Bristol Workers Memorial Day 2018

Every year 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 safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers.Workers memorial day logo

Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.

The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight for the living”.

In 2018 the theme of Workers’ Memorial Day is Unionised workplaces are safer workplaces. We will also be celebrating 40 years of union health and safety representatives.

Bristol March and Rally
Saturday 28th April 2018, 12.00
Assemble at Tony Benn House, Victoria Street
March to Castle Park for Rally
12:00 March from Tony Benn House
12:30 Rally in Castle Park
Brendan Kelly (RMT Regional Organiser)
Sheila Caffrey (NEU-NUT)
Simon Crew (Bristol Trades Union Council)

A leaflet advertising the march & Rally can be found here – Leaflet Workers Memorial Day 2018

More information about International Workers Memorial Day and Health and Safety issues can be here Hazards Campaign.

Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living!
Unionised workplaces are safer workplaces

Trades Union Councils logo

The Bristol march and rally is organised by Bristol Trades Union Council

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  1. Report on Bristol’s International Workers Memorial Day march and rally 2018.

    Bristol trade unionists marching to the wreath laying ceremony on International Workers Memorial Day 2018

    In Bristol on 28th March trade unionists commemorated International Memorial Workers Day by marching from the Unite regional office, Tony Benn House, to a rally in an area of Castle Park that commemorates the deaths of those workers killed at work, those who died fighting fascism in Spain and those ho died in the nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

    Prior to the wreath laying ceremony Simon Crew, President of Bristol Trades Union Council, opened the commemorative rally by reporting that in Britain during the last year 31 workers in the construction industry had been killed with another 64,00o injured and another 27 killed in agriculture.

    Simon pointed out that across the world 2 million workers die each year from work related accidents or illnesses which one worker dying every 15 seconds.

    He reminded the marchers present that “We remember the dead and fight for the living” and that unionised workplaces make safer workplaces with health and safety reps saving the economy up to £750 million each year by preventing accidents and deaths in the workplace.

    Brendan Kelly, RMT, spoke of the massive battle we have to fight across many workplaces. Even though we have the safely legislation and the powers in the workplace we know that unless we have industrial power through safety reps and the union to backup the law and take on the employers about safety nothing will happen.

    Brendan said that “The trade union movement has to be doing much much more to reinforce our safety reps on the shop floor, it’s not just safety law but industrial action and solidarity on the shop floor that makes employers back down.

    Nobody should be loosing their lives when they go to work and it’s our job to make that stop and that trade unionists should fight for the health and safety of workers and put the employers on the back foot.

    Sheila Caffrey, NEU (NUT Section), highlighted that asbestos is a very high killer in schools and that Britain has the highest mesothelioma rate in the world with 86% of schools containing asbestos.

    She said that
    “The extent of exposure to pupils and teachers is that 319 teachers have died since 1980 with 205 happening in the last 16 years alone. Deaths are now averaging 17 per year up from 3 during the early eighties. The limited inspections by the HSE in the last few years has found flaws in asbestos management which has led to enforcement action. However as relatively few schools have been inspected it begs the question what is the situation in those schools that haven’t been inspected. NEU researchers have found that school staff and pupils are being exposed to asbestos on a daily basis and are not being told about the presence of asbestos when its been found.

    Sheila pointed out that “Unlike other workplaces in schools the main occupants are children who engage in normal but maybe slightly more boisterous activities than adults which are more likely to disturb asbestos. Walls in our schools have crumbling plaster which a seven year old might pick at

    Sheila called for asbestos to be removed from our schools under strict controlled and highly regulated conditions.

    She explained that “With year on year cuts health and safety is weighed up against redundancies and adequate resources for the classroom. Peoples lives should not be gambled with. Funding should meet the needs for essential health and safety as well as ensuring that there is adequate staff and resources.”

    Sheila pointed out that “With £10 million in compensation being paid out to former pupils and member of staff who have been exposed to asbestos in schools the financial costs and human costs of not tackling asbestos is too high. There is not a long term plan for the eradication of asbestos in schools. Local authorities need to fully fund the removal of all asbestos if this means a mass rebuilding of all schools then this needs to be done.

    She said “that when £300,000 was spent removing asbestos from royal households in 2014 and a further £150 million has been proposed for royal household refurbishment which includes the removal of asbestos. Likewise restoration work for the House of Parliament is scheduled to cost up to £5.7 billion which include asbestos removal. If asbestos removal is good enough for royal households and our politicians why should pupils and teachers receive any less.

    Sheila then went of to explain that asbestos is not the only killer in our schools but that the suicide rate of primary schools teachers in our schools is 42% higher than the national average. There were 139 suicides of teaching professionals between 2011 and 2015. With 75% of teachers reporting symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and thoughts of suicide and still nothing has been done. This can only be called negligence by he government and local authorities and at worst it can be considered manslaughter.

    She pointed out that this has come about because “More and more pressure is deliberately piled on schools and teachers through exams and accountability measures for every single lesson. Is it surprising that techersi n schools are saying that they just can’t cope any more.

    Sheila reported that the NEU in supporting teachers in schools has found that all their courses dealing with stress related issues are always oversubscribed.

    Sheila said that “Stress from an exam based data system in our schools whereas teaching in schools should be about getting our children prepared to face the world with skills that are allow them to build a society that benefits us all, we need a system where children get to learn and teachers get to teach which can inspire and motivate children for life long learning.

    She concluded “We honour and remember all those teachers who have died giving their lives to the profession that they love and died giving their lives to benefiting society and improving the lives of children and young people. Asbestos deaths and suicides should not have a place in the 21st century and these death are unacceptable and we must fight back to ensure that schools killing teachers and pupils are a thing of the past.

    Bruce Robin, Thompson Solicitors, reminded the assembled trade unionist that 6,000 workers die around the world every day, these people die because some basis provisions in respect of health and safety aren’t followed. Sine 1921 Thompson Solicitors have been standing shoulder to shoulder with trade unions and the labour movement to represent workers and to develop the law to protect and create safer workplaces.

    Bruce explained that one of the reasons he was here was to respect the dead and fight for the living he also wanted to set an example, for children in particular that are here today, to remember those that have passed away due to workplace accidents but we also what to change things and prevent so there is less chance that individuals in the future will face the same problems.

    Bristol retired member Cyril Phelps at the IWMD Bristol memorial

    Unite South West Regional Chair Kevin Terry at the IWMD Bristol memorial

    photos thanks to Unite – South West


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