Friday 4 May 2018

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

A moving International Workers’ Memorial Day Service was held on Saturday 28th April  in the beautiful Persley Memorial Garden, Aberdeen.

Organised by ATUC and chaired by Donna Clark, Vice-President, the service was addressed by politicians, activists and trade union speakers in this the 30th anniversary year of the Piper Alpha disaster and ofcourse our own 150th anniversary year.

Wreaths were laind by Aberdeen City Council and by the ATUC. Welcoming those attending Donna said that no one should leave for their work never to return, but it happens all too often. The theme of this years  remembrance events is that unionised workplaces are safer workplaces.

Participants observed a two minute silence to remember all those who had died, been made ill or injured at their work.

The speakers all reflected on health and safety failures here and across the world and highlighted the importance of keeping up the fight for proper regulation and enforcement.

Sandra Macdonald
Sandra Macdonald brought greetings from Aberdeen City Council and spoke of the importance of health and safety in all workplaces to protect staff, especially in times of austerity.

Lewis Macdonald MSP reminded us of the anniversary of Piper Alpha and condemned the recent incidents of gas leaks in North Sea installations. He called agains for better health and safety regulation and enforcement.

Graeme Farquhar of Unite reminded us that as well as the 30th anniversary of Piper Alpha and the ATUC's own 150th anniversary year, this is also the 40th anniversaryof the safety reps and safety committee regulations.

Graeme Farquhar
"A trade union workplace is a safer workplace," said Graeme, adding that it was trade unions who highlighted the dangers of asbestos, that kills over 5000 people a year, and campaigned for a ban for many years before the government introduced one.

Graeme slammed Tory cuts to health and safety regulation and enforcement and the growth of private companies who are less likely to observe health and safety. He condemned the growth of bogus self-employment and zero hours contracts which inhibit workers' willingness to speak out on health and safety breaches, including on the construction of Aberdeen's Western Peripheral Route (AWPR), with Scottish Government appointed contractors, where health and safety remains a big cause for concern.

"Nicola and her cabal should hang their heads in shame," said Graeme.

John Clarke of Unite then spoke giving appalling details of those injured on the AWPR and other construction sites which are still amongst the most dangerous places to work.

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden of UNISON echoed Graeme's statement that unionised workplaces are safer workplaces, and said that health and safety regulation and legislation doesn't just protect workers, it also protects the wider community.

She slammed cuts to regulation and legislation and to the staff who ensure workplace and building safety.

Kate warned, "We only have to look at the terrible loss of life in Grenfell to see the awful impact of cuts to health and safety and building standards. 

"Grenfell is a shameful indictment on this Tory government and the Tory council whose cuts have cost lives."

William Rae spoke from the perspective of our disabled colleagues and highlighted the importance of health and safety in the workplace to support workers with disabilities and especially the growing numbers with mental health issues. 

William added, "No one deserves to go to work and come home with a disability due to the lack of health and safety."

This was echoed by Councillor Alison Evison, with a particular focus on mental health in the workplace, which has been poorly recognised and supported, and which can be created by stress at work. She called on employers to put in place robust policies and proper support systems to prevent workplace stress and for workers who suffer from poor mental health.

Guy Ingerson brought an environmental perspective to the event, saying, "Workers and our environment are intimately linked. It’s vital that all of us protect both."

Ron Wilson
Aberdeenshire Health and Safety Team Leader reminded us all that it's not policies that save lives but how risk assessments are put into practice.

"Supervisors and managers think, "job done" and these assessments are shelved and put away," said Ron, calling on trade unionists to make these assessments work for staff. 

"This would be a fitting tribute to those killed and injured in the workplace and will help prevent accidents occurring in the first place," added Ron.

Unite young member Gemma Clark spoke movingly about the impact of Piper Alpha, whose impact can be felt even though it had happened many years before she was born, but stands as a reminder that we must all remember the dead, even as we put all our efforts into fighting for the living!"

All the remaining speakers are pictured below.

Gemma Clark

John Clarke

Lewis Macdonald

Guy Ingerson

William Rae

Alison Evison