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On International Workers’ Memorial Day, today (Tuesday 28 April), TUC South West and its 48 affiliated unions are remembering all working people who have died as a result of health and safety failings at work. This year’s focus will rightly focus on workers who have died with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 as a result of inadequate personal protective equipment.

The unions federation will mark their deaths by a one minute’s silence at 11am today, and is inviting everyone to get involved, wherever they are in the region.

Nigel Costley, TUC South West Regional Secretary said:

“Every year we honour workers from around the world whose deaths could have been avoided but for the negligence of bad employers who failed to protect the health and safety of their workforce.

“Today, we want to honour all the workers who have died as a result of Covid-19 and especially those who have died because of failings around lack of PPE and inadequate social distancing measures at work.

“From care workers looking after our elderly relatives to NHS staff and other frontline emergency workers, from retail workers feeding the nation to transport and delivery workers distributing essential supplies, to school teachers, and so many more. Day in, day out, these everyday heroes are putting their lives on the line. Yet far too many are dying as a result of woefully poor PPE, or in some appalling cases, absolutely none provided.

“Unions have been working flat-out with employers to ensure key workers are protected. Most workplaces have stepped up and done the right thing.

“But their efforts have been hampered by national government’s slow response to getting protective equipment, especially to key workers. And it’s becoming clear that there have been too many missed opportunities to get supplies to the front lines.

“These failures are having devastating consequences as the number of lives lost by workers goes up.  

“This simple act of silence will be a small but significant way for all of us to honour those who have died, and add further respect to the hundreds of thousands of workers who continue to look after us during these unprecedented times.”

The TUC have been urging national government to ramp up PPE supplies since day one of the pandemic.

Last week, the TUC called on the government to set up a public inquiry to address the “grotesque failure” to provide frontline workers with adequate personal protective equipment.

One Minute's Silence at 11am on Workers Memorial Day - poster
Editors note

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 

The TUC wants the inquiry to specifically look at:

    • Why there were delays in the planning for and delivery of PPE. 
    • Whether guidance about the need for PPE in diverse workplace settings was timely and robust. 
    • Whether staff were put under pressure to work with inadequate or out-of-date PPE; and if so why. 
    • Whether staff were threatened with disciplinary action for raising concerns about the lack of PPE; and if so why. 
    • Why the NHS, social and residential care and other workplace settings have struggled to source PPE from suppliers.  
    • And cover both private and public sector workers carrying out essential work.
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