Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 15, April 25, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Memorial Day

Defend Workers' Rights! Defend the Rights of All!

April 28, 2020, is the 36th annual International Memorial Day for workers killed, disabled, injured, or made ill through their work. It is a day when workers across the world, their trade unions and other fighting organisations participate in ceremonies and meetings and observe a moment of silence to mourn the dead and fight for the rights of all the living, their safety and well-being. This year the TUC and trade unions are calling for a minute's silence at 11am on Tuesday, April 28 [1].

Workers' Memorial Day comes this year at a very difficult time for the working class and people as they remember the dead and injured. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to this year's list of the deaths of front-line workers in hospitals, communities, care homes, transport, as well as all those workers who are ensuring that society does not come to a complete standstill.

At this difficult time for healthcare and other key workers, yet again we hear that there is massive concern that these workers continue to be put in harm's way. The lack of the right protective equipment, and the lack of mass testing and tracing as directed by the World Health Organisation, have exposed the disregard for those key workers as well as the patients and other people they are working to protect.

Meanwhile, the government, along with deliberately ignoring care home deaths, has continued to ignore the deaths of healthcare and other key workers. Already, those monitoring the deaths for Keep Our NHS Public point out that 128 health care workers have died including doctors, nurses, and care workers, both in the NHS and in private care organisations [2]. On April 9, the Mayor of London announced that nine bus drivers and five other transport workers had died, and there were later reports that there have been further deaths in Birmingham and Bristol. The number of deaths of transport workers is now tragically much higher. This shows that the government has little concern in recording the deaths of key workers, let alone investigating them.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared before the Health and Social Care Committee [3]. When asked by Rosie Cooper MP if these deaths of health workers were being referred to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), he replied, in astonishing ignorance of health and safety law, "No, the investigations are being done by the NHS and by the employers because they are the ones to understand the circumstances." He was then challenged by the MP that they should be sent to the HSE for an independent look into the causes of these deaths, such as whether the employer had provided the right PPE, to which he said that he was "not sure that the HSE is the right body to do that because we have bodies inside the NHS who investigate safety issues and we are doing it through hospitals and in consultation with the employers, but we need to make sure that they are done properly". Again, the Health Secretary is setting aside even legal requirements by advocating that employers investigate these deaths of their employees without referring them to the HSE.

Notwithstanding the heroic efforts of healthcare and other workers to turn the situation around in the favour of the people, what has been further revealed is the outdated and unacceptable arrangements of society with no proper command over human resources, public provision and manufacturing infrastructure to supply the vital services and equipment that should always be on hand to protect society. The publicly-run NHS and social care homes and systems have all been cut back, fragmented and privatised, or are being lined up for further privatisation. What are then imposed in the crisis are measures aimed mainly at rescuing this same corporate direction and profit-making and where workers' interests and those of small business are only dealt with as far as they affect the interests of the ruling elite and their direction for the economy. In this way, these old arrangements continue to undermine the very lives and safety of healthcare workers and everyone working in the economy and living in our communities.

This year, workers must mark International Workers' Memorial Day and remember all those who have lost their lives, particularly those this year in the coronavirus pandemic, by speaking in their own name. The working class and people cannot hand over their trust to those who claim to speak, represent, or govern in their name. The working class and people must take up the fight for new arrangements that guarantee their interests and their right to decide on a safe human-centred system of health care. Fight for a future where the working class and people decide how the economy is organised, how things are done, and what they need to serve the interests of everyone in society! On Workers' Memorial Day, we take up the call of the working class to remember the dead and fight for the living, and that our security lies in our fight for the rights of all.

Defend Workers' Rights! Defend the Rights Of All!
One Death Is One Too Many!

Notes:

[1] See further details on the TUC site dedicated to International Workers' Memorial Day: https://www.tuc.org.uk/international-workers-memorial-day-iwmd

[2] Dr Tony O'Sullivan, co-chair, Keep Our NHS Public, April 24, 2020
https://www.facebook.com/keepournhspublic/videos/252795196104587/

[3] Health and Social Care Committee, April 17, 2020
https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/daf7ede4-1828-4b64-8d83-35e1a38a3b04


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