Today is the National Day of Mourning for workers who have lost their lives while on the job. More than a year into the pandemic it is clear that the effects of COVID-19 have deeply affected workers in countless industries. Many of us know someone who contracted the virus at work. Maybe a school teacher or a bus driver, or the cashier at the local grocery store. Sadly, many of our own members amongst the extended CUPE National family have fallen ill while at work and some have lost their lives (not at airlines). This is in addition to all the other workplace illnesses, injuries and deaths that occur all too frequently because of other “traditional” hazards.
If anything good can come from COVID, perhaps it’s that we must never allow ourselves to be content with the level of safety that we enjoy. Because what’s safe today may be wholly inadequate for the hazards of tomorrow. We must learn from what we have lived through, and ALWAYS do our best to build upon that knowledge so that we can successfully face those new challenges when they come.
When COVID is over, we must remember the acute shortage of personal protective equipment in the early months of the pandemic. Why didn’t we learn from SARS? Why didn’t we have our own manufacturing facilities for respirators, gowns, gloves and masks?
We must remember the slow rollout of vaccines. We were overdue for a pandemic, so why didn’t we learn from SARS and ensure manufacturing capacity here at home?
We must remember the troubles our members have had getting access to essential health care, ironically because they perform an essential job that has them cross borders.
We must remember how long it took our governments to acknowledge what was plainly obvious as early as 2 weeks into the pandemic and backed in solid scientific studies: this was a pathogen that spreads through the air.
We must remember how provincial and federal regulations fail to this day to ensure proper respiratory protections for front-line essential workers despite clear epidemiological evidence that they bear a significant portion of COVID-19 infections in the second and third wave.
Had we, as a society, collectively learned from SARS and addressed these things, how many people could have avoided falling ill? How many people could we have saved?
It is by making a daily commitment to safety that we can honour those whose lives have been lost this past year, and years prior. Report all hazards – even if you’ve done it before. Report all illness and injury – even if it’s minor. Hold your political leaders accountable, and demand that we act on lessons that ought to have been learnt from the past and make good on doing the same for those we have unfortunately had to learn this past year.
We encourage you to view the CUPE National Day of Mourning message by clicking HERE.
Your Air Canada Component of CUPE Health and Safety Committee