Workers’ Memorial Day, 2017

The purpose behind Workers’ Memorial Day has always been to “remember the dead: fight for the living”, and to remember all those killed through work but at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated.

Campaigning for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health & safety laws.

Workers Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government. In 2017 the theme for the day is, Good health and safety for all workers whoever they are”.

 This takes into account the rights of all and the theme this tear adopted by workers’ unions, who want to focus on the hidden and new GIG economies (the prevalence of short-term contracts as opposed to permanent jobs), the risks faced by migrant workers and the issues of gender and class.

Events organised around Workers’ Memorial Day usually feature a minute’s silence at noon on 28th April unless indicated otherwise. Workmates in the area of work sometimes organise something such as a commemorative rally, a workplace meeting or just a small get-together. There have been activities involving such things as planting a memorial tree in a public place, putting up a plaque, dedicating a sculpture, a piece of art, or a bench, to remember workers who have been killed at the workplace or in the community. A purple ‘forget-me-not’ ribbon is the symbol of Workers Memorial Day.

London Hazards Centre set up a website entitled, “Workers Killed at Work”:

http://www.lhc.org.uk/tag/international-workers-memorial-day/

It has been found that workplaces that have union safety reps and a safety committee have half the major injury rate of companies that don’t have these structures.

Safety representatives now play an enormously positive role in society. In 2016 research found that safety reps in the UK saved between £219 million to £725 million by reducing lost time caused by injuries and illness.

The role of union safety reps is increasingly vital. Continued government attacks on safety laws, safety regulations and huge cuts to the funding of the Health and Safety Executive mean that unions and their safety reps are increasingly in the frontline of workplace safety. If workers’ organisations aren’t keeping their workplaces safe then it is unlikely that anyone else will.

In 1970, the it was declared that April 28 “Workers’ is Memorial Day” to honour the hundreds of thousands of working people killed and injured on the job every year.

April 28 is recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as International Workers’ Memorial Day.

Workers’ Memorial Day is now an international day of remembrance of workers killed in incidents at work, or by diseases caused by work.

A day of mourning for workers killed or injured on the job emphasises the fact that, workers’ security lies in the fight for the rights of all. Long gone is the notion that workers are factory fodder and as human beings they have a right to be. In this sense we uphold the dignity of labour against the ultimate form of exploitation of labour as sacrifice of the blood of working people.

On April 28, workers boldly declare that all workers must be protected according to the highest standards possible in all conditions and circumstances. They reject the ideological and institutional schemes being put forward to deny their demand for safe and healthy working conditions for all as a matter of right.

The monopolies and their spokespersons claim that workers’ health and safety is a “cost of production” that must be reduced or eliminated because it is an obstacle to making the monopolies competitive on global markets. They claim that when the profits of the monopolies are not at the level demanded by their private owners or the monopolies go into bankruptcy protection there is no place for workers’ health and safety. This institutional and ideological offensive suggests that the claims of injured workers for compensation threaten the sustainability of the compensation regime and must be suppressed, and that injuries and deaths on the job are the result of “behaviour problems” on the part of the workers themselves.

Workers denounce the failure to provide redress for losses they and their families suffer as a result of deaths and injuries on the job or which are job-related.

Arrogant refusal of the monopolies, governments and agencies to be held to account must be ended once and for all.

In the City of London since 1988. London Hazards Centre (LHC) says on average each year 22 people lose their lives at work in London “in what are mostly predictable and preventable incidents”, LHC adds that official statistics indicate that “almost three quarters of accidents at work are directly the responsibility of employers”, but penalties remain insultingly low – in 2002 the average fine for a health and safety offence was just £12,194.

In 2008 in Britain the death toll was as high as 1,500. 50,000 workers die each year due to occupational illness. Many workers suffer injuries and work-related ill health, from stress, to back pain and RSI, hazardous substances, or bullying, harassment, and workplace violence. Construction is the most dangerous industry in Britain – in 2009 there were 53 construction fatalities. Few of these deaths are truly accidents, and many arise from the deliberate disregard by employers of the safety of workers, “cutting corners” to get the job done faster and on the cheap. One important factor is the lack of proper inspection by the HSE, which has insufficient staff. There are only 26 inspectors to cover the whole of London, with thousands of sites, and the result is that around 90% of reported accidents are never even investigated.

In Portsmouth there is an example of a memorial with the motto, “Remember the dead and fight for the living.” In London, there is a Statue of the Unknown Worker at Tower Hill.

A construction worker was killed in an incident on the Queensferry Crossing, on April 2016, the new £1.4bn bridge being built across the Firth of Forth. He was hit by the moving boom on a Giraffe crane on the deck of the north tower.

The 60-year-old worker suffered severe blood loss and he was unable to be resuscitated. Another man was injured in the incident. The bridge was ordered by ministers because of corrosion of the main suspension cable on the Forth Road Bridge from Fife to Edinburgh.

A worker was killed in a collision at the Jaguar Land Rover site .in September 2016, It happened at Damson Lane, Solihull around 4.40pm, following reports that a 23-year-old motorcyclist collided with a manufacturing tractor unit and trailer on a private road within the factory complex.

Harry Frew, Ucatt Scottish regional secretary, said his thoughts were with the man’s family. He told the BBC Scotland news website: “We were just on our way back from a Worker’s Memorial Day ceremony in Glasgow Green to commemorate workers who have been killed at work when we heard the news. “I am very saddened about this tragedy and our thoughts are with his family.”

In March 2017, there was a a “massive” explosion at a former petrol station in which a construction worker was killed. the site in Highgate, which is being bulldozed to make way for a parade of shops there had been a “strong smell” of petrol beforehand.The force of the blast at 2pm yesterday shook houses on Swain’s Lane and could be heard across Hampstead Heath. A worker in his 50s was airlifted to hospital with life threatening injuries, where he was pronounced dead four hours later.

Also in March 2017, an Oldbury worker died after being trapped in factory machinery at a factory.

Jamie Peacock, aged 40, from Oldbury, suffered serious injuries and died in hospital .The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation after the incident at steel firm Camtrex in Birmingham.

By joining together in a powerful political movement the workers can restrict the ability of the monopolies to put workers’ lives at risk with impunity. They can achieve the highest standards of health and safety that society can provide.

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