On the eve of the 12th International Day of Mourning, which will be commemorated around the world on Saturday April 28, the Alberta Federation of Labour called on government, employers and workers to do more to prevent the scourge of workplace death.
"Alberta has little to boast about in the area of workplace safety," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "Workplace accidents are on the rise, despite - or maybe because of - the boom."
Communities and workplaces around the province will be taking time on Saturday to remember workers killed and injured due to work, through minutes of silence, ceremonies and other gatherings. The official Edmonton ceremony will be at City Hall at noon. Calgary's event will also be at noon at Edward's Place Park.
"Alberta workplaces kill 21/2 workers each week. Is that the price of prosperity?" McGowan asks. "If so, it is too high for me."
In 2006, 124 workers were killed due to work, and an additional 20 farmworker fatalities, who are not included in official figures. "There were over 181,000 reported accidents last year in Alberta," observes McGowan. "An increase of 7.4% in one year."
"Why do so many workers die, year after year, with apparently little progress? The answer I come up with is because none of us make occupational health and safety the priority it needs to be."
"The government is in denial, and employers are too interested in their growing profit margins to take safety seriously," notes McGowan. "To hear government spin doctors talk, you would think we have the safest workplaces in the world. However, their rhetoric is made up of misleading statistics and hollow promises."
McGowan argues accidents are on the rise because workplaces are too busy and corners are being cut on safety. "Employers have the money right now to ensure safety equipment and procedures are in place. By not doing it, they are failing in their legal and moral responsibility."
Workers are not bystanders in the problem, McGowan notes. "Only once in a generation do workers have the economic leverage to insist on safer workplaces. Workers in Alberta need to take advantage of this boom to stand up for our rights - we need to demand more action on safety."
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For More Information
Gil McGowan at 780.483-3021 (Wk) or 780.218-9888 (Cell)
Jason Foster at 780.483-3021 (Wk)