By Sophie Nutt
Hundreds of people gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall today in honour of Workers Memorial Day. The commemoration hopes to remember those who have died in the workplace.
There was a rally calling to improve workers’ rights followed by wreath laying for people to pay respects to the victims who have suffered from such poor health and safety conditions at work.
The campaign is an annual event and this year the theme is ‘Strong laws – strong enforcement – Strong unions’, bidding for stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health and safety laws.
The purpose behind Workers Memorial Day has always been to ‘remember the dead: fight for the living’ and the campaigners ask for unions to remember all those killed through work but at the same time to ensure that these tragedies aren’t repeated.
The day was established in America in 1970 in a bid to remember the hundreds of thousands of people killed or injured on the job every year – now, Workers Memorial Day is commemorated around the world and is recognised by the UK government.
A minute’s silence was held at 12.30pm to remember all of the lives lost in the workplace and various speakers led the rally with speeches, including Christopher Biggs from the Sheffield and Rotherham Asbestos Group, who said:
‘We all need to work together to effect change, because it’s important to prevent the needless injuries and consequential deaths in the future that sadly occur in the workplace.’
Leeds East Labour MP, Richard Burgon, who also spoke at the rally, said:
‘All these gains that have been gained are not because the establishment woke up one morning and decided to give them to us, but because the trade union and labour movements wrestled those gains from the grasp of the establishment.’
Swarms of people appeared at the rally armed with banners and signs and some were dressed with a purple knotted ‘forget me knot’ ribbon which has been adopted as the symbol for Workers Memorial Day.