Let’s remember those who have died because of their work

On International Workers’ Memorial Day, let us all take a minute to remember how precious life is and the cost that many workers pay every year, around the globe.

Today, on International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD), UNISON and the whole trade union movement will lead the way in showing respect for all those who have sadly lost their lives while working.

During a minute’s silence at 11am, we also thought of their families and friends, so deeply affected by their tragic loss.

Most work-related accidents and diseases can be avoided, but only if employers make health and safety a top priority. Statistics suggest that, on average, 135 workers die each year in the UK from work related accidents, and a further 13,000 from preventable occupational lung diseases and cancers.

But at UNISON, we believe the true figure could be more like 50,000 – a shocking figure if you include work related car accidents and suicide due to work stress, which aren’t counted in official statistics.

It’s a key part of trade unionists’ work to make safe and healthy workplaces a fundamental right for all, and it’s rightly also the theme for this year’s IWMD.

We especially fight for our members in precarious employment; for Black, disabled and women workers who have experienced disparities in workplace safety and COVID risk throughout the pandemic.

Even though we may never know the true toll of deaths from COVID caught at work, or the ongoing legacy of long COVID, we must never forget how dangerously exposed to COVID-19 our public sector workers have been during the pandemic.

Where employers failed, it was UNISON, and our amazing health and safety reps, who fought so hard to keep our members safe.

Right now, our members face new challenges in the public sector.

Underfunding, understaffing, exhaustion, stress and burnout are all huge health and safety risks – risks that could be mitigated immediately with the right choices and decisive action from governments and employers.

Properly funded public services, investment in staff, and giving the Health and Safety Executive more teeth and resources to inspect workplaces and take enforcement action would be a start.

And as this is an international day, we also remember those workers who have died across the globe.

Right now, healthcare and emergency workers in Ukraine, and other regions experiencing war and conflict, show compassion, dedication and bravery that stands in stark contrast to the destruction being caused around them.

Many of our branches have already planned commemoration events for today, so please, wherever you are, join us by holding a minute’s silence at 11am.

I know how hard you work all day and the minutes usually fly by.

But when we all stop and take just 60 seconds to reflect, we can truly appreciate that every second of life is precious and remember the high price paid by workers across the world.

– Post from the National UNISON website.

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