Remember the dead, fight for the living

by New Worker correspondents

THOUSANDS of workers and trade unions all around the world last Sunday, 28th April, marked Workers’ Memorial Day with meetings, rallies and wreath-laying ceremonies to remember workers who have died or been seriously injured by accidents at work, or by illnesses arising from their working conditions.

It is also a time to renew the fight for health and safety at work, which is of particular importance in Britain where the Con-Dem government is cutting the Health and Safety Executive almost out of existence and abolishing various safety regulations.

In Britain Workers’ Memorial Day was commemorated in dozens of local events all around the country.

The Colchester Trades Council attended their annual meeting in Castle Park at the remembrance stone of workers who lost their lives at work. Mark Thomas, the chaplain of Colchester General Hospital attended and gave a service for all workers who lost their lives at work, and gave a special thought for the recent tragedy in Bangladesh. These workers lost their lives through greed and corruption.

Dave Harris, a Labour councillor spoke of a close friend he lost who worked on the railway.

Mike Fletcher, vice chair of the trades council and industrial secretary of the New Communist Party, said that 40 per cent of workers are suffering from stress and there have been increasing suicides by people who cannot pay their debts due to mass unemployment, the cuts and the lowering of wages.

Two minutes silence was held at the end of the meeting for all workers who lost their lives.

Supporters of Waltham Forest Trades Council met on Workers Memorial Day at Thames Water Treatment Works, Coppermill Lane, London E17, to remember GMB member Raymond Holmes who died on 20 April 2010 on the Coppermill Thames Water site.

Members of the public sector union Unison also attended with their banner. Also remembered was Andrezej Rokita, 55, from Poland, who was killed by falling materials while working at M&M Contracting Limited of Midland Road, E10, on 22nd March 2010, and Alfie Perrin, 16, from Enfield, who died when he fell from a scaffold in Camden Rd, Wanstead on 14th November 2012.

Speakers included Darren O’Grady, Secretary of Waltham Forest Trades Council, Mick Ainsley, GMB Regional Organiser, Simon Hester, HSE construction inspector and Chair of Prospect’s HSE branch, Jerry Kelly, NUT Waltham Forest and local hazards campaigner and NUJ member Mick Holder.

Speakers linked recent tragedies in Texas and Bangladesh to the actions of the current government in their attacks on health and safety protections.

The attacks on the role of our health and safety police were highlighted as was the need to reverse these attacks. All agreed stronger unions were needed to ensure that we continue to remember the dead — and fight like hell for the living!

Waltham Forest Trades Council laid a wreath at the entrance to the Thames Water site and left a message which says: “This wreath is to remember Raymond Holmes who lost his life while at work for Thames Water here on 20th April 2010.

“It was placed here by Waltham Forest Trades Council and local trade unionists on Workers Memorial Day, 28th April, a day marked around the world to remember those killed at work and to recognise the preventable nature of most workplace injuries, diseases and deaths.