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Britain remembers workplace victims

International Workers’ Memorial Day ceremony attended by construction workers and union staff

A lone piper played a mournful lament in honour of workplace victims yesterday at one of dozens of ceremonies as Britain commemorated International Workers’ Memorial Day.

Hundreds of construction workers — many from nearby sites — came to show their respect at one of the biggest events, in Tower Hill, London.

They stood in silence as representatives, including from union Ucatt and Construction Safety Campaign (CSC) representatives, laid wreaths at the pedestal of the Building Worker Statue to remember those killed or injured at work.

The London event was echoed across the country as workers marked the lives lost each year to bosses’ negligence.

CSC, Hazards, Unite and Ucatt had earlier gathered outside the Qatari embassy to deliver a letter highlighting the “squalid” conditions and many deaths of construction workers in the country to build the World Cup 2022 stadiums. 

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail spoke to the Star after waiting half an hour at the embassy’s front doors before someone from inside finally accepted the document. 

“Today was a fantastic demonstration of solidarity with migrant workers who are literally living under slave-like conditions,” said Ms Cartmail.

The contingent then joined the commemoration at Tower Hill.

In Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones spoke at a Workers’ Memorial Day event outside the Unite offices in Cardiff.

“One death at work is one death too many,” he said.

Mr Jones recalled that, a century after Britain’s worst ever mining disaster, in which 440 men and boys were killed at Senghenydd, near Caerphilly, four miners had drowned at the Gleision colliery in 2011.

“All workers have the right to go to work and not face avoidable risks of maiming or death,” Mr Jones declared.

The Welsh political leader took issue with the Westminster government’s depiction of health and safety as a burden.

“In Wales we believe that there is not too much health and safety legislation but not enough to stop preventable deaths and injuries at work,” he added.

Activists in England echoed his concerns.

CSC secretary Tony O’Brien said: “While Workers’ Memorial Day is on the calendar as being a government officially recognised event, the government’s hypocrisy and true intent has been to cut or undermine the very safeguards we have which act to prevent more deaths.”

The Scottish TUC also hosted 10 different events on the day.

Many speakers highlighted other international industrial disasters including the collapse of Bangladeshi clothes factory, Rana Plaza, which marked its first anniversary last week.

As reported by the Star yesterday, the Con-Dem government has been keen on cutting back in provisions to health and safety regulations bodies. 

The cuts have resulted in the virtual disappearance of workplace check-ups in certain parts of Britain. 

In London alone four people have died as a result of work accidents in the last six months.

Among them was Dainius Rupsys, a 33-year-old man from Lithuania, who died as a floor at the former US naval building in Grosvenor Square collapsed earlier this month.



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