony, one worker recounted how a student no more than 18-years old was killed on the job in the 1990’s.
Warrender knows of local instances in his working life though where others died on the job.
At a local mill, a worker was killed after he was sucked into a recover boiler because it wasn’t vented before its door was opened. In another incident, a worker was about to do some welding on a digester when he fell through the platform he was on and to his death.
“When you go to a workplace you should be safe and not have to worry about hazards,” Warrender said. “If there is a hazard then you have the right to question it.”
Warrender has been injury free for 39 years. “I’ve never been on workers compensation and never been injured and I’m going to keep it that way,” he said.