Workers’ Memorial Day 2017
It was an honour to join friends and colleagues from UNISON, UCATT, Unite and across the trade union movement in Liverpool on Workers’ Memorial Day. I’ve been a trade union member for 30 years. My father was recruited to the Transport and General Workers Union by none other than Jack Jones himself. The trade union movement is an integral part of who I am and my politics.
Still in 2017, more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their profit margin was more important than their workers. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. They die because an employer decided that their workers just weren’t important enough.
As we all know, the slogan for Worker’ Memorial Day is “remember the dead – fight for the living”.
In recent years we have seen good quality secure jobs be replaced by low paid, low hours, insecure work. Now, with Brexit on the horizon, we face new threats to our workplace rights and protections – it is European Legislation that guarantees our right to be safe in our workplace.
The theme for Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 is about good health and safety for all. We in the trade union movement know that an organised workplace is a safe workplace.
Workplaces that have union safety reps and a safety committee have half the major injury rate of companies that don’t. The role of union safety reps is increasingly vital. Continued attacks from the Tories on safety laws, safety regulations and cuts to the funding of the Health and Safety Executive mean that unions and their safety reps are the frontline of workplace safety. If unions aren’t keeping their workplaces safe then it is unlikely that anyone else will.
In the run up to the Referendum I walked into an event where a Tory MEP said that the best thing about coming out of Europe will be getting rid of this unnecessary health and safety regulation. I happen to believe that everyone has the right to go to work in the morning with the expectation that they will return home safe to their families at night.
The next few weeks are an important one for the trade union and labour movement in the UK. Seven years of Tory austerity has devastated our pay, terms and conditions in work. Seven years of the Tories has left the country divided and working people worse off. Seven years of the Tories has pushed our public services to the brink of collapse. Working people cannot afford another 7 years of the Tories. It must stop. Trade union members and activists hold the key to putting an end to this ideologically driven austerity agenda that is hitting working and low paid people the hardest.
While we remember the dead on Workers’ Memorial Day, over the next 41 days we must fight for the living. We must fight for a government that will deliver for working people. A government that will ensure our health and safety in the workplace. A government that will protect and improve pay, terms and conditions. A government that will work with, not against, the trade union movement. A government that will invest in our public services. A government that will bring our country and our society back together and who will work in our common good. A Labour government.