Friday 29 April 2022

International Workers' Memorial Day service demands workplace health and safety as a fundamental right


Aberdeen Trades Union Council hosted a moving and well attended International Workers' Memorial Day service on 28th April in the beautiful Persley Memorial Gardens. 

The event was made particularly poignant after two years of COVID, when so many workers have lost their lives or been made ill as they continue to deliver vital services to our communities.

Welcoming representatives from many different unions as well as from Aberdeen City Council and political figures, ATUC President, Graeme Farquhar said that this years theme is make safe and healthy work a fundamental right.

"Every year there are more people killed at work than in wars. 

"People don’t die at work in tragic accidents, they die because their employer decided that their safety was not as important than making a profit," slammed Graeme.

Graeme Farquhar

"We have recently seen this with the Stonehaven rail accident in which three people lost their lives when the drainage system failed.

"A drainage system fitted by Carillion, who cut corners for a quick buck. This was made even worse by network rail paying for the botched job without an inspection.

"The name Carillion may be gone now but their directors are still here and they should be made accountable to the three families that lost a loved one that day and charged with corporate manslaughter," demanded Graeme.

"We also mourn for the many that have lost their lives to COVID 19 many of whose deaths could have been avoidable if the right  protections and PPE had been in place.

"We must fight now to ensure that those suffering from the effects of COVID are treated with compassion from their employers and that their employment rights are upheld.

"We must ensure that when we come out of COVID all workers' health and safety rights are put before the economics of the employers as this is a fundamental workers right." 

Following a minute's silence to remember and mourn all those who have died, wreaths were laid by ATUC, Aberdeen City Council and the unions in their memory and to pledge to fight on for health and safety for the living.

Speakers at the event included Barney Crockett, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Michael Marra, MSP and Ann Joss, from the RMT union.

Kathleen Kennedy
Aberdeenshire UNISON's Kathleen Kennedy highlighted that this is the Year of Disabled Workers. She pointed out that one in five people are disabled but with long COVID, more and more people will meet the criteria for reasonable adjustments and trade unions must stand ready to support them.

"We must send a clear message to employers that health and safety rights must always consider the needs of disabled workers, because that, in turn, will improve the rights of non-disabled workers as well."

Laura McDonald from UNISON Grampian Health spoke about the pressures on workers in health as a result of COVID, with huge staff shortages and workers on their knees.

She demanded that more is done to protect and retain existing staff and to recruit more workers so that the NHS can continue to provide its essential services without costing workers their physical and emotional health.

Tommy Campbell of Unite echoed these sentiments as he highlighted that COVID has brought to the fore the need to remember the dead and fight for the living.

In closing Graeme read a poem that he had written to reflect the impact of COVID on working people and the massive failures of government to protect them.

Barney Crockett

Ann Joss

Michael Marra


Tommy Campbell

Laura McDonald