International Workers Memorial Day

Doctors in Unite mark events in Leeds, Sheffield and London on 28 April 2022

Among the many events held across the country and internationally to mark IWMD, DiU members were involved in events in Sheffield, Leeds and London.  The theme of this year’s commemoration is safety at work, i.e. that a safe workplace is a right, not a privilege, and it is high time that workers stop paying with their lives due to unsafe working conditions, whether from accidents, exposure to hazardous materials or inadequate protections against Covid-19.  The vast majority of workplace injuries and deaths are preventable, they happen because employers simply don’t care enough to put in place the proper protections. We say enough is enough! We remember the dead while we fight like hell for the living!

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LEEDS IWMD EVENT

The IWMD event in Leeds was organised by Leeds TUC and attended by trade unionists and representatives from the city council with music provided by the Unite brass band.

Wreaths were laid at the permanent memorial in Victoria Gardens ‘Dedicated to workers throughout the world who have suffered illness, injury or death as a consequence of their work’.

Speeches were given by representatives from Unison, Unite, the GMB and others, starting with John Puntis representing Doctors in Unite and the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, who focused on those in health and social care who lost their lives to covid during the current pandemic. A link to John’s speech is here.

A minute’s silence was observed to honour the dead.

Some pictures of the Leeds event are below.

SHEFFIELD IWMD EVENT

There were around 60 trade unionists at the Sheffield Trades Council-organised event, including local MP Paul Blomfield, ex-miner and leader of Sheffield City Council, Cllr. Terry Fox and Deputy Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Cllr. Sioned-Mair Richards. Speakers from different trade unions and campaigns highlighted issues including asbestos, Long Covid among health workers, dangerous working conditions in the fast food industry and the need for unions to give their members confidence to walk off a dangerous job until it was made safe. The spokesperson from ‘Yorkshire and Humberside Asbestos Support Group (SARAG) highlighted the campaign to force ‘Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd’ to pay  £10Million to asbestos research following a legal victory.

Please sign their petition at     www.change.org/CapeMustPay

DiU member Jack Czauderna remembered the over 180,000 health and care workers worldwide who have died as a result of the pandemic and described how covid had shown the importance of trade unions ensuring their members worked in well-ventilated spaces, with suitable PPE such as FFP2 masks where necessary. 

Jon Dale, also a DiU member, spoke on behalf of Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service, which was set up with Trades Council and local GP support. On International Workers Memorial Day, he also mentioned the Ansell PPE campaign showing the need for solidarity with workers on rubber plantations and glove factories employed in appalling conditions in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. In particular, solidarity was needed for the 11 victimised trade union leaders in Ansell’s Biyagama factory in Sri Lanka in their fight for reinstatement, trade union recognition and compensation. Jon Dale’s speech can be seen here.

Further pictures to follow

LONDON IWMD EVENT

Our grateful thanks to Bereaved Families for Justice who very kindly granted us permission to hold our event at the National Covid Memorial Wall in Westminster.  We were very pleased to be joined by Stand Up To Racism who had organised their own IWMD event nearby at the Mary Seacole statue in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital.

About 50 people attended and heard speeches from Dr Jackie Applebee (chair of DiU), Shelly Asquith (TUC National H&S Officer); Colenzo Jarett-Thorpe (Unite National officer for  Health); Adam Rogalewski (European Public Service Union); Helen O’Connor (GMB, ex nurse and NHS union organiser); Mark Boothroyd (Nurse and Unite member); Dr Anna Livingstone (Barts Unite); Weyman Bennet (Stand Up to Racism); Steve Ballard (London Hazards Campaign); Ricky Jones (TSSA) and Andy McDonald MP. 

We also read out a powerful statement of support from Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite, who was unable to be with us on the day. The statement can be seen here.

Also present were the Chair and members of Brent Trades Council, NEU, Tony Sullivan (co-chair, Keep Our NHS Public), members of Bereaved Families for Justice, and members of the public.

Joseph Healy (Zero Covid Coalition and Chair of Unite L&E LGBT committee) closed the event with a moving poem “Covid in Memoriam”, which can be seen here.

The Morning Star carried an article about our event – see here.

Pictures of the London event are below.

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