Industrial workers and emergency services personnel marked the 28th annual Day of Mourning on Monday with a service at the Steelworkers’ Hall in Port Alberni. Each year, it seems attendance is dropping at this event. It shouldn’t.
Three decades on, it is more important than ever to remember the original message: to fight for the living and mourn for the dead.
In 2013, 128 people died on the job in B.C. That’s 128 too many as far as the Port Alberni & District Labour Council and its members are concerned.
Yet many members fear the message is becoming diluted.
‘We’ve had tremendous changes; but I see the changes slipping away,’ Unifor 686 representative Rick Lord said. ‘People are starting to forget. We can’t forget history.’
When Lord started working at the paper mill in 1969, there were 12 fatalities at the mill. Those remaining demanded safer working conditions.
A new generation of young workers is being trained to take over at the paper mill and other mills in our community. They cannot comprehend the meaning behind the Day of Mourning, because big industry has cleaned up its act since the days when an average of three workers per year were killed on the job.
The interests and attitudes in these young workers is challenging: they don’t understand why we pause every April 28 to remember. They are attached 24/7 to their attention-diverting electronic devices. They have never seen a paper machine suck up a colleague in the blink of an eye.
It is up to us to ensure they are well educated in safety measures so that they never do.