International Workers’ Memorial Day 2021 #IWMD21
Ross Whalley and Poppy Barnett discusses the importance of International Workers’ Memorial Day
Posted on 28 April 2021
At the International Labour Conference in 2019, in a declaration, it was confirmed that “safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to healthy work”. Little did the delegates know that just seven months later, the right to safe and healthy working conditions would become one of the most significant global issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of the fundamental right to safe and healthy working conditions, while at the same time it has exposed failings across the world in ensuring that all workers enjoy this right. From teachers to supermarket personnel to front line healthcare staff, workers have been placed in vulnerable front line positions without basic safety protection, systems and guidance.
Every year on 28 April, International Workers’ Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world to remember those who have lost their lives in the workplace, and to commit to pursuing justice in their memory by pushing for better, safer, and healthier working conditions. This year’s theme is “Health and Safety is a Fundamental Workers’ Right”. There is no doubt that we should strive to make this concept a reality for all, but for many the fundamental right to a healthy and safe workplace remains an unrealistic expectation.
On 16 April 2021, research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in England and Wales showed that insecure workers on the frontline of the pandemic, such as care workers, nurses and delivery drivers, are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as those in other professions. A lack of safety enforcement and adequate rates of sick pay are putting these workers at heightened risk. Insecure jobs include zero-hour contracts and agency work where many workers are employed on contracts that do not guarantee regular hours or income. Insecure workers account for one in nine of the total UK workforce, with women, disabled people and BAME workers more likely to be in these precarious roles.
Ultimately, the pandemic has magnified insufficient workplace conditions and protections. This 28 April, we will remember those who lost their lives as a result of going to work without adequate protections provided by either their employers or workplace legislation.
Our duty to those who have lost their lives is to push for a world in which health and safety is a fundamental right realised by all. Remember the dead, fight for the living.
Poppy Barnett: Trainee in the personal injury department
Poppy is a trainee in the personal injury team in the Manchester office.