The theme of this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day, which takes place on 28 April, is “Strong Laws, Strong Enforcement and Strong Unions”.
The purpose behind the annual event is to raise awareness of the number of workers who lose their lives every year as a result of their work by “remembering the dead and fighting for the living”. In other words, to remember all those killed through work, while at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated.
The best way to do that, as the TUC suggests, is by building trade union organisation, and campaigning for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health and safety laws.
The 2016 theme has been adopted because of the growing attacks around the world on health and safety protection, including in Britain where the government has removed protection from millions of self-employed workers, and across Europe where the European Commission is pursuing a de-regulatory strategy.
However strong laws are not enough if they are not going to be enforced. Hence the need for proper inspections and enforcement action against those who break the laws. Here in the UK the number of inspections has fallen dramatically in the past five years, while in many other countries enforcement has always been non-existent.
Despite the fact that unionised workplaces are safer, the government is trying to stop unions protecting the health and safety of their members by restricting the right of health and safety representatives to take time off to keep the workplace safer, and also trying to reduce the right to strike when things go wrong.
Workers Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government.
David Robinson of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “The government’s efforts to remove regulation and enforcement in respect of health and safety legislation is to dismantle the strong safety culture that has been built up over a number of years through the strength and determination of the trade union movement. One death in the workplace is one death too many, and through relaxing of safety rules lives are being lost in the most preventable of circumstances. Every worker at the end of every day should be able to return home from work and together we must tell this government that enough is enough”.
The TUC has a list of national events on its website: https://www.tuc.org.uk/wmd2016