Feb 242013


Cailynn Klingbeil, Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, April 28 2012

EDMONTON – Workers killed or injured on the job were commemorated as part of an international Day of Mourning on Friday.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees held a memorial ceremony to mark the day of remembrance, which was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984 and is now recognized around the world.

“On this Day of Mourning, we recommit ourselves to fighting as hard as we can for improved health and safety for all workers,” said AUPE president Guy Smith. A moment of silence honoured workers killed on the job, including 64 AUPE members since 1977.

Larry Womack, director of workplace health and safety services at Alberta Health Services, spoke at the ceremony about two AHS employees, an emergency medical services worker and a hospital groundskeeper, who died on the job.

“These are not only staff members or colleagues, they’re friends and family who we care about deeply,” he said.

On Saturday, the Edmonton and District Labour Council will unveil a monument to fallen workers in Grant Notley Park, at 11603 100th Ave. The obelisk, called Broken Families, is made of concrete, stainless steel and granite and features images on each of its four sides of families missing one member.

“We’ve been working at this for five years and raised over $200,000 to construct it,” said Brian Henderson, labour council president.

While Henderson is pleased to unveil the monument, he said workplace safety in Alberta must improve.

There were 123 work-related deaths in Alberta in 2011 and there have been 10 deaths so far in 2012.

“When you have 123 deaths in one year, there’s always more that can be done,” Henderson said.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, is concerned the number of workplace injuries and fatalities will rise as development in the oilsands picks up.

“We’re heading into another boom not as prepared as we should be to deal with the inevitable rise in safety concerns,” McGowan said.

Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said Day of Mourning is an important recognition of the workers who have died on the job and the families they have left behind.

Hancock said the government continues to make sure workplace safety is the top priority for employers and employees.

“We’re educating people coming on to the job site to know and understand their first order of business is to make it home safe and we’re beefing up enforcement, so we drive home the fact that the regulations are there for a reason,” he said.

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