Construction workers minutes silence at the ‘Building Worker’ statue in London to mark International Workers Memorial Day.
Every year April 28 is International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD). This is the international trade union day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. The focus this year is of course the global COVID-19 pandemic. While everyone is affected by the crisis, many workers are on the frontline.
For #IWMD20 Usdaw is highlighting the risks many frontline workers are taking to help keep the rest of us safe and healthy. Healthcare workers in particular are risking their lives doing their job to take care of the sick. Many others like Usdaw members in supermarkets and delivering the food supply chain are providing essential services and deserve our thanks for everything they are doing. We urge the public to observe a one-minute silence at 11am on 28 April to remember those workers we’ve lost to Covid-19.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “More people are killed at work than in wars. They die because their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. So on 28 April we ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’ by highlighting our all year round campaigning for better health and safety at work.
“Shopworkers and their colleagues in the retail food supply chain are on the frontline of feeding the country during the current crisis. They are providing an essential service in very difficult circumstances, working long hours in busy stores, facing abuse from customers and of course concerned they may contract Covid-19.
“This year we should take time to recognise the heroic efforts they are making in very difficult circumstances, alongside many other frontline workers. We particularly want to pay tribute to the brave healthcare workers and the extreme risks they have to work with. A one-minute silence at 11am tomorrow for those we’ve lost would be a fitting tribute.
“Usdaw continues to work with employers to improve health and safety for staff, particularly those dealing directly with the public. We also call on customers to stay calm, respect shopworkers and practise the necessary hygiene measures to help limit the spread of the virus. We all have to work together to get through this crisis.
“Strong unions are the best protection for workers. Workplaces that have strong union representation typically have much lower fatality, injury and ill-health rates than those that do not. Research in this country and abroad has shown repeatedly that unions make a difference.”
Workers’ Memorial Day – Stop the pandemic at work: www.ituc-csi.org/28April2020
TUC campaign: www.tuc.org.uk/workers-memorial-day
28 April marks International Workers’ Memorial Day.
Please join us in honouring the memory of those brave workers we have lost to coronavirus by observing a minute’s silence at 11am.
Together, we will remember them.
Video message for 28 April from Shelly Asquith – TUC Health, Safety and Wellbeing Policy Officer
Preparing for the return to work outside the home
Summary of recommendations
This TUC report, Preparing for the return to work outside the home: a trade union approach, sets out what we believe the government must do now to ensure a safe transition from lockdown, looking at how to safely return to work outside the home, the enforcement measures needed to protect workers, and how best to protect workers’ livelihoods.
- The government must ensure that workers’ mental health and wellbeing is prioritised alongside physical safety.
- The government must run a public information campaign to ensure working people can be confident that health and safety at work is a priority as they return to work.
- Every employer must carry out a specific Covid-19 risk assessment.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided where necessary, and no-one should be asked to re-use PPE inappropriately.
- Government must provide specific advice and protection for those groups most at risk.
- The EHRC must ensure that the return to work strategy seeks to prevent this disproportionate impact and complies with the public sector equality duty.
- Unions should be consulted when the government prepares sector-specific guidance, and when employers seek to implement it.
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must act quickly to sanction employers that do not risk-assess for Covid-19 or fail to provide safe working arrangements.
- The HSE must run a public information campaign to ensure workers know their rights.
- No worker should face a sanction for refusing to work in an unsafe workplace.
- Government must ensure the job retention scheme continues to protect jobs.
- Those who lose their jobs must be protected by a strengthened safety net.
- We need decent sick pay for all
- Government must ban zero-hours contracts, tackle false self-employment, and guarantee all workers day-one employment rights.
UK campaigning network work Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) has produced a moving and forceful 28 April video memorial which you can view here.
Also read FACK’s 28 April statement If you do not protect the workforce in a pandemic, you do not protect the public.
IWMD will give us the chance to remember the workers who have died because of COVID-19
Tuesday 28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day, when we remember all those who have died because of their work – and renew our pledge to fight for the living.
In the year of coronavirus, this day of commemoration has never been more important. And that is why UNISON is asking the country to observe a minute’s silence, to remember all the health, care and other key workers who have already lost their lives to COVID-19.
The campaign for a minute’s silence at 11am next Tuesday was launched earlier this week by UNISON, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives, which collectively represent more than a million NHS and public service workers, including porters, refuse collectors and care staff.
“Every year, the sacrifice of workers around the world is recognised, but this year has a special significance because of the pandemic.
“Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS.”
Thousands of workers across the UK are caring for those suffering from COVID-19 or delivering vital public services that are vital for us all – potentially putting their own safety and even their own lives at risk.
In many cases, these workers know that, by simply doing their jobs, they are putting themselves at risk.
The risks faced by those working in the health and social care sectors has already been acknowledged, but there are also others – those working in childcare, police services and refuse collection, in hostels and rescue centres, in gas, water and electricity, and in transport services among them – whose work and dedication often goes unacknowledged.
Tragically, some of these workers have already died. In some cases, more could have been done to protect them, whether by better enforcement of social distancing, looking after workers with underlying health conditions or provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.
While improvements have been seen in some areas, more needs to be done – specifically in relation to assessing the risks our members are facing and ensuring that all staff who require it are getting the protective equipment needed to do the job safely.
UNISON has never been afraid to demand the highest standards for workers; we have not been afraid to speak out and hold the government to account on providing the right PPE when staff need it, and to hold employers to account who are not doing enough to keep their workers safe.
All of this adds to the importance of observing a minutes’ silence at 11am next Tuesday.
But other things that you can do include:
- tweeting us, @unisontheunion, your pictures of public service workers, whether of yourself, your colleagues or even those you may not personally know, continuing to do the jobs that are keeping us all safe – although don’t go out especially to get these;
- if you are having a problem getting the PPE you need to keep you safe, let us know here;
- email any other COVID-19 safety related issues to email@example.com.
“We will never forget 2020. Not just for the way the virus turned our lives upside down and taken many people away from us too soon. We will also remember it for re-calibrating our perception of what is important and who our key workers are.
“This is the year when people from different walks of life put their lives on the line to keep vital services running. Too many of them have lost their lives, and we will remember them on International Workers’ Memorial Day.
“Every year on 28 April, millions of trade unionists across the world come together to remember those who have died at work and fight for the rights of the living.
“This year will be particularly poignant. Wherever we are working, with a minute’s silence at 11am, we will commemorate the workers who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and show our solidarity with those who continue to do vital work at great risk.
“Many Prospect members are working under the cloud of the virus, keeping the lights on, ensuring we are safe and running our public services. As a union, we send our thoughts to all members working at this difficult time.
“28 April is not a day to point a finger at those who should have done more to protect those at risk, or to ask why our country has been caught unprepared for the pandemic. But those questions will be asked, and we must learn the lessons from this crisis. We must ensure there will not be the loss of life like this again.
“International Workers’ Memorial Day reminds us of the vital role of union health and safety representatives.
“Up and down the country, dedicated trade unionists continue to use their professional expertise to keep their workplaces and colleagues safe. This will only become more important in the weeks and months ahead as we emerge from the crisis and return to something that resembles normal.
“For many, returning to the workplace will be a considerable source of anxiety. It will be hard to roll back the mind-set we have formed to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe.
“That is why we will always follow the best scientific advice. We will draw on this as we represent members, and apply its rigour in ensuring that risks are managed.
“We know that, as the lockdown is lifted, social distancing will need to be retained. Many work tasks will need to be changed to ensure they can be carried out safely.
“In doing so, there is much that can be learnt from our members who have continued to go into work during this crisis. But this can only happen following constructive engagement between employers and unions. We have already made the case directly to government to ensure the economy can recover when work resumes.
“We expect the same seat at the table to negotiate a safe return to work with all the employers we deal with. We want to extend this hand of partnership into other areas where Prospect members are working, but maybe not currently recognised.
Engaging in good faith
“A return to work after this unprecedented lockdown will require great skill and reassurance. More than ever, it will be vital that employers are honest and transparent in their plans, and engage with the union in good faith.
“New work routines will be required and the same innovation shown during the lockdown will be needed as offices reopen. The workplace may never look quite the same as it did before.
However it changes, and whatever challenges it throws up, we will provide the pragmatic, sensible advice and representation needed based on our years of experience as the leading health and safety union.
“We should remember, too, that many members will return to the workplace having experienced the loss of loved ones, be that family, friends or colleagues. Employers will need to have appropriate support in place to help them through the difficult times, and we will work with them to do that.
“There has never been a more important time for employers to recognise the valuable knowledge of its workforce. This will needed as never before if we are to beat this terrible virus.”
Mike Clancy is Prospect general secretary.
A minute’s silence will be held across the United Kingdom on 28 April to remember all the health, care and other key workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus.
The campaign, launched by the health unions UNISON, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives – who between them represent more than a million NHS and public service workers, including porters, refuse collectors and care staff – are urging politicians, employers, people at work and those on lockdown at home to join the tribute at 11am.
The minute’s silence – held on International Workers’ Memorial Day #iwmd20 – will allow everyone to pay their respects and give thanks for the lives of those whose work involved caring, saving lives, keeping key services running and the rest of the country safe, say the unions. The tribute is also a show of support for the families of those who have died.
The three unions are hoping the government and other organisations will get on board and join the campaign for there to be a minute’s silence on the day, which every year commemorates workers who have died around the globe.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is the ultimate tribute to remember workers who’ve lost their lives and put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and vital services running. Every year the sacrifice of workers around the world is recognised, but this year has a special significance because of the pandemic.
“Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS.
“The minute’s silence is a thank you to all the workers including nurses, midwives, cleaners and care staff who’ve died from this devastating virus.”
Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Donna Kinnair said: “We’ve become used to hearing a great roar on a Thursday night for key workers, but this respectful silence will be a poignant reminder of the risks they run to keep us safe. I hope the public gets behind this with the same affection they show when applauding our people.
“The silence is a simple show of respect for those who have paid the very highest price, but their loved ones must know the levels of gratitude we feel as a nation and take some comfort from that.”
Royal College of Midwives chief executive and general secretary Gill Walton said: “We had expected 2020 to be a celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife but, although we actively applaud their service, this is not what we had imagined. Instead, across the country, midwives and maternity support workers are seeing the impact of coronavirus not only on the women in their care, but on their colleagues as well.
“We are proud to join UNISON and the RCN in this campaign and to recognise and remember those who we have lost.”
The minute’s silence will be held at 11am on Tuesday 28 April. The campaign hashtag for the minute’s silence is #neverforgotten.