In 1984, the Canadian Labour Congress declared a National Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job. April 28 commemorated the enactment of Canada's first comprehensive Workers' Compensation Act in Ontario in 1914.
Observances of the Day of Mourning are widespread in Canada. They are led by unions and labour councils and often with the participation of municipalities, social action groups and other non-government organizations. In 1987, a national monument to workers killed or injured on the job was placed in Vincent Massey Park in Ottawa.
Over the years, union organizations in other countries have followed Canada's lead. Today, working people around the world take time on April 28 to remember lost co-workers, friends and family, while renewing their commitment to safer workplaces under the slogan "fight for the living, mourn for the dead."
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) estimates 1.2 million workers a year are killed on the job, about a third from injury, a third from disease and another third of undetermined causes.
Some infamous dates include: June l, l974 - Nypro Chemical plant in Flixborough, England exploded, killing 28 workers; May 9, l992 - Westray mine disaster in Pictou County, Nova Scotia killed 26 miners; May l0, l993 - Kader toy factory fire in Thailand killed l89 workers and injured 469 more; November 19, l993 - Zhili toy factory fire in Shenzen, China killed 87 and injured 47.
The biggest work-related disaster was in l988 in Bhopal, India from a leak of isocyanates at a pesticide plant that killed at least 2,500 workers and their families and condemned thousands more to painful, permanent disabilities.
The ICFTU holds an annual Day of Mourning at the United Nations building in New York and continues to campaign to make corporations and their executives criminally liable for deaths in the workplaces for which they are responsible.
© CLC/CALM, 2005