Manitoba’s unions mark National Day of Mourning

April 26, 2024

(Winnipeg) – In advance of the National Day of Mourning on Sunday, Manitoba’s unions are honouring workers who have been killed or suffered injuries or illness at work with a walk from the Union Centre to Winnipeg’s Memorial Park followed by a candlelight ceremony in front of the Workers Memorial today.

Every year across Canada, over 1,000 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries or illness. Sadly, 22 Manitoba workers died last year from injuries and illnesses that they suffered at work. Unions also honoured six others who died in previous years but whose deaths were not recognized as work-related until now.

“Every worker deserves to make it home safely to their loved ones at the end of every shift,” said Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. “Each one of these deaths represents a family member, friend and co-worker who never made it home or spent their final years battling an occupational disease. While today is about mourning, it is also about re-committing ourselves to making workplaces safer to prevent these tragic losses in the future.”

Rebeck noted that over half of Manitoba workplace deaths in the last year were from occupational diseases that workers acquired from exposure to harmful material and chemicals over the course of their working lives. More Manitoba workers die as a result of exposure to asbestos than any other work-related cause.

Rebeck also noted that Manitoba’s unions continue to raise awareness about a number of worrying trends regarding workplace safety and health in Manitoba, including high levels of workplace violence, the lack of support and treatment for psychological injuries caused by work, and the disproportionately high number of workplace injuries suffered by Manitobans who work in health care and the broader public sector.

The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba accepts about 25,000 injury claims each year. But it is likely that the number of workplace injuries is significantly higher because this figure excludes cases where an injured worker did not file a claim, where a worker’s claim was rejected, or where the worker was not covered by WCB (as is the case for more than 25 per cent of Manitoba’s workforce).

“Today and every day, Manitoba’s unions are committed to making work safer and healthier for everyone,” said Rebeck. “We have made tremendous strides in protecting workers on the job, but much more needs to be done to recognize and prevent the true extent of workplace injuries and illnesses suffered by Manitoba workers every year.”