International Workers' Memorial Day takes place annually around the world on April 28th. This is an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. Angus MacDonald MSP for Falkirk East takes time to remember these workers each year.
International Workers Memorial Day seeks to renew an on-going commitment to improving workplace conditions. There were 20 work related fatalities in Scotland alone in 2011/12 (173 across the UK). Official HSE figures don’t include deaths caused by occupational cancers which are estimated to be around 8000 in the UK, and of this, 1000 are thought to be in Scotland.
On Saturday the 27th April Mr MacDonald attended and gave a speech at the Commemoration Service at the Municipal Buildings, Falkirk.
Speaking after the service, Mr MacDonald said:
“Workers' Memorial Day is a day to “Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living”. Those killed and injured as a result of work are remembered and the fight to keep people safe is redoubled.
“All workers have the right to work safely and without risk to their health. With hundreds of people dying at work and thousands injured or made ill due to poor standards of health and safety, it is of utmost importance that health and safety processes are in place to protect workers' lives.
“I hope we can all take time on the 28th of April to remember these workers around the world.”
Angus MacDonald’s speech at the service in Falkirk is detailed below:
WORKERS’ MEMORIAL DAY
“Provost, elected Members, friends,
I’m pleased to be able to attend this Workers Memorial Day service today and I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words.
International Workers Memorial Day seeks to remember those killed, made ill or injured in the workplace, as well as to renew an on-going commitment to improving workplace conditions with the now international slogan “Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living”.
It is a day to remember those who have died at work and to refresh our resolve to fight for safe and healthy working conditions for people in Scotland and throughout the world
There were 20 work related fatalities in Scotland alone in 2011/12
(173 across the UK).
It’s also worth remembering that the official HSE figures don’t include deaths caused by occupational cancers which are estimated to be around 8000 in the UK, and of this, 1000 are thought to be in Scotland.
In Parliament International Workers Memorial Day has been marked by a Members debate and a display in the main hall which exhibited the history of the Memorial Day and highlighted the poem written by health and safety campaigner, Wendy Lawrence, titled “Empty Shoes” http://www.unison.org.uk/safety/pages_view.asp?did=4783.
The shoes are intended to represent the many lives lost to unsafe working conditions and emphasises the pledge that others will not walk in their shoes.
MSP‘s were asked to donate an old pair of shoes as a symbolic gesture and I’m glad to say many MSPs responded to the request. The shoes are now to be donated to a charity after 2nd May
Sadly, this year has seen continued, sustained cuts in Health&Safety regulation and enforcement. This is despite three UK government reviews which did not find real evidence of over regulation in H&S and the Health and Safety Executive itself has stated that present levels of enforcement will mean a decrease in H&S standards in the UK.
The UK government has not only cut the budgets of the HSE by 1/3rd, but ceased proactive inspection for most workplaces.
In addition, as we have seen, the House of Commons Select Committee has concluded that systematic blacklisting has taken place in the construction industry, with people unable to find jobs often because they had raised health and safety concerns. There are examples in other sectors as well. Workers' redress for unfair dismissal in this type of case is through Employment Tribunals and the introduction of charges will severely compromise access to justice...
In addition, the House of Commons has just refused to remove the clause inserted into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act that will do away with strict liability in health and safety legislation. If passed, this will make it far harder for workers and their families to gain compensation to which they are entitled when, through no fault of their own, there is an injury, illness or death because of work, as the bar of proof will be set far higher than it currently is...
For the past three years, the Scottish Government has ordered that flags on public buildings be flown at half-mast as a sign of respect for those who have been killed at work. Meanwhile, the minister in Westminster, Chris Grayling, is failing in his duty to show respect to the living.
The International Labour Organization estimates that, globally, one worker dies every 15 seconds, that more than 2.3 million deaths a year are due to occupational accidents or diseases, that 160 million workers suffer work-related illnesses and that more than 300 million people are injured in workplace accidents.
For the economists, that adds up to 4 per cent of global gross domestic product lost at a cost of £1 trillion. The ILO (part of the UN) sets international standards on a range of issues through ILO Conventions agreed by governments, employers and workers at annual meetings in Geneva. These are international treaties and if ratified by governments become binding. Sadly the UK Government has refused to ratify a number of ILO H&S Conventions.
I’m sure we all agree that these figures and the recent actions by the UK Government are not acceptable, and we must all work to ensure health & safety in the workplace is paramount.
In the meantime let us remember those who have passed away in the workplace, or are suffering through no fault of their own.
And I add my voice to the call to
“Remember the dead; fight for the living.”