International Workers Memorial Day 2020
28 Apr 2020
Today marks International Workers Memorial Day. This is a day to remember those who have lost their lives at work and to fight for those who are still working in unacceptable working conditions.
Events which would usually take place in person, took place remotely throughout the country due to the current Coronavirus lockdown.
In Manchester there was a zoom event with approximately 100 people attending. There were a number of speakers and even 2 lots of singing from Claire Mooney.
There were a number of union members who spoke about the need for better health and safety at work in light of the current coronavirus pandemic and the need for personal protective equipment but also that personal protective equipment should be a last resort because the workplace should be safe without it.
Marie Monaghan spoke of a poor record on workplace safety and highlighted statistics on Coronavirus. She said that hospital deaths in the UK accounted for 10% of global deaths from coronavirus and when community death are taken into account they are likely to account for 20%. She pointed out that there are 31 million workers in the UK of which 1.4 million work in the NHS and to date we have tested 0.5 million people. In comparison Germany has test 0.5 million people per week.
Rob Rayner from the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group spoke about Workers Memorial Day and the fact that normally one of the main categories of people who are remembered are those who have lost their lives through work in previous years with asbestos. He said in 2017, 2500 people died of mesothelioma and a similar number died from other asbestos conditions. He prayed and hoped that the number would not be dwarfed by the number who die at work from coronavirus.
He talked of the number of people that they have had to help since the coronavirus started. He said some of those people have since died and he expects others will too. He spoke of the potential need to continue to shield asbestos sufferers even after the general lockdown ends.
He said that the support group had solidarity with everyone lost their life through work
In Sheffield the TUC hosted a well attended Zoom event with speakers including the Lord Mayor Councillor Tony Downing, local Labour MPs Louise Haigh and Oliva as well as representatives from the unions including Unite’s Steve Turner, USDAW’s Jo Thomas and the GMB’s Neil Derrick. The contributions centred around the Covid 19 pandemic, the huge sacrifice being made by key workers including health care, transport, NHS and local authority workers not just locally but also nationally. The message was simple. The Government must not just talk about how proud they are of these heroes. The Government must take steps to protect them, provide them with safe workplaces and a decent living wage.
In Birmingham a zoom event was hosted by the Birmingham TUC with over 40 attendees. The excellent contributions provided much erudite reflection including Dave Rogers from the Banner Theatre performing his song ‘ The Fightback Must Begin’ and Rob Punton ,his Poem ‘ Memorial Day’. Against a backdrop of Covid 19 and inadequate PPE for the only too often forgotten essential workers in our society, the call was repeatedly made for increased not reduced protection for workers in the NHS and other essential services. Our NHS is the workers who work within it. Not to protect those workers is a national scandal. In the words of Nye Bevan: ‘The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.’ Let’s hope our government has that faith.
Normally the Clarian Singers attend the event but as they were unable to do sthis year, they released a youtbe video of "The Asbestos Song" which can be seen here