#IWMD20 Health Sector workers (GHA) in #Gibraltar paying tribute to the tens of thousands of healthcare workers worldwide who have lost their lives due to the Coronavirus pandemic. #NEVERFORGOTTEN Unite the Union Gibraltar
The #Covid19 pandemic has focused attention on workplace health & safety. We need to ensure that focus remains once the emergency is over. As Cork-born Mother Jones famously said – remember the dead, and fight for the living! #IWMD20 #RespectWorkers pic.twitter.com/UKJk2Ay7wc
— UNITE union Ireland (@UniteunionROI) April 24, 2020
The #Covid19 pandemic has focused attention on workplace health & safety. We need to ensure that focus remains once the emergency is over. As Cork-born Mother Jones famously said – remember the dead, and fight for the living! #IWMD20 #RespectWorkers
The 28th April is International Workers’ Memorial Day, the day each year when workers come together and remember those who have been killed and injured at work. The slogan for the day is “remember the dead – fight for the living”. (#IWMD20).
11am Sunday morning, 12 April, flowers are laid to mourn construction workers who will lose their lives unnecessarily during the coronavirus pandemic.
The respectful ceremony took place at the ‘Building Worker’ bronze statue at Tower Hill, which was commissioned as a memorial for all those who have died on building sites by the construction union UCATT (now a part of UNITE). The symbolic event was to mourn the dead, but also the fight for the living, and was carried out as part of the mass #ShutTheSites movement that has been trending on social media for the past 2 weeks, calling for non-essential building sites to be closed.
Video link: https://youtu.be/5zuNNCEijFo
A new Shut The Sites FaceBook page was launched on Saturday: https://www.facebook.com/ShutTheSites/
Shut The Sites issued the following statement:
“The Bronze Building Worker statue has for many years been a memorial for workers who have died on construction sites. Flowers have been respectfully laid today to mourn the dead. But in this time of crisis we should also fight to protect the living. None of us want to be here in 6 months time laying a bigger wreath to thousands of construction workers and their family members who may lose their lives unnecessarily.
If construction workers are building a Nightingale Hospital or carrying out emergency maintenance on vital infrastructure, that’s clearly crucial to fight this pandemic. But hundreds of thousands of building workers are being forced to continue working on building sites by greedy developers and employers in order to build luxury flats, hotels and powers stations that will not be completed for at least another 5 years. None of these are essential.
Construction workers often travel on packed public transport or in shared minibuses, eat together in site canteens, live in huge site accommodation blocks and generally work in close proximity. No building worker in the country believes that construction can continue in any meaningful manner while complying with the 2m social distancing rules. Major contractors also have an appalling track record on health and safety; over decades they have sacked and blacklisted those prepared to stand up for the safety of their fellow workers. By keeping non-essential building sites open, the government and businesses are prioritizing profit above public health.
No construction worker wants to put their families lives at risk or add more burden to the NHS. The UK government should immediately close all non-essential building sites. But they also need to ensure that every single worker, whether an employee, self-employed or an agency worker, is paid straight away. We need to protect our families, but we also need to put food on the table.
Rather than forcing construction workers to choose whether to protect their families or pay their bills, the government should suspend all mortgage, rent, interest payments and penalty clauses for the next 3 months (as has already been done in Italy) and pay everyone a universal basic income (as has occurred in Hong Kong and is being proposed by the Spanish government)”.
The memorial protest comes at the same time as the government issued new advice that 2m social distancing will no longer need to be strictly applied in the construction industry, but instead recommends that workers are kept two metres apart “as much as possible”. This is in stark contrast to guidance from the Scottish Government, which has ordered the closure of all non-essential construction.
Construction workers have been voicing their opposition to keeping non-essential building sites open on social media and a number of videos from across the UK have been collated and now appear on the attached .
For press interviews contact: ShutTheSites@gmail.com
A full risk assessment was carried out before the protest which identified potential hazards and control measures were implemented to remove the risk
- Only 2 workers involved to comply with government guidelines (many more wanted to attend)
- Event coincided with a trip to buy food
- 2m social distancing at all times
- Participants arrived by private transport rather than the packed tube
- PPE worn
The protest with two construction workers could be deemed unlawful. The irony being that thousands of construction workers, often lacking PPE, packed onto building sites across the UK is being actively encouraged by the government.
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.
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.
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.