Raising the bar for worker safety on Labour Day
The first celebration of Labour Day in India took place in Chennai on May 1, 1923.
Organized by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan, the red flag, an emblem of the labour class, was also used in India. Many forget that Labour Day is much more than an opportunity for family to gather and for some to enjoy a day off work. The first celebration of Labour Day in India left a legacy of strengthened unity and spirit for the working-class people.
In British Columbia, we celebrate the equivalent of springs Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, or International Workers’ Day, at the close of summer. Although India and Canada bookend the summer with differing dates celebrating the hard-won economic and social achievements of the labour class, the belief behind the holiday that workers have rights that must be guarded has no boundaries. It is a celebration that now spans more than 80 nations.
Certainly, many of us, myself included, came to Canada in search of economic opportunity, and social and political equality. Here, we compete based on merit and hard work in a country rich with opportunity and high standards of living. We are fortunate for the lifestyle afforded to us in British Columbia, but even here, there is work to do to raise the standards for the working citizen – most notably, safe working conditions.
Labour Day was founded on these principles advocated by unions reaching back to the 1870s and the relevance of unions remains as important today as it was then; they provide certainty of safe and fair working conditions in the workplace minimums that have become enshrined in legislation over time. My entire life as a trade unionist, I have known one thing: workers want fairness, a level playing field for all workers.
Throughout my career I have stood up for the working man and woman; those discriminated against; those paid unfair wages; those mourning the loss of loved ones because of a work accident; family members who kissed their husband or wife goodbye in the morning for a day filled with promise, never to return home because the promise of a safe workplace was broken.
Workers deserve and should demand safe working conditions. The legacy I hope to leave as the new Minister of Labour and first NDP Labour Minister in more than 16 years, is to make British
Columbia the safest jurisdiction in Canada for workers We don’t want to repeat the needless deaths and injuries from tragedies like the 2007 farm van accident in Abbotsford, or from the toxic compost fumes at the mushroom farm in Langley, or the combustible dust explosions and fires at Babine and Pinnacle Pellet mills.
Whether it’s ensuring safety for workers, giving workers a long overdue raise by increasing the minimum wage, or bringing back the Human Rights Commission dismantled by our predecessors, you can trust that your B.C. government is fighting for families on real issues like affordability, good paying jobs and improved public services, as well as an economy that works for and is inclusive of everyone. Top among my priorities is ensuring a safe work environment for you and your families.