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UN International Workers’ Memorial Day - 28 April 2015 - Tower Hill

On a sharp cold but bright Tuesday morning beneath the statue of the ‘Worker’ who stands patiently on Tower Hill in front of the Tower of London people from the building trades, allied industries and families gathered to commemorate the loss of life through negligence and lack of adequate Health and Safety conditions in the construction industries. Speakers included Steve Murphy (General Secretary UCATT), Gail Cartmel (Asst. General Secretary UNITE), London Hazards Centre, and Relatives of workers killed at work.

Such negligence is not just rife in the construction industries. Danger proliferates across many other industries and throughout our social environment. Since the (continuing) world economic and capital collapse governments and industry have budgeted to the bone and in so doing our environment and infrastructure has suffered. Employers are cutting corners on costs, hiring cheap ‘imported’ labour and ignoring H&S legislation. In this harsh environment many employers have lost all sense of responsibility for their employees and really couldn’t care less about their well-being. Such attitudes have made buildings, fixings, roads and pavements, unsafe for both their workers and public resulting in increased occurrence of accidents and death. Landlords also have responsibilities which are being flouted because of greed. They rent out poorly maintained premises that are inadequate for many of the businesses which operate from them. The buildings themselves are not purpose built and ventilation and fire protection structures are often absent, old or malfunctioning. Chemical usage / disposal systems are also non existent and protective clothing is not provided by employers. Government budgetry “Cuts” have meant that the H&S overseeing bodies are few and far between making monitoring of work places virtually non-existent. Such environments lead to long term sicknesses and as many of these trades use an “itinerant” work force, it is difficult to track the cause of illnesses, spinal and muscle problems, fractures, nerve related, and long term debilitating and chronic conditions such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, mesothelioma.... which often appear years later.

Information about the campaign and statistics about the growing number of workers killed, injured or physically affected by their working conditions can be obtained from CSCUK (Construction Safety Campaign), as well as the London Hazards Centre, HSE and the Organising Committee for International Workers Memorial Day.

Statement from Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK)
on International Workers’ Memorial Day - 28 April 2015

“We come together today to collectively remember the dead and renew our commitment to fight like hell for the living.

“We ask you to hold all FACK families in your thoughts today. Our loved ones should not be dead. They died in incidents which would have been prevented had their employers simply obeyed workplace health and safety laws. We don’t need this special day to remember them. we feel their loss acutely each and every day and even more so on special occasions.

In the past year such days have included the 16th birthday of a daughter whoc dad could not be there to share in it.

The Easter Sunday which marked the 9th year that a son, husband and dad had missed out on holding birthday celebrations;

The 65th birthday on which a son was not there to share a pint with his dad, or the 17th birthday that a much loved son and brother did not live to see.

All of this pain is caused by employers’ failure to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously. And it is the entirely preventable deaths of all our loved ones that fuels our fight for the living.

In this ’General Election campaign period, it is a fight we want our politicians to take on because the scale of work related death, injury and ill health is staggering. 600,000 people each year who die or are injured at work or who develop a new work-related disease.

Huge numbers affected annually, particularly when account is taken of the impact on families, work colleagues and wider circles of friends. And those are the “official” figures. It won’t surprise you to hear the real toll is much higher.

So this is an issue which features large on the election agenda.... Right? You will struggle to find mention of health and safety in Party Manifestos and yet Health and Safety permeates so much, if not all, of the other topics they want you to believe them on.

They have plans for a thriving Economy. For the economy to prosper, jobs myst be created. To be good jobs, they must be safe jobs!

Would the strain on NHS resources not be eased if men like Stevie Delargey and Russ Brand didn’t have to be treated? They asked for a high voltage system to be isolated so they could work on it safely. Their request was refused because Raytheon didn’t want to interrupt production. An electircal explosion occured and both men ended up engulfed in flames, with one saying afterwards that “The skin was dripping off (his) face like wax.” These men were fortunate to come out of this incident with their lives.

But they have gone through years of treatments for burns and post-traumatic stress disorder ahd have endured lengthy perios without work, perhaps having relied on the ‘welfare’ system as a result. all of hat could have been avoided had the company complied with its responsibilities.

While the Parties go to battle on ‘immigration’, workers who have come to the UK to make better lives for themselves and their families are returning home in coffins. Marian Nemit was 21yr old Romanian who had only been in his job for 3 days when a wall collapsed on top of him. 44year old Slovakian concrete sprayer Rene Tkacik had come here to earn money to enable his daughter to go to university. The ‘CrossRail’ worker was crushed to death by a tonne of concrete. This ‘Transport’ project is said to be Europe’s largest construction project. But just in the last couple of months we have heard worrying reports of two trade unionist members dismissed for raising Health & Safety concerns, now the subject of a high profile campaign to get reinstatement.

Then, on Law & Order, we see justice delayed and can’t help but see that this leads to justice denied. The family of firefighter Ewan Williamson had to wait nearly 6 years for the case against the Fire Service to get to court. They now face a further wait to find out whether or not a fatal accident inquiry will be held.

And in respect of the Battersea Crane Disaster, the families of the two men who died had to wait nearly 6 years for an inquest into their deaths. They have heard this month that they will need to wait until September 2016 for the prosecution of the crane hire company. this will be 10 tears on from the deaths of Jonathon and Michael and the delay is being blamed in part o cuts in budgets at the Ministry of Justice. For the last 5 years, we have been living in a ConDem nation. The only condemnation we want to hear of after 7 May is in relation to the dangerous, life threatening, life costing policies of the previous Tory and Lib Dem coalition.

Instead we bed a government which will reverse the deregulation of Health & Safety, which will instead strengthen laws so that safety criminals fear being caught and so are deterred from continuing with their unsafe practices.

We need this backed up by Directors Duties. We must also ensure that the next governemnt commits to proactive, preventative inspections taking place so that unsafe situations are stopped before someone is killed, whether undertaken by a health and Safety Executive with bite, or by roving safety reps. Those in power need to recognise that union workplaces are safe workplaces, providing better rights and greater protections for safety reps.

We must see a full blacklisting of inquiry and pressure put on blacklisters to own up, clean up an pay up. And we need an overhaul of the inquest, fatal accident inquiry and criminal justice systems so that justice is no longer denied to families, whether because of delay or because the punishment does not fit the crime.

We will continue our fight, our voices growing ever louder, because we don’t want to read about any other Gary Pickering or Will Pages.

Gary died when his head became trapped between the back of his lorry and its tail lift, a case with haunting echoes of Graham Meldrum, whose partner Karen is a FACKer. And Will, he was aged just 22 when he was killed because an unsecured car park barrier crashed through the windscreen of his car.

This again is horribly familiar, this time to the FACK family of Kenneth Farr who died in just such circumstances. Will was buried alongside a scan of his unborn child. And because we hear weekly of new instances of loved ones who die at work or because of work, our politicians and wannabe politicians need to be woken up to the magnitude of the problem.

We will be continuing the fight for the living so that other siblings do not have to stand remembering their brothers so that other mums and dads do not have to stand remembering their sons. And so that other young nieces and nephews grow up knowing their uncles. So join your voices with ours and together let’s make this country a safer place to live and work.”

Foot Note:

International Workers’ Memorial Day
April 28 is recognised worldwide (and designated by the ILO - International Labour Organisation and the UN) as “Workers’ Memorial Day”, International Workers’ Memorial Day, or International Commemoration Day (ICD) for the Dead and Injured. The day is used to mark solidarity between workers and draw attention to the increasing numbers of workers killed, injured, maimed or made unwell by their work. In the UK this campaign has been championed by the Hazards Campaign (in London the London Hazards Centre) and supported by the various national Trades Union Congresses, H&S Commission and Executive Building sites are particularly hazardous environments in urban areas, life threatening situations occur across all places of work. These can be easily removed if proper working conditions are in place. Although the emphasis of Workers Memorial Day in London generally focuses on the building construction trades the wider campaign draws attention to hazardous conditions in a number of other working environments

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), across the world:
Each year, more than two million men and women die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases. Workers suffer approximately 270 million accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of -related illnesses Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die whilst at work than those fighting wars.

Useful links:
Building and Wood Worker's International
Health and Safety Executive
Health and Safety Executive current campaigns
Workers' Memorial Day on TUC site
Workers' Memorial Day on wikipedia
London Hazards Centre


Hiroshima and Nagasaki • commemoration of the 70th Anniversary

People came together in London’s Tavistock Square on 6 August 2015 (12 noon - 1pm) to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The main event with Speakers in the Square was organised by CND and was complemented with a number meetings, exhibitions and film shows taking place in the nearby ‘Friends House’ - Euston Road.

Speakers addressing the gathering included veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent, vice-president of CND, and Jeremy Corbyn MP and vice chair of CND. They both called for nuclear disarmament and spoke against the renewal of Trident.

Other participating speakers and performers were: Mayor of Camden Cllr Larraine Revah, Baroness Jenny Jones, George Binette (Chair: Camden Trades Council), Sheila Triggs (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom), Rev. S Nagase (Battersea Peace Pagoda), Peter Dunn, Paul Steele, A Peace Choir, A L Kennedy and Potent Whisper. During the short prayer ceremony there was a two minute silence in memory of the victims of nuclear weapons and war. Following this people each placed a flower at the “Hiroshima Cherry Tree” and decorated it with origami doves. The significance of the cherry tree is that not only is it synonymous with Japanese culture but it was the first tree to grow in Hiroshima after the Nuclear bomb. The cherry tree was planted in the square in 1967 by Millie Miller, who was the first woman ‘mayor’ of a London Borough - (Camden).


The March against Austerity

Depending on who you listen to or what papers you read, estimates of the numbers of people who joined the ‘Anti Austerity’ demonstration, march and rally on 20 June 2015 varied between 70,000 and 150,000. Whatever the estimates the event was massive. People, of all ages, from across the country and from every campaign, pressure group and organisation you’ve heard of joined together under the gloomy shadow of the Bank of England in the City of London to protest against the Tory Government’s cynical “Austerity” policies. At a time when so many people in this country and across the world are struggling to make ends meet it was heartening to see such public determination to defeat the bad policies of corrupt governance. Following a lively march of colourful flags, humorous banners, flares, whistles and infectious chants the concluding rally in Parliament Square, opposite the House of Commons, was the highlight of the day. An impressive line up of speakers addressed the huge crowd: Marina Prentoulis of Syriza, Len McCluskey, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Martin McGuiness, Kate Hudson of CND, and Charlotte Church stood alongside comedians Francesca Martinez, Mark Steel, and Russell Brand. On this day the recent general election seemed a distant memory at this rally. Yet the close proximity of Downing Street was a brief reminder of a bad result....!!!


Solidarity march in London against Ankara bombings

Around the world people were stunned at the brutality of suicide bombings which destroyed a ‘Peace Rally’ held by trade unionists and peace activists in Ankara, Turkey, on Saturday - October 10th. The two suicide bombers who carried out this criminal attack have been associated with Turkish ISIS who are known to be embedded in both Istanbul and Ankara. The response to this atrocity has been worldwide. National and International Trade Unions and Labour movements have sent messages of support to the familiies of the 104 dead and 300 hundred wounded. Resolutions have been taken in the fight against those who persist in executing crimes against humanity. In London, on Sunday 11 October, the Turkish and Kurdish communities came together and were joined by many others who shared their grief and anger at the continuing senseless violence perpetrated by those who fear democracy. In an attempt to bring everyone's anger to the attention of the UK government and National Media a noisy rally was held in front of 10 Downing Street followed by a long march to the BBC’s Broadcasting House.


National Pensioners Convention - Old Palace Yard Westminster 2015

National Pensioners Convention (GREATER LONDON REGION)
PROTEST
HALT DEATHS OF PENSIONERS FROM COLD RELATED ILLNESSES
The figures for the number of additional winter deaths of older people, due to cold related illnesses will be announced on Wednesday 25th November 2015. On that day London Region NPC will be releasing black balloons, with each balloon representing 1000 deaths. Last year it was 18,000 deaths.

Took place at 12.00 on Wednesday 25 November 2015 by George V's statue at Old Palace Yard Westminster opposite the House of Lords.

More information: info@npcuk.org.