Day of Mourning 2021 – The Human Cost of COVID-19

April 28, 2021

Canada’s unions are marking the National Day of Mourning by calling attention to the human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For over a year, the world has faced unprecedented upheaval due to COVID-19. The virus and its variants have wrought havoc on our society and laid bare a troubling lack of protection for workers.

“Every year on the Day of Mourning, we mourn the dead and re-commit to fighting for the living,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC. “Over the last year, we have witnessed how vulnerable we all are. This pandemic has shone a light on egregious gaps in workplace protections and exposed employers who choose to put profits over people.”

Evidence from across the country shows that the virus is spreading at work, not only in health care settings but also in factories, meat works, warehouses, schools, offices, transportation and other sectors. Workers have had to fight for access to appropriate, effective protective equipment, COVID-safe practices at work, paid sick leave and respect for their basic health and safety rights.

However, these problems existed before the pandemic and have resulted in millions of deaths each year from work-related injuries and diseases. Every year, approximately 1000 Canadian workers and more than 2.7 million workers around the world die because of an injury or an exposure that happens at work.

“Over the past year, Canadian workers have kept food on our tables, essential goods in our cupboards, taught our children, cared for our loved ones and kept critical institutions running,” said Yussuff. “They have done all of this, at serious risk and sometimes great cost to their own health and safety. The failure of governments to prioritize paid sick leave for workers in all jurisdictions puts everyone at risk, and is undoubtedly prolonging and deepening the impacts of the pandemic.”

Without access to protected, paid sick days, workers have been forced to choose between going to work sick, or not getting paid, and in some cases losing their jobs. An estimated 58 percent of Canadian workers don’t have access to paid sick leave through their employers, according to a report by the Decent Work and Health Network. That number rises to 70 percent among people making less than $25,000 a year.

Canada’s unions call on all governments to immediately introduce or expand paid sick leave to ensure workers aren’t required to go to work sick.

Read more about how Canada’s unions are fighting to protect the living by calling on all governments to disaster-proof our country.

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