For the first time in 3 years physical commemoration of International Workers’ Memorial Day was possible and trade unions, politicians, members of the public and, most importantly, bereaved family members could join together to remember all those who have died as a result of work.
Working with the STUC, Scottish Hazards wanted to ensure the COVID inflicted suspension of commemorations had no lasting impact on the Day and the important message these gatherings send to employers across Scotland, the United Kingdom and throughout the world. Any fears were quickly allayed and #IWMD22 last Thursday witnessed the highest profile for International Workers’ Memorial Day in Scotland since it was first recognised in 1992.
Across Scotland 21 events took place and from Shetland to Dumfries the sacrfice that too many workers have had to make in providing for their families was remembered and and our resolve to fight for safer, healthier, fairer and greener workplaces strenghtened.
Central to this year’s commemorations was contributons from Catriona Lochart in Inverness, Magi McKay in Bathgate and Natalie Woods McKeown in Glasgow and Kilmarnock, each have known the pain of seeing a loved one off to work but never return. Catriona’s partner, Clive Hendry was killed when he fell between a workboat and a feed barge on a MOWI fish farm in Kyle of Lochalsh. Magi’s brother John, from West Lothian, was killed in an explosion while operating a cherry picker during demolition of coke ovens at the former SSI Steelworks in Redcar. John Woods, Natalie’s dad was killed when he became trapped in a road planing machine just over 20 years ago on 16th April 2002.
What unites their families, and many others, is not just the pain and suffering of losing a loved one in tragic circumstances but the anger that, in each case the incident that stole their loved ones from them should have, and could have been prevented.
For many years, Scottish Hazards Trustee and founder member of Families Against Corprate Killers, Louise Adamson whose brother Michael was killed at work in 2005 was the sole voice of families in Scotland, speaking out about the injustice they face when loved ones are killed at work. Scottish Hazards would like to recognise the couarge of Catriona, Magi, Natalie, Louise and every other family who challenges the system evey step of the way in their quest for justice. Every one of you has a powerful voice, collectively even more so and, as Roz Foyer said at the Glasgow commemoration the STUC, Scottish Hazards and the whole Scottish trade union movement is behind you in your fight.
Our campaign to turn Scotland purple each and every April 28th took massive steps forward. Four local authorities, Orkney, Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, Argyll and Bute and East Lothian all agreed to recognise IWMD for the first time and committing to further discussions to develop this recognition in coming years. These agreements followed lobbying by the STUC and our organisation, supported by Unity Consulting. The only local authority, ignoring our calls (and our correspondence) was Angus Council.
The second strand of the STUC/Scottish Hazards turn Scotland purple campaign saw Edinburgh Castle lit purple in recognition of IWMD as well as St Magnus Cathdral in Kirkwall, Dumfries and Galloway Council HQ, Dundee House and Dundee Railway Station to add to the many others.
So, all things considered #IWMD22 was a case of not just picking up where we left off, we have the day recognised more or less across the whole of Scotland, more buildings are lit purple and the voice of those who have lost most, bereaved families has been heard across the country, on social media, television, radio and newspapers. A fitting tribute to workers fatally injured at work as well as a campaigning call to ensure we continue to, as Catriona Lockhart said, fight like hell for the living.