DOM and COVID -19

By Peter Page

 

As we approach April 28, 2020 the National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job this year’s ceremony will have an even more sombre cloud which will hang over us as we remember all workers killed in the past year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic added to this year’s list will be the frontline workers who have put their lives on the line to make sure society does not come to a complete standstill. While doctors, nurses, EMS workers, Firefighters and Police are who we think of as the first line of defense bus drivers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, PSWs, social workers, people who work with the homeless are all potential victims to the COVID -19 virus. Even our grocery stores workers or the person giving you your morning cup of coffee are also at risk of contracting the virus. There are many other unsung heroes to numerous to mention but they will not be forgotten as we gather on April 28, 2020 to remember those who have fallen during this time of crisis.

We have heard our politicians tell us that we are at war with this pandemic, yet our frontline soldiers have been inadequately armed to fight this enemy. Many of us stay at home praying it does not visit us or a loved one while some selfishly think it isn’t about them. This will be a hard lesson to learn if it does visit someone who didn’t take it seriously.

This pandemic has shown many cracks in our infrastructure and how fragile our economic system is. While on our way to the privatization of many of our publicly run systems and the profit motive which drives it, we neglected or deregulated many of these important publicly run systems to our own peril.

The underfunding of our health care system has never been more apparent than it is now. A strong health care system that is driven by compassion and not greed or profit should be the goal of all governments as we hopefully get through this pandemic.

 Now as we try to home school our children it dawns on us how important teachers are and the need for a strong public education system. How will having 29 students in a classroom look post pandemic? The lack of resources for parents to even begin to implement home schooling has been exposed as well.

 The everyday workers who are living in a GIG economy barely able to earn a living wage are the ones cleaning hospitals or banks. Foreign workers who come to our country and pick our fruit and work the farms that feed us suddenly are important. Yet were not appreciated enough to be given a living wage. Profit first workers second seemed to be the motto of the neo liberal ideology.

What will happen after we solve this pandemic? Do we return to life as usual and forget about the sacrifices made as politicians return to their partisan ideologies? We the workers and people of society need to hold these politicians to account and force them to listen to us in this post pandemic world whenever that day arrives. Unfortunately, I feel we will all return to our partisan corners and begin fighting once again as to who has the best ideology and way forward.

We cannot let this happen and all political parties need to rethink society as a whole and not just for the few.

The workers’ compensation system should be revamped and made to adhere to it’s one hundred year old agreement whereby injured workers gave up their right to sue their employer when injured on the job in exchange for compensation that lasts as long as the injury. I ask what the WSIB has done for injured workers during this pandemic. They certainly made sure employers were taken care of while they ignored our pleas for help.

Many workers will be affected by the COVID-19 and will need to file a claim for compensation because they were exposed. The families of workers killed by the COVID-19 virus should also be compensated and taken care by our compensation system.

 That is why the current Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) should be renamed the Workers’ Compensation Board a name that reflects its true purpose. As well it should remain as a publicly run system to insure it fulfills this important mandate of caring for injured workers.

The workers who will have given the ultimate sacrifice should not be forgotten on this National Day of Mourning, April 28, 2020, or any worker for that matter for we are all soldiers of industry and without our labour society will crumble. That has never been more apparent than during this crisis.

Let those in power think about society as a collective and that we are all in it together and as we come out the other side of this crisis let us all work towards a society that includes The Rights of All.