Tragically the human cost of COVID-19 goes undocumented but it's full cost is known all too well by essential workers and their families.
On April 28th every year we take a moment to remember workers who were killed as a result of their jobs in the preceding year. For many, this may seem to be the opportunity to see the very real human cost of COVID-19 on working people. The people who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic to keep our economy strong and allow those with privilege to stay safely at home without losing any of the luxuries they have come to expect. Given this, you would expect that there would be an increase to the amount of workers who were killed last year as a result of their jobs, but in fact it is slightly less.
Is this because COVID-19 isn’t the crisis we are being told? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It’s because COVID-19 doesn’t have presumptive coverage by WCB and the only numbers we are allowed to see are deaths covered by WCB and their insured work places. If anyone has dealt with an employer on a WCB claim you have had the pleasure of finding out how many of them fight any claim to ensure their premiums don’t increase. Without adequately funded and staffed contact tracing from our provincial government it is almost impossible prove that COVID-19 was contracted at work, even if you work in a known hotspot. So, employers across the province and country have pushed back to say that it wasn’t a result of them being required to work on the front lines throughout a pandemic exposing themselves to the risk of COVID-19 on a daily basis, but a result of their choices on their personal time and therefore not a work related illness.
Is this a surprise? Absolutely not. We have seen this before when employers fought saying that asbestos poisoning wasn’t a result of working around asbestos. The good news is as a result of that, there was enough organized push back to say if you contract mesothelioma (asbestos cancer) it is assumed you got it at work (presumptive coverage). That is to say that they are required to side with workers unless the corporation can concretely prove otherwise. This is how WCB and EI used to be set up and fundamentally how it should always be. But we all know that employers and governments never give us rights, we must fight for them. The long standing slogan of Day of Mourning is “Grieve the dead, and fight like hell for the living!” this year more than ever we need to live this motto and fight to get workers the recognition and rights they deserve.
The very real human cost of COVID-19 needs to be brought to light and workers need to push back and say we will not sacrifice ourselves and our family for the “economy”.
Our virtual ceremony can be viewed HERE to safely honour the “acknowledged” brothers, sisters and comrades we lost in 2020 for a digital ceremony and video presentation, and to pay tribute to the many more workers who have paid the human cost of COVID-19.