High death rate shows more must be done to protect workers, says labour groups
A monument to dead workers will be unveiled in Edmonton on the National Day of Mourning tomorrow (Saturday), but the death toll at Alberta workplaces shows little sign of slowing down.
"There are 123 families in Alberta who are grieving for the family members they lost last year, people who died last year as a result of going to work," says Brian Henderson, president of the Edmonton and District Labour Council (EDLC).
"While it's a drop from the previous year's total of 136 dead, it's still higher than two years ago, when 110 were killed. Year after year, we see too many workers die in Alberta. This is a dangerous place to work and we need to do more to keep Albertans safe," he said.
The monument to Alberta's Broken Families will be unveiled in Edmonton's Grant Notley Park at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. Made of stainless steel, granite and concrete, the obelisk stands 14 feet tall and 10 feet wide at the base. On each of the four sides, a family is seen, cast in bronze – but with one family member missing - one family member who went to work, but didn't come home.
"This monument not only commemorates those who have died before, it aims to educate people so future deaths can be prevented," says Henderson. "It is fitting that it will be in the park named after Grant Notley, the former MLA and leader of the NDP, a great public servant who lost his life in a 1984 plane crash while representing the people of this province."
The family of Grant Notley gave their permission for the obelisk to be located in the park. "I know what it's like to lose a beloved family member," says Rachel Notley, newly re-elected NDP MLA for Edmonton Strathcona. "My father died in a plane crash while working for the people of Alberta. Having this monument in the park that bears his name just feels right."
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says that while the government has taken small steps to improve workplace safety, including a limited increase in the number of safety inspectors, much more needs to be done.
"The government has still failed to respond to a judge's three-year-old recommendation to include agricultural workers in healthy and safety legislation after an inquiry into the death of Kevan Chandler. It is shameful that Alberta farm workers are denied the basic rights of all other workers – the right be covered by Employment Standards and Occupation Health and Safety rules and to refuse to do unsafe work and to," he says.
"Premier Alison Redford publicly promised to fix this while she was running for the leadership of her party. Now that she's won an election, we expect her to fulfil this pledge to protect vulnerable Alberta workers," says McGowan.
Henderson, Notley and McGowan will be among the speakers at the unveiling ceremony, as will the artist who created the obelisk, Memi von Gaza.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Brian Henderson, EDLC president, 780-940-6797
Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
National Day of Mourning events around Alberta:
National Day of Mourning ceremonies will be held in communities around the province, including:
- April 27th – Calgary and District Labour Council – Wreath-laying ceremony and memorial service at 11:00 a.m., at the City of Calgary Workers Memorial (Edward Place Park, SW corner of City Hall, 9th Avenue and MacLeod Trail S.E.);
- April 28th – Edmonton and District Labour Council – "Broken Families Obelisk" dedication and ceremony – 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Grant Notley Park, 11603 – 100 Avenue;
- April 28th – Yellowhead Labour Council – ceremony at 11:00 a.m., Jesse Turgeon Park (Guild – across from the mill), Hinton;
- April 28th – Fort McMurray & District Labour Council, 11:00 a.m., Howard Pew Memorial Park, Tolen Drive (Railway Avenue), Fort McMurray; and
- April 28th – Medicine Hat and District Labour Council, 11:00 a.m., at the Memorial at the foot of Scholten Hill, Medicine Hat.