Separate But Together
A Message of Solidarity on April 28
A message from the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council on April 28th, the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job.
Every year on April 28, workers across Canada gather in our communities to mourn those killed on the job, injured in the course of their work, or made sick due to hazardous workplace conditions. Moreover, we commit ourselves to the fight for safety on the job, so every single worker can end their work day safe and whole.
Last year, in Nova Scotia, we lost 22 of our fellow workers. This loss was compounded this year by the terrible mass shooting which also claimed 22 lives, leaving us with unimaginable pain and grief. We cannot gather together this year to mourn their passing, as we must observe the public health directives to stay apart and keep each other safe during this time of a pandemic. We cannot stand shoulder to shoulder, or give each other a hug. Still, let us feel the strength of our solidarity even in these times of physical isolation. Let us hold these departed ones and their families in our hearts.
While we mourn for our dead, we must also fight for the living. Over the years, we have fought to make employers and governments recognize that workers’ lives are not expendable, and should not be seen as secondary to "efficiency" and profits. This fight has included demands for stronger health and safety measures, an amendment to the criminal code (the Westray Bill), and has also taken the form of direct action by workers standing up for their safety and their lives in the workplace.
This year, I want to give particular recognition to the frontline healthcare workers who are working under extraordinary circumstances to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. I'd also like to recognize all those other workers who are going to work to make sure that our essential needs are met. From grocery store workers to bus drivers, our collective well-being as a society is held up by their efforts.
While we are now in the habit of calling these workers “heroes,” we need to do better than just pay them lip service. They need protective equipment. They need decent wages. They need to be listened to when they identify hazards on the job. They need their employers and government to take them seriously and to show them respect.
The circumstances of the global pandemic have made it clear that we are deeply interconnected, and that we can only get through these times by acting in solidarity. It is no coincidence that health outcomes are worse in societies with greater economic inequality. When we commit to “fighting for the living,” this means fighting for a world characterized by a decent life for all.
Yours in solidarity and hope.
Suzanne MacNeil is president of the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council.