Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today we commemorate the National Day of Mourning and observe a minute of silence at 10 a.m. out of respect to the men and women who were killed, injured or who suffered illnesses due to workplace-related hazards and incidents.

Like me, you’ll hear a lot about the physical injuries, but injuries can also be psychological. They require even more time to heal and the workers who live with these issues often have to live with the stigma of mental illness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that within five years, mental health problems will be the leading cause of disability in the world. That shows the importance of tackling the issue today. We also know that one out of every five Canadians will suffer from a mental health problem in their lifetime and that we lose 51 billion dollars each year to mental health problems. The moral and financial reasons to act now are countless.

The Teamsters have made mental health a huge focus over the past year. The youth of Teamsters Canada launched last fall with the goal of putting pressure on federal politicians to make mental health support mandatory in the workplace.

Today, most federal party leaders have publicly stated that issue is important and requires action, and our youth committee has now begun meeting with as many federal MPs as possible in order to spread awareness about the issue.

Our focus on mental health stems from a shooting at the University of Alberta in June 2012, in which three G4S workers affiliated with Local Union 362 lost their lives. This terrible tragedy moved and shocked us all, and sparked a powerful desire to understand, prevent and better react to similar events. The response by members, business agents and officers of Local Union 362 were our source of inspiration and I believe that by working together, we can truly tackle the issue.

Tough Working Conditions in the Rail Industry

Working conditions are difficult in all industries – especially in the rail industry. Workers in the rail industry aren’t always able to predict their work schedule and rest properly. For some of them, working conditions are so bad that they have to stay up for 18-20 hours and remain on call 24/7. This can lead to major driving errors and serious accidents.

For years, the Teamsters Union worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the issues faced by the workers we represent in the rail industry. We also asked Ottawa to put an end to self-regulation in the rail industry and asked Transport Canada to hire more track inspectors in order to make sure our rail system keeps working optimally, as well as to discipline the industry when necessary and allow the workers to rest properly.

Having said that, be careful and remember that if you suffer from mental health problems, you are not alone! Like any other health problem, help is out there and you should not hesitate to ask for it. Don’t wait until it is too late!

François Laporte
President of Teamsters Canada