The annual Workers’ Memorial Day commemoration was held on 28 April at the memorial tree in Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh. Branch health and safety convener Ian Mullen addressed the event, and we print his speech in full below.
“Every year on this day we meet to remember those workers who have paid the ultimate price. No one should go to work, not expecting to return home, but that is what continues to happen on a daily basis in the UK and Internationally. The health, safety, and wellbeing of workers worldwide is a priority and must improve.
The last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of trade union Health and Safety representatives in all workplaces.
I want to pay tribute to all our front-line colleagues who have continued to provide vital services during this time. Many of those comrades are the lowest paid in the council and deserve more recognition. Many have been put at increased risk of infection, become seriously ill or died as a result.
The UK and Scottish Government have now taken the decision to remove all COVID restrictions at a time when community and workplace infection rates remain high, and we have heard from our EIS colleague about the situation in schools were positive cases of COVID-19 are currently over 15,800 since the
1 January 2022. That is double the figure from August to December last year.
Yesterday’s statement by the Scottish Government to remove the remaining shielding restrictions from those individuals classed as clinically high risk is fundamentally flawed, and contrary to the Scottish Governments statement, this move will not improve an individual’s ability to further engage in community activity but will place them at increased risk of infection.
At the same time, we have had a regulator in the Health and Safety Executive that has been completely ineffective.
I want to take this opportunity to thank UK and Scottish Hazards for the work they continue to do with the Trade Unions and in non-unionised workplaces.
I also want to thank Professor Andy Watterson, who we heard from earlier, for his continued work and support to the trade union movement over many years, and especially for the specialist assistance to myself during the pandemic.
At this time, we should also remember all those workers and communities who are being displaced by tyranny and war, many of whom have died as a result. We condemn Russia’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, whilst remembering the situation in other countries such as Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yemen amongst others.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to my friend and comrade John Stevenson, whom many of you may know. I had known John for over 25 years and in that time, he held various positions within UNISON City of Edinburgh branch.
John was well known in the trade union and Labour movement in Scotland and in the UK. He was a campaigner, educator and was respected for his work with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
John retired in 2019 and continued to work for UNISON on our communications and with the Nelson Mandela Foundation right up until his death on the 6 April 2022. John will be sadly missed by many people including myself and there will be a celebration of his life on Saturday. Details can be found on the Edinburgh and UNISON Scotland websites.”