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Wed 29 Apr 2009 
Byline: VALERIE MACDONALD, [email protected];
Dateline: COBOURG

After a quarter of a century of honouring workers who have died and been injured on the job, statistics are getting worse, not better. Employers and government are not listening, National Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) board member Wyman MacKinnon said yesterday.

Employers fight against their responsibilities and people suffer, MacKinnon told representatives of area unions of the Northumberland Labour Council gathered yesterday near the Lucas Point workers’ memorial beneath a somber grey sky and beside an even grayer Lake Ontario.

“We are not as advanced as we should be,” MacKinnon told about 30 people who brought wreaths from union locals representing steel workers, postal workers, carpenters, retirement home workers, Town of Cobourg employees and other unionists.

Explaining that Ontario CUPE president Sid Ryan was unable to join them as scheduled because he was on the picket line in Windsor, the long-time unionist said that each and every day four Canadian workers are killed on the job. “Every day people never come home again.” MacKinnon said on this, the 25th anniversary of the Work- ers’ Day of Mourning, he was remembering and honouring Jamie Vecchio.

The young man died earlier this month on a job site in Sault Ste. Marie when a construction crane backed into the work hole in which he and another man were waiting for materials, MacKinnon said. The other man escaped while 40 workers tried to save Vecchio without success. Vecchio, just 34, was not at fault, he said.

“It was another needless death… because safety wasn’t adhered to,” MacKinnon said. Rescue equipment was lacking and fellow workers could do nothing, he said. Government and employers have to do better, he stressed.

Local labour council president Carol Kirton referred to the death of Justin Walker, 22, at the Canada Talc Mine in Madoc last summer and the many hundreds of deaths in Ontario last year due to accidents and occupational disease.

She specifically mentioned Major Michelle Mendes, the local native whose job in the military took her to Afghanistan where she died last week.

She asked those present to keep the major and her family in their prayers. Reverend Phyllis Dietrich called on people to be bold in changing work places, attitudes and the law, to safeguard workers, whether in union or nonunion environments. You must speak for those who can’t speak now, she said.