Tag Archives: Unite

Gibraltar: One minute silence and wreaths laid at Workers Memorial Day ceremony

Wreaths were laid at the Workers Memorial Day ceremony in the Alameda Gardens, Gibraltar following a one minute silence. The Minister for Health and Safety, Christian Santos and Unite’s Sam Hennessy addressed guests.

UK: Work suicide – ‘This can’t continue’ – iwmd23

On International Workers’ Memorial Day, UniteLive investigates rising suicide rates in the construction sector – and how Unite members are making a difference

The construction sector has made significant strides in workplace safety in recent years, with the HSE reporting in 2022 a 16.7 per cent drop in on-site fatalities compared to the five-year average.

But there’s a hidden epidemic in construction – one that’s controversially not reported in HSE statistics. Even as fewer people die in workplace accidents in construction, the suicide rate has relentlessly continued climbing.

Since 2015, Glasgow Caledonian University and the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity have compiled figures on suicides in construction. Their latest analysis found the suicide rate for construction occupations in 2021 rose to 33.82 per 100,000 from 25.52 per 100,000 in 2015 – the highest rate in any sector.

These latest figures were published just two weeks before International Workers’ Memorial Day today (April 28) and serve as a stark reminder that workplace health and safety is so much more than simply preventing accidents in the workplace.

Suicide in the construction sector is both a protracted and complex problem – there’s no one reason that more people take their lives in construction than in any other sector, explains Unite national officer Jason Poulter.

“For starters, it’s a very long-hours culture, and construction workers are often expected to be away from home – and so away from their families and usual support networks – for long periods of time,” Jason noted.

Construction is still a predominantly male working environment, and with this environment comes many of the coping mechanisms that some men turn to in times of stress, such as gambling, alcohol and substance addiction, which often end up exacerbating already poor mental health.

“There is definitely a drinking culture in construction,” Jason told UniteLive. “There’s having a drink, then there’s having a drink  — going down the pub with your mates can be a positive thing, but it can just as easily spiral into addiction for some if they’re already under a lot of stress.”

Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset – the UK’s largest construction project since the Second World War, employing more than 4,000 people – was an exemplar of mental ill health plaguing the construction sector in the first few years that the project began.

Back in 2019, Unite told the Guardian that in the first four months of that year alone, the union had been informed of at least 10 suicide attempts by workers employed on the site. Since then, Unite and EDF, the major employer at Hinkley Point, have worked together to redouble their efforts to support workers’ mental health.

Unite convenor at Hinkley Point Malcolm Davies in particular hailed EDF’s mental health buddies system, which is a network of volunteers who are trained as mental health first aiders to provide support and guidance to their colleagues.

“We now have over 400 trained mental health first aiders on site, the most we’ve ever had – with more and more people coming forward to take part,” he explained.

Malcolm believes that what has made the programme so successful is that it has slowly but surely changed the culture at the construction site by removing the stigma associated with talking about mental health.

“People find comfort in talking about their mental health, especially when they can talk to their peers,” Malcolm said. “Our mental health first aiders are often the first port of call and can signpost people to the different types of support they can get. We also have an on-site chaplains, as well as an on-site surgery with nurses and doctors if people need professional, medical help.”

Unite rep Matthew, 27, trained as a mental health first aider at Hinkley Point just a few months ago, and said it’s been a very rewarding experience so far.

“I myself have suffered from anxiety and depression, and I also have family who have been through some tough times, so when I started to feel better, I really wanted to help others who’ve had the same experience as me and pass on what I’ve learned,” he explained.

Matthew noted while the mental health buddies system has been in place for many years, he said a vital difference now is that they’re a lot more visible.

“There’s hundreds more of us, and initially mental health first aiders were more office-based, but now we’re on the ground, dotted around throughout the site. We’ve got ‘time to talk’ rooms where we can sit and talk to people privately. Sometimes people just need someone to listen, other times we can offer guidance like suggesting time off from work, or signposting them to seek professional help.”

Unite rep Anthony, 56, will soon train to become a mental health first aider. Like Matthew, Anthony said he’s keen to help others “because mental health is something that’s close to my heart”.

“I’ve got a little lad who’s severely autistic, and when he was first diagnosed, I went through a really rough period of depression for about a year,” he explained. “I’d like to pass on my experience to others, and sit and talk to people, because that’s what I myself needed to get through the tough times.”

Anthony said he already informally mentors many of the younger workers on site and he can’t wait to be fully trained up as a mental health first aider.

“I’m 56 and when I was a young lad, you just kept things to yourself because otherwise you’d be classed as a softy if you talked about mental health and tried to get help,” he noted. “I think it’s absolutely great now that the lads are so much more open and will come and talk. We’ve got a signs all over the site here that say, ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ and I think that’s fantastic.”

Matthew believes that working conditions in construction definitely contribute to the mental health crisis many in the industry face.

“There’s a lot of long hours, weekend work, and working away from home that I think plays a big role,” Matthew explained. “You end up missing time with your kids, with your partner and parents and all sorts in your social life. You might be home one weekend, but the weekend before maybe there was a party and you just feel like you keep missing out on life.”

While Malcolm said he’s very proud of the mental health work both the employer and Unite have done at Hinkley Point – the union also offers separate mental health training for members – he worries that not all in the sector have access to that level of support.

“On large construction projects, especially in nuclear and petrochemical, there’s a lot more money for mental health projects, and for health and safety in general,” he said.

“I think it’s up to unions like Unite to make sure we’ve got reps on the smaller projects, and make sure we get those reps trained up on mental health. We’ve lost on average 100 people each year to suicide in construction – even one is too many, and it can’t continue.”

Jason Poulter likewise said Unite and other unions have a much bigger role to play to tackle the mental health crisis facing workers in the construction sector.

But he emphasised that it is absolutely vital that employers look at the root cause of this crisis and not simply treat the symptoms – symptoms that in many ways the employers themselves are responsible for.

“There’s needs to be root and branch reform of the employment models used in construction,” he said. “Requisite rest periods – they’re not happening. They’re not paying holidays. They’re not encouraging people to take time off. There’s no work-related mental health risk assessments that we absolutely need.

“There’s also the issue of bogus self-employment where workers are burdened with tax returns and having to pay for accountants, without any of the benefits of working for yourself,” he added. “Because the reality is you aren’t working for yourself – you’re under the instruction of someone else and they can fire you on the spot. They’ve blacklisted workers; they have a culture of fire and rehire – it’s the most precarious industry in the entire economy.”

Jason said that it is not until all these factors are addressed that meaningful change will happen.

“This is what Unite is fighting for day in and day out,” he said. “For every suicide in construction, how many broken families are left behind? This is a much wider problem than many people realise, and we’ve got to do something about it. Too many people’s lives depend on it.”

Read now via – UniteLive.org.

UK: Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living! – Unite the Union – #iwmd23

A day to remember all workers who lost their lives to workplace illness or injury, and to continue to fight for every workers’ right to a safe workplace.

Gibraltar: Ceremony to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day

Unite the Union (Gibraltar Branch) in collaboration with the Gibraltar Cultural Service will be commemorating Workers Memorial Day with a ceremony on the 28th April at the Alameda Gardens commencing at 10.30am.

UK: Len McCluskey and Unite families to ‘walk the wall’ as union backs call for Covid public inquiry

Where: National Covid Memorial Wall, North Wing, Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank, London SE1 3FT

When: From 11:30 hours, Wednesday 28 April

The general secretary of the UK’s leading union, Unite, is joining Unite families who lost loved ones to Covid-19 to walk the memorial wall this International Workers’ Memorial Day.

Len McCluskey and the families will also join with TUC representatives to observe the minute’s silence for International Workers’ Memorial Day, which will be held at midday.

Unite is throwing its weight behind calls for a statutory public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, recently rejected by ministers, and is backing the campaign for the National Covid Memorial Wall in Lambeth, south London, to be made permanent.

The memorial wall is made up of 150,000 individual painted hearts, one for every UK person who lost their life to the disease in the past year. The wall is around half a kilometre long and takes around 10 minutes to walk.

Len McCluskey will join Hannah and Leshie, who both lost their fathers, both key workers, to the disease last year. Hannah’s father caught the virus while travelling to his work in a factory, while Leshie’s father was one of 27 London bus drivers who died of the disease between March and May last year.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Len McCluskey said: “You cannot help but be moved by this campaign. In the past year, 150,000 people lost their lives, leaving 150,000 families and countless loved ones with huge holes in their lives. For all those who have sacrificed and suffered through this terrible time, we owe it to them to walk this wall.

“The scale of loss in the UK is so high relative to other countries that the reasons for this have to be looked at by a public inquiry. The people we lost must be remembered and honoured, and the whole country, including the government, has to learn the lessons of this crisis. 

“Dozens of Unite members died from this dreadful sickness and they will be in my thoughts today. It will be a huge privilege to walk the wall with Unite family members. I am so grateful to them for the work that they are doing on behalf of all those who lost their lives, and the bereaved who remain, to deliver not just a place of national remembrance of this time, but justice.

“Unite offers the bereaved families our full support in securing a permanent home for this incredible wall, and in the continued battle for the full and frank public inquiry the country needs.”


Notes to editors:

Len McCluskey will walk the wall with members of the families of two Unite members who lost their lives to Covid-19:

Leshie Chandrapala, London

Leshie lost her father, Ranjith, to Covid-19 in April 2020.

Ranjith was one of the 27 bus drivers who died of Covid-19 in London between March and May 2020.

According to the Institute of Health Equity, bus drivers were more than twice as likely to die than other Londoners. Leshie wants a public inquiry into the decisions that led to her father’s death.

Hannah Brady, Manchester

Hannah’s father was a key worker in a factory when he contracted coronavirus.

He died at the age of 55 following 42 nights spent in intensive care.

Hannah fears that her dad was exposed to Covid-19 on public transport to and from work.

Hannah has received abuse online for talking about the loss of her father.

For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.

Email: ryan.fletcher@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Instagram: unitetheunion Web: unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

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UK: Workers suffering mental health ‘epidemic’ linked to pandemic stress, Unite survey reveals

Workers are suffering a mental health ‘epidemic’, a UK and Ireland-wide survey of Unite workplace representatives has revealed.

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said there is a ‘clear link’ between the increase in stress brought on by the pandemic and called on employers to help prevent the crisis being carried forward as the country opens up.

The health and safety-focused survey of 1,400 Unite reps, from across all sectors of the economy, found that 83 per cent are dealing with an increase in members reporting mental health-related problems.

Mental health issues also came top of workers’ concerns during a similar survey last year. However, there has been a huge 18-point increase from the 65 per cent reported in 2020.

The survey also found that regulators and health authorities carrying out workplace visits are not routinely speaking to union reps. These organisations include the Health and Safety Executive, local authorities, Public Health England/Wales and others.

Only a third of respondents whose workplaces had been visited reported that inspectors had spoken to reps during the visit, despite it being vital to gaining an accurate picture of health and safety on site.

Unite called the finding ‘alarming’ as it had previously raised the ‘potentially dangerous’ issue with regulators, who all insisted that speaking to reps during visits is a matter of course.

The union said regulators need to begin publishing records on whether workplace reps have been spoken to, something they are not currently required to do.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This survey shows there is an epidemic of mental health issues being suffered by workers across all sectors of the economy. 

“April is Stress Awareness Month and employers need to be aware that there is a clear link between the explosion in mental ill-health and the stressors of the pandemic. 

“As the country and the economy come out of the coronavirus freeze, the after effects of the pandemic are still going to be felt, including their impact on people’s mental health. 

“During the week of International Workers’ Memorial Day, we should remember that many workers not only paid a physical price during the fight against Covid-19, but a psychological one too.

“Employers need to be aware of this and in partnership with trade unions implement mental health friendly policies to help prevent the psychological toll of the pandemic being carried forward longer than it needs to be.

“The survey also revealed a worrying trend of regulators not speaking to union reps during workplace safety inspections. This means regulators are not getting a full and accurate picture of the environments they are visiting, which is potentially dangerous.  

“Unite has raised this issue before with all the relevant regulators and health authorities, but it is clear it is not being addressed. Direction requiring them to publish records of speaking to reps during visits is now needed.” 


The survey’s full findings are available here.


UK: Safe work is a right not a privilege

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. In 2021 the theme is: Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right.

Remember those we have lost and
organise in their memory.

The Covid-19 crisis underscores the need for our mental health services to be supported and for workers to know that there is help for them when they need it.

While we may not be able to attend the memorial events which usually take place, we want to build a day of ‘virtual’ action on Wednesday 28 April.

Hold a minute’s silence

Join in the minute’s silence at 11:00, which is held every year to commemorate lost workers.

Until then make sure you join a union and and get active, unions keep workers safer so join Unite today.

For further resources, including #IWMD21 posters, please visit Unite at Work –  Health and Safety.




Gibraltar: Health sector workers pay tribute to healthcare workers killed by Covid 19 [Video]

#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


Ireland: Remember the dead and fight like hell for the living – UNITE union Ireland

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

Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living