Friday 28 April 2017

Moving Workers' Memorial Day ceremony pledges to remember the dead, fight for the living

Kevin Hutchens
The weather was kind as a crowd gathered to commemorate International Workers' Memorial Day, to mourn those who have lost their lives, and to pledge to fight to ensure no other worker is killed, injured or made ill at their work.

Wreaths were laid by Aberdeen City Council, trade unions from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, the Aberdeen Trades Union Council who organised the event and from Unite the union.

ATUC joint-President, Kevin Hutchens welcomed everyone and asked for a two minute silence for everyone to remember and mourn those who did not return from their work.

Andrew Lawtie
Andrew Lawtie, Lord Lieutenant, on behalf of the Provost of Aberdeen reminded those gathered that today, around the world, bereaved families, workers, trade unionists and campaigners come together to remember those who have died, been injured or made ill by their work.

"Aberdeen City Council support this event so that we firstly ensure that those workers are remembered and that such tragic loss is not repeated and their suffering is used to reinvigorate the campaign for healthier and safer work.

"Fighting for the living is equally important," added Andrew, pledging to work with trade unions to make all work a safer and healthier activity for all workers.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy, Aberdeenshire UNISON spoke on behalf of Aberdeenshire. As a disabled worker herself she has first hand knowledge of the key importance of health and safety in the workplace.

Kathleen told those gathered that "Workplaces need to be adapted for disabled people. If that is done properly then this means there will be no health and safety issues for any employee." 

Kathleen reiterated that lessons must be learned from the tragedies of the past to make sure that they don't happen again in the future.

"We must remember the dead and all those whose health has been affected by doing their job but then we must go on and fight for the living."

Lewis Macdonald
Lewis Macdonald MSP recalled that at last year's ceremony we were mourning the loss of Ian Walker on the construction of the Diamond Bridge and reminded us that that very day another worker was killed on the new Queensferry crossing over the Forth.

There have also been over 100 workers injured in the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. 

He paid tribute to the trade union movement for pressing for Health and Safety and slammed the UK Tory government who have already presided over 25% cuts to the funding of the Health and Safety Executive.

"If the Tories get back in after the General Election they plan to make £100 million further cuts to the Health and Safety Executive," warned Lewis. "We cannot let that happen or more lives will be at stake."

John Clark
John Clark of Unite spoke with a heavy heart as he reminded those gathered that this year alone in Scotland, 5 construction workers have paid the ultimate price for their labours by not returning home from their work.

John also highlighted the importance of trade unions and unionised workplaces in reducing death and injuries at work.

Echoing Lewis he warned, "A major influence in the deterioration of health and safety standards is political. The deregulation of the employment market continues to enable expoitative employers to diminish the input of workers on health and safety issues."

 He condemned the rise of insecure work which reduces workers' confidence to report health and safety breaches, "with fear of instant dismissal often a formality."

Worse, Unite has recently been denied access to a number of building sites, gaining the impression that "many companies wish to return to Dickensian working conditions," slammed John.

He emphasised the international nature of trade unionism, and said that "our thoughts are with the many workers throughout the world who have perished whilst doing the most natural thing in the world - leaving their home to go to work."

Kevin Hutchens concluded the event with a poem he wrote this morning.

"To those who die unnecessarily,
The accident at work,
But not prevented,
Poor safety the cause

"We remember them, 
Not for their neglect,
But for their courage,
Their perseverance,
Their love,
Families, friends left behind their memorial

But sorrow not friends, relatives, workers of the world
But unite,
Fight on,
Improved safety for all,
Our cause,
Healthy, safe workplaces our aim.

Kevin Hutchens, Poetry 2017