Unite, the UK’s largest union, has accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of shamelessly hiding behind ‘commercial interests’ in refusing to provide information about the asbestos scandal involving the maintenance of its Sea King helicopter fleet.
It said it was highlighted the ‘absolute scandal’ of the MoD’s failure to inform workers that they could have been exposed to asbestos as part of its activities around International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) on Sunday 28 April, as the theme for this year’s event is dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace.
#PCS is encouraging branches to organise and support activities in their workplaces and communities to celebrate International Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April) and focus on health and safety. 🚧http://www.pcs.org.uk/iwmd19 #IWMD19
“On behalf of the Irish Congress Trade Unions I wish to welcome everyone here today on this important annual wreath laying event to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day. Today we join thousands of others across the world who have marked this date over the weekend. Today is a way of remembering those who have been killed or injured at or because of work or who have contracted a work-related illness or disease,” said Alison Millar.
Speaking at the wreath laying ceremony at the Stormont Estate, Ms Millar added: “Since we last met here a year ago we have unfortunately had more accidents in the workplace and more occupational diseases which has resulted in the unfortunate and timely death of colleagues – both those who are trade union members and those who were not. We stand in solidarity with the families and friends of each and everyone of our fellow workers to reflect on this senseless loss.
“Colleagues I hope you will forgive me for mentioning one of our trade union colleagues – Lyra McKee. As everyone will know over the last week and half there has rightfully been a huge out pouring of grief, shock and anger at the death of Lyra carried out by those in our society who would wish to take us back to the dark days.
“There must be no going back – we challenge those who know who was responsible for Lyra’s murder to advise the PSNI and bring her killers to justice. As many have already said since 18th April – Not in Our Name.”
Saturday 4th May – the May Day Parade in Belfast will be another opportunity for the trade union movement to remember Lyra and many others who have died carrying out their work.
The NIPSA General Secretary continued: “A big issue for society and the trade union movement to tackle is the issue Mental Health which has unfortunately also become a killer in the workplace with far too many members believing they have no alternative but to take their own lives.
“We must ensure employers address the issue of mental health and ensure our members health, safety and welfare is a key issue. When employers have happy and healthy employee they will be more productive workers and will be able to cope with the day to day stresses which arise in the workplace and outside of work.
“We must ensure that members feel supported both by their employers and their trade union – it must be ok to say I am not ok – I need help. At the moment in most instances that is not the case. Mental Health is something that has been hidden away for far too long.
“Colleagues, friends and comrades – Let us remember those who are no longer with us – and ensure that when we gather again here next year that we will all be able to say we have done our part to ensure as far as humanly possible workers are safer in the workplace and beyond.
“Thank you for attending.”
Safe work is a right not a privilege. International Workers’ Memorial Day, held on 28 April every year, brings together workers and their representatives from all over the world to remember the dead and fight for the living. Unite the union has published a Facebook album containing photos from several of their numerous 28 April activities across the UK.
Unite Workers’ Memorial Day webpage
Everyone deserves to be safe at work. Everyone deserves to work in an environment where there health and wellbeing is protected. No-one expects to lose their life whilst going about their job.
I’m proud that UNISON has always made health and safety a priority – especially on this important day, International Workers Memorial Day. This is the day when we remember the dead and the injured, and recommit ourselves to fight for the living and for safe and healthy work for all.
So on behalf of our union, I promise that we will continue to challenge any threats to undermine the safety of our members at work and continue to expand and improve our campaigns on stress, mental health and musculoskeletal injuries.
Yet we know that he bedrock of our work on health and safety are our safety activists. Workplaces with safety activists are twice as safe as those without – making a real differences to the lives of our members, and in some cases, saving the lives of UNISON members.
Tackling in work stress. Promoting fire safety. Preventing Carbon monoxide poisoning. Vital tasks undertaken by UNISON activists each and every day – and on this most important day, we thank them.
Keeping our members safe at work is one of the most important tasks that trade unions can do. Today, let’s remember how far we’ve come in that fight – and how much more there is to do.
New evidence confirming a cancer risk to tyre and rubber workers may go ignored because of the UK government’s safety deregulation and cuts, the union Unite has warned. The union was commented after research published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that workers in the tyre and rubber industry remain at significant risk of developing cancers caused by exposure to N-nitrosamines and rubber dust.
Unite noted the study findings were “particularly timely as it comes just before International Workers’ Memorial Day as the theme for this year’s event is dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace,” with the 28 April global event having a particular focus on occupational cancer prevention. The union, which represents thousands of workers in the industry, says it is unable to properly address the new health concerns as there is no longer an effective body where it can raise such issues. It charges that this “is a result of the Conservative government’s attacks on safety laws.”
The union says the UK government safety regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), previously had a Tyre and Rubber Industries Safety Action Group (TRISAG), with active involvement of both employers and unions, where safety concerns could be raised and dealt with. “However TRISAG has been scrapped as a result of government pressure and no similar body has replaced its work,” Unite says.
The new study confirms earlier findings that “N-nitrosamines exposures are associated with mortality from cancers of the bladder, lung, stomach, leukaemia, multiple myeloma, oesophagus, prostate, pancreas and liver.”
Unite national officer for the rubber industry Tony Devlin said: “This authoritative study is a stark reminder of the long-term health implications of being exposed to rubber. These dangers are being neglected as a direct result of the government’s cuts which are denying workers an effective voice in the corridors of power.” He added: “The lack of an effective forum to deal with exposure to cancer causing substances is another example of how the government has washed it hands of workplace health and safety. Cancer deaths will not be reduced unless effective measures are taken to cut exposure levels to N-nitrosamines and rubber dust.”
Unite news release. Mira Hidajat and others. Lifetime exposure to rubber dusts, fumes and N-nitrosamines and cancer mortality in a cohort of British rubber workers with 49 years follow-up, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 76, number 4, pages 250-258, April 2019. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105181
Cancers and their work causes: An ITUC/Hazards at-a-glance guide to cancer hazards. Also in French and Spanish.
The UK Hazards Campaign, in conjunction with Hazards Magazine, has produced two striking International Workers’ Memorial Day 2019 posters. They are available for UK unions and activists in A4 and A3 sizes from the Campaign. Posters are free but postage must be paid on larger orders. Order here.
They can viewed on the Hazards magazine website at higher resolution. Poster 1 and Poster 2
Posters are free but postage will need to be paid on larger orders. As a guide 25 x A4 posters OR 12 x A3 posters will cost £1.50 first class postage. Call us for a price: 0161 636 7558
Send Order to: Hazards Campaign, c/o GMHC, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD
Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.
Workers’ Memorial Day is the day when the International Labour Movement remembers those who have been killed or injured in workplace accidents and those who have died from occupational diseases. The event started in North America in 1986 and has been supported by Usdaw since 1995. The Day is now a global event and is officially recognised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and by the International Trade Union Movement (ITUC).
What can you do for Workers’ Memorial Day?
Dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace
For more information on Workers’ Memorial Day, see the TUC website.
The UK’s national trade union federation TUC has created a dedicated 2019 Workers’ Memorial Day webpage, which will list all events being held on the day.
The 2019 theme for International Workers’ Memorial Day will be: “Dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace”. The focus will be mainly on carcinogens but unions can adapt the theme to whatever is most relevant in a particular workplace or area, as many substances can also cause illnesses such as asthma or dermatitis.
When it comes to cancer risks caused by substances at work, asbestos and diesel exhaust are high profile issues for many workers at the moment – and the TUC has prepared detailed asbestos, diesel exhaust, and workplace cancers guides to help reps negotiate improvements.