April 28, 2020 (OTTAWA, ON) – As Canada observes today’s National Day of Mourning for workers killed on the job, the country’s largest nurses’ organization joins unions across the country demanding action to keep the pandemic’s frontline workers safe. Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, is calling on governments and employers to end the fear and distrust among health care workers by providing them with the same protections as any other worker who faces hazardous work conditions.
“On this National Day of Mourning, Canada’s nurses honour all health care and frontline workers who have suffered or lost their lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Silas. “Never has it been clearer that nurses and health care workers face life-threatening hazards at work, and governments and employers must do much, much more to keep us safe.”
Amidst ongoing uncertainty about whether COVID-19 can be borne by air, nurses have been demanding governments and employers follow the precautionary principle – recommended by the SARS Commission – and provide the highest level of protection for workers, not the lowest. Nurses are demanding that all workers at risk of exposure be provided with, and have access to, appropriate protection, including specially fitted N95 respirators or a higher level of protection.
“Across the globe, nurses and frontline workers are suffering staggering rates of infection and death as a result of this pandemic, yet Canada’s guidelines continue to promote only minimum basic protections,” said Silas. “We need action to better protect nurses and frontline workers – or we may be forced to exercise our right to refuse unsafe work.”
Nurses join the Canadian Labour Congress today in promoting all workers’ fundamental right to know about workplace hazards, right to participate in decisions affecting their health and safety, and right to refuse work that could endanger their health and safety or that of others.
Silas concluded: “Frontline workers don’t want lip service about our heroic contributions; we want real action to stop these tragedies and make sure we go home safe.”
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in public health care.
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