International Workers Memorial DayApril 28 2020
Today, 28th April is marked as international workers memorial Day. A day of remembrance that trade unions around the world acknowledge to draw light to those who lose their lives in the line of duty. No matter what their duty may be. 7 years ago this week for 1,134 people in Bangladesh, their duty was to produce garments for high street brand Primark among others. The factory they were working in was evacuated due to safety concerns. However they were swiftly given an order from the owner of the building, Sohel Rana who demanded they return to work or their pay be withheld. The following day the building collapsed.
It is important to remember them today as we remember our heroes in all industries and services during the Coronavirus crisis. And it is important not just to remember them but to remember what happens when concerns for safety are ignored. Demands for PPE have been a constant throughout this crisis with healthcare workers among those leading the calls and after learning that our government in the UK have been massaging the figures, recording a single glove as a pair and counting a paper towel as PPE. We can begin to recognise the importance of health and safety in the workplace and for those who are concerned to be listened to without scrutiny and suspicion. An enquiry into the Iraq war found that soldiers on the frontline were without proper equipment and families told how they would send armour to their relative’s in the conflict. This story of those on the frontline is now being repeated with NHS frontline staff having to source their own equipment to protect themselves. Many wearing bin bags or household items to try to shield themselves from the fatal virus.
Memory for the fallen will never just be about lighting a candle. It is about honouring their name and for trade unions this means continuing to fight for a safer, fairer workplace. We can honour the fallen by providing for the living. And in these unprecedented times providing will project itself in many ways. Providing will be protecting jobs in the forth predicted financial crisis so families can provide for each other. It will mean providing WHO regulated equipment so that our key and frontline workers can provide for us, all in the knowledge that their health is being protected. And it will be providing a voice to whistle blowers and workers who call for further protection and shine a light on businesses who are putting the infinite demand for profit before the safety and rights of working people at a time where we all must pull together to drive the world forward when the crisis is over. We must not leave it to workers alone to make the sacrifices.