International Workers' Memorial Day

28 April 2010, 12:00 - 13:30

ICTU Marks International Workers Memorial Day 28th April 2010

Download the Congress Workers' Memorial Day Poster here »

Check out Workers' Memorial Day posters from other countries here »

The purpose behind Workers' Memorial Day is to "remember the dead: fight for the living" and unions are asked to focus on both areas, by considering events or memorial to remember all those killed through work but at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated. That can best be done by building trade union organisation, and campaigning for safer workplaces, stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of health & safety laws.

This year the ICTU will hold a national event in the Chester Beatty Library to mark Workers Memorial Day. The purpose of the event is to remember those who have lost their lives and their health at or because of their work and to highlight the preventable nature of workplace accidents and ill health. The event aims to draw attention to workers who, through their unions, have done so much to make workplaces safer everyday, and to promote campaigns and union organisation to improve health and safety at work. It is also a day to remember all those who have been bereaved, families, colleagues and friends and this year we will have a special focus on workplace bereavement policies.

Speakers include David Begg, Congress General Secretary, Martin OHalloran CEO Health and Safety Authority and Breffni McGuinness on Workplace Bereavement; other speakers have also be invited to give their reflections. Minute silence at 12:00 midday.

What can you do to mark the day?

  • Get your employer to allow some form of recognition of the day, such as one minute's silence to remember anyone who has died or become ill because of their work;
  • Organise a meeting on health and safety. You could focus on a particular issue of concern where you work or the development of a work place bereavement policy (Irish Hospice Foundation - Grief at Work);
  • Arrange an event such as planting a memorial tree in a public place, putting up a plaque, dedicating a sculpture, a piece of art, or a bench, to remember workers who have been killed at the workplace or in the community;
  • Arrange a talk about fire safety at work;
  • Distribute purple 'forget-me-not' ribbons, the symbol of Workers Memorial Day;
  • Ask your employer to make the safety statement and specific risk assessments available electronically on company intranet sites which can be easily interrogated
  • Asking local religious centres to include Workers' Memorial Day in their worship during the Week;
  • Finding out what unions are planning and take part in that event.
  • Taking the time to remember the friends and the colleagues whose lives were forever changed or whose lives came to an end on... that day they went to work.
  • Taking the time to organise for safer workplaces because union workplaces are safer workplaces.

Tell us about your event - contact us here »

Trade Unions Make Workplaces Safer Everyday

There is plenty of evidence to show that Trade Unions do make work safer. A new study published by the International Labour Organisation shows that in the construction industry, compliance with health and safety laws is "highly dependent" on the presence of Trade Union Safety Representatives in the workplace with external Trade Union support for information and training on health and safety problems. In this study, Trade Unions were found to be a "key determinant" in workplaces with good safety performance. Trade unions are a centrepiece in building safer workplaces.

All too often, current production systems are organised in such a way that workers are expected to absorb pressures for higher productivity by accepting less protection and more job insecurity, often risking their health and lives for a wage. Acting collectively to combat this through trade unions is a first step towards a safer workplace. In addition, scientific evidence and workers' perception show that when workers are represented by trade unions on occupational health and safety issues, their working environment is significantly better than where they are left alone with their concerns.

Union action on occupational health is oriented towards risk elimination and control, and this basically means working on prevention. For years, unions have been working at the workplace to identify problems, raise awareness among workers, elaborate proposals, negotiate agreements, and verify their enforcement and efficiency.

  • Unions often realise the risks long before management. It was unions that highlighted the dangers of asbestos and campaigned for a ban many years before government did so. If unions had been listened to it would have saved the lives of literally thousands of workers.
  • Unions offer workers the opportunity to share their concerns with their colleagues and collectively discuss the health problems caused by their working conditions. Unions combat any tendency to tell workers that occupational injuries or diseases are just individual problems.

A preventative culture needs us all: governments, employers and workers need to actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the principle of prevention is accorded the highest priority

Government and Employer Support for Worker Health and Safety Education is Key

There is so much more that employers can do to ensure that the people who work for them know the safest way to their jobs and how to protect themselves from workplace hazards. Having a union with a health and safety committee makes a big difference and having employers and the government on our side providing support for workplace health and safety committees and health and safety training will make an even bigger difference.

Two things employers and government could commit to today that would make the a real difference firstly, to support unions that organise workplace health and safety committees and secondly to commit to increase worker health and safety education.


Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle

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