In a morning filled with more than a dozen heartfelt speeches, Tom Rannelli’s address at the 32nd Workers’ Memorial Day stood out.
The head of Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor Pensioners received the only standing ovation at the two-hour event after he shared a personal peeve with about 150 people there to commemorate workers who were killed or suffered illnesses as a result of their jobs.
Employees who work in mine rescue, and health and safety advocates in mining are not receiving the recognition they deserve, said a fired-up Rannelli. “How come nobody in labour ever gets the Order of Canada?” he asked. Not one person has received Canada’s national honour from the labour movement as far as he knows. “This has to change,” said Rannelli, adding he was more than peeved, he was “pissed off.”
He spoke 31 years, almost to the minute, after four miners were killed as a result of a rock burst in the No. 5 shaft of Falconbridge Mine of what was then Falconbridge Ltd.
Sulo Korpela, Richard Chenier, Daniel Lavallee and Wayne St. Michel died despite the best efforts of dozens of rescue workers to get to them after a fall of ground precipitated by 3.5-magnitude seismicity.
The names of the official 58 mine rescuers are remembered every year, and were listed again in this year’s event program. But many more people were involved in attempts to rescue the men, including then Mine Mill Local 598 president Rick Briggs and Bill James, the top executive at the mining company, said Rannelli.
Workers’ Memorial Day was established to honour the memories of the four men and of the 89 people in total killed in almost 90 years of the mining company’s history in Sudbury. The day also remembers workers killed in other workplaces.
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