Monday 29 April 2024

Rainy but very moving International Workers' Memorial Day ceremony

Despite the rain, the International Memorial Day (IWMD) ceremony in the beautiful surroundings of Persley Walled Gardens was well attended and very moving.

Wreaths were laid from many unions and organisations to remember all those who died at their work and to pledge to continue our fight for the living. The provost of Aberdeen laid a wreath on behalf of Aberdeen City Council whilst Kate Ramsden laid the wreath on behalf of ATUC.

We are grateful, as always to Norman Adam, ACC photographer for these photographs.

Kate Ramsden lays wreath on behalf of ATUC

The ceremony was chaired by Vice President, Kathleen Kennedy, who called for a minute's silence to remember all those killed at their work. In doing so she paid tribute to two of our own who died last year, Ron Webster and Gerry McCabe.

Aberdeen City Council provost, David Cameron was the first to speak. He reminded us of the international context to the event and spoke of the importance of campaigning for workers’ health and safety not only in this country but also across the world, highlighting countries like Bangladesh where regulation is lax.

Linda Carmichael of WASPI then spoke on behalf of all those women who have been denied their pension, particularly those who have died before they reached the higher pension age.

“One woman who should have had their pension but was denied it dies every 13 minutes,” she said. “So three will die as we have this event.” Linda pledged to fight on for all those still alive.

Kathleen Kennedy and Scott Sutherland
SPSC’s Kate Ramsden returned to the international theme, highlighting all the workers who are amongst the 37,000 killed or missing in Gaza as a result of Israel’s brutal assault, “all killed in direct contravention of international law that provides for protection for these workers at a time of conflict.” She said, “The same humanity we bring to our fight for proper health and safety at work for all workers in this country is the same humanity that demands decent working conditions for all workers across the world, and that demands a ceasefire and an end to the genocide in Gaza and Palestine.”

Kathleen then spoke of a friend of hers who is a teacher and reminded us that stress at work, through overwork and violence in the workplace is also a growing phenomenon which affects the wellbeing of workers, and which must be recognised as a health and safety in the workplace issue and addressed.

Tommy Campbell
Tommy Campbell, Unite reminded that this year’s IWMD theme is The Climate Crisis and Workers’ Health, exploring the impacts of climate change on occupational and health and safety.
He took us back through the many incidents where workers have been killed at work because of failures in health and safety, right up to the Stonehaven rail disaster which came about because of changing weather patterns.
He highlighted the work of trade unions to get health and safety laws passed and praised their work in the workplace.
“Every day, trade union health and safety reps work with their union members and employers to bring about adjustments to keep working people healthy and safe in their job. We know from the research carried out that workers health and safety is much better in a trade union organised workplace.
“2024 marks 50 years of the Health and Safety at Work Act and International Workers Memorial Day is marked by the Trade Union Movement remembering all workers who lost their lives to workplace illness or injury, and to recommit ourselves to fighting to keep workers protected at work so that they can return home safe to their families and friends.”

Tommy closed with a poem, "It's up to me" by Don Merrell, Safety poet.

Wreaths and flowers laid by unions and groups

Provost David Cameron

Linda Carmichael, WASPI

Kate Ramsden, SPSC Aberdeen

Tommy Campbell, Unite

Some of those who attended

Those who laid wreaths and attended

Those who laid wreaths and attended