In 2011/12 there were 173 work related deaths due to accidents, (there are further 600 deaths due to work-related road accidents.) Last year 49 construction workers were killed, and 41 in agriculture related industry. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimated that over 12,000 people die yearly as a result of work-related health problems.
International Workers Memorial Day is a day set aside by trade unionists across the world to remember the dead in the struggle for production. Unfortunately under capitalism production comes at a cost and many workers pay the ultimate price. Across the country today workers have met an held vigil, in some towns and cities they have insisted that flags are at half-mast or that civic dignitaries attend their commemoration. A touching tribute took place in Salford, where ex-miners laid flowers at the entrance of the former Agecroft colliery.
The day has also been one for looking forward to the battles to come.
We could be facile and suggest that there are no enemies in this battle, or that the foe is work or machinery. This would be wrong. The enemy is most certainly the employer, maybe not necessarily the individual employer, but certainly the capitalist class.
For the last 30 years and more they have pushed tired mantras “trade unions have too much power”, “we must cut red tape”, “you workers are pricing yourself out of a job”… Neo-liberalism (formerly known as Thatcherism), brings death in its wake. The ConDem government has cut the HSE’s enforcement budget by 35%.
The “free” movement of capital, has meant the wholesale closure manufacture in Britain, eg of textile and garment works The export of capital and industry has led to the mass importation of goods , sometimes cheap. This is all that many workers can afford for themselves and their families: unemployment, under-employment, casualisation, low paying service-economy jobs and austerity have seen to that.
Over 350 garment workers are now known to have died in Dhaka, Bangladesh in the tragic collapse of a factory complex. This tragedy and the numerous deaths are part of the high price paid for cheap labour. The International Labour Organisation says that some 1.2 million workers die from work each year.
The most appropriate response of British workers to deaths of working people at home and abroad is to take an active part in our own trade unions.
“Remember The Dead, Fight For The Living”.