Edinburgh International Workers Memorial – 28th April 2023

The Edinburgh International Workers Memorial took place on Friday 28th April at the Memorial Tree in West Princes Street Gardens. 150 people attended the event and around 30 wreaths and floral tributes were laid.

Keynote speakers: Catriona Lockhart, whose partner died through work, Tracey McBurnie, UNISON NHS Lothian and Gus Sproul, FBU Regional Chair

Ian Mullen, Branch Health and Safety Officer and Allan King Health and Safety Vice Convener, laid a wreath on behalf of the branch.  Ian addressed the event, and we print his speech in full below.

Afternoon comrades, Ian Mullen, UNISON, City of Edinburgh Branch.

Thank you for attending Edinburgh’s International Workers Memorial Day event.

It doesn’t seem like a year since I stood here and paid my respects to all workers of the world and particularly to my friend and comrade John Stevenson, our retired Branch President, who died a year ago in February.

I would also like to pay my personal respects to firefighter Barry Martin who recently lost his life fighting the Jenners fire.

Like thousands of others, I and colleagues from UNISON and Trade Unions in Communities joined mourners on the High Street to pay our respects to Barry’s family and to the Firefighting family.

It brings home the dangers that all our emergency and front-line colleagues face daily when carrying out our work.

Last year, I highlighted all our hopes that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine would come to a quick conclusion. Unfortunately, that has not been the case and we can only send our support and solidarity to those Ukrainian workers that have now taken up arms to protect their country.

We also see what is happening in Sudan, with the displacement of many members of the population.

Our support and solidarity should go to all that suffer from war or other forms of deprivation and oppression.

Regrettably, for many refugees seeking the safety of the UK, they now face a right-wing Tory Government prioritising discriminatory racist policy.

John McLean, the great Glasgow revolutionary, once said that all the armies of the world are the enemies, as the only ones that win are the capitalists. How true that is today.

With regards to COVID-19, the UK and Scottish Governments have all but washed their hands of responsibility, putting the economy before public health.

Yet infection rates are as high now as they were at the height of the pandemic. Regrettably, the public no longer get to hear the figures as they are no longer reported or recorded, with all funding removed by the UK Government.

At the same time employers are now demanding that workers return to workplaces on mass, with no restrictions. It shouldn’t be forgotten that many of our lowest paid workers suddenly became classed as essential. Clapped one day and kicked in the backside the next.

Many of the largest employers, including my own, do not have sufficient measures in place, including CO2 monitors or HEPA units to protect workers from infection and this severely impacts workplace absence and services, sometimes to the most vulnerable in society.

In the UK there are over 2 million people that have been diagnosed with long COVID. Over 136,000 NHS staff amongst that figure.

That is why I want to encourage all of you to go back to your trade union branches and sign up to the COVID Safety Pledge. Encourage your employers to sign the COVID Safety Pledge as a starting point to protect workers and service users.

The UK and Scottish Governments won’t do it and the Health and Safety Executive certainly won’t, as they have been woeful as a Regulator all the way through the pandemic.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to all striking workers, and I see our PSC comrades here today while on strike. To all our trade union health and safety representatives and to the work of UK and Scottish Hazards.

If your branches are not affiliated to Scottish Hazards, please affiliate, and support their continued work.

Solidarity, brothers, and sisters.