Tuesday April 28 International Workers’ Memorial Day
Stop the Pandemic in the Workplace
Full public inquiry needed!

Health unions UNISON and Unite, with Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwives and the TUC have called for a minute’s silence at 11am on Tuesday April 28 to remember the workers who have died because of COVID-19.

28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day, a time each year to remember all those who have died because of their work – and with so many workers now in the coronavirus front line, the IWMD slogan “Remember the dead, Fight for the living” has never been so crucial.

The pandemic is having a major impact on everyone, not just on lives and physical well-being but on mental health as well, causing people anxiety, worry and putting them under additional stress.

The health unions collectively represent more than a million NHS and public service workers, including porters, refuse collectors and care staff.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said it would be “the ultimate tribute to remember workers who’ve lost their lives and put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and vital services running.

“Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS.”

Thousands more workers across the UK are caring for those suffering from COVID-19 or delivering vital public services that are vital for us all – potentially putting their own safety and even their own lives at risk. In many cases, these workers know that, by simply doing their jobs, they are putting themselves at risk.

Those working in childcare, police services and refuse collection, in hostels and rescue centres, in gas, water and electricity, and in transport services are among those whose work and dedication is often under-estimated and under paid.

Tragically, some of these workers have already died. In some cases, more could have been done to protect them, whether by better enforcement of social distancing, looking after workers with underlying health conditions or provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.

Unite also argues that “Workers are risking their lives every day, while many are still attending work ill-equipped and without necessary safety measures in place. We could not have a starker reminder of the important role of trade union health and safety reps in saving and protecting workers’ lives.”

Meanwhile the campaign to ensure there is a full investigation of the way the crisis has been handled by the government, to give the UK one of the highest Covid-19 death tolls in Europe, has been stepped up by the TUC demanding a judge-led public inquiry by the end of the year into the “grotesque failure to provide frontline workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).”

The TUC says that in order for the same mistakes not be made in the future the inquiry must look at:

Why there were delays in the planning for and delivery of PPE.

Whether guidance about the need for PPE in diverse workplace settings was timely and robust.

Whether staff were put under pressure to work with inadequate or out-of-date PPE; and if so why.

Whether staff were threatened with disciplinary action for raising concerns about the lack of PPE; and if so why.

Why the NHS, social and residential care and other workplace settings have struggled to source PPE from suppliers.

It can’t come a moment too soon.

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