Wreaths laid as Falkirk honours International Workers Memorial Day

Councillors laid wreaths to honour those who have died as a result of their work at a poignant ceremony organised by Falkirk Trades Union Council.

The annual International Workers Memorial Day event was held at Falkirk’s municipal buildings on Wednesday, with numbers limited by covid restrictions.

The four councillors - Provost William Buchanan, council leader Cecil Meiklejohn, Labour group leader Robert Bissett and Conservative group leader James Kerr - were joined by trades union council secretary Duncan McCallum, placing wreaths beneath a plaque, placed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, on a pillar in the building’s foyer.

Mr McCallum said this year’s event had been made more important by changes to working practices forced on workers as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Paying tribute: At Falkirk Municipal Building on International Workers Memorial Day are Cecil Meiklejohn, SNP group leader Falkirk Council; Councillor Robert Bissett; Provost William Buchanan; Councillor James Kerr and Duncan McCallum, secretary of Falkirk Trades Union Council.

He added: “Thousands of workers have died as a result of that pandemic. How many needlessly is something that must be determined at the same time as we commemorate their lives and contributions.”

Mr McCallum said that workers are routinely denied basic health and safety protections, consultation on ‘Covid-safe’ policies, free access to protective equipment and protection from victimisation for raising health and safety concerns.

He also spoke of his concern that major changes in the way we tackle work, particularly an explosion in home-working, could lead to serious physical and mental health problems if proper safeguards are not put in place.

“I have been hearing a growing number of stories of people whose health is being compromised by the need to work from home - back pain from hours working at a kitchen table in the wrong position, exhaustion from extra hours worked to compensate for minutes snatched meeting the needs of home-schooling children.”

Picture Michael Gillen

Councillor Meiklejohn said: “Every life lost is a tragedy whether or not it is Covid related.

"Our thoughts are with all those who have someone this year in particular because of the circumstances we have found ourselves in

“Problems existed before the pandemic and resulted in millions of deaths each year from work-related injuries and diseases.

Councillor Robert Bissett pays tribute (PIc: Michael Gillen)

"We need to use the lessons learned from this pandemic to make sure we are never in this position again.”

Councillor Bissett pointed to the figures, 2.8 million deaths per year, 111 workers killed in the UK in 2019-20; 374 million workplace accidents, 693,000 in the UK alone.

He said: “Every year more people are killed at work than in war. Most don’t die of mystery ailments or in tragic accidents, they die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important.”

He added his own tribute to the 230 frontline UK health and care workers who have lost their lives in the pandemic.

“There is power in a collective voice and we need that unity of purpose to keep the focus on health and safety matters for workers throughout the world,” he said.

Councillor Kerr used part of his speech to pay personal tribute to Paul Henderson, 48, from Grangemouth, who died when a wall at Myrehead Farm in Whitecross, collapsed on him in December last year.

And Provost Buchanan, winding up, said it was vital that trade unions received the support and involvement of workers to carry on their important role in promoting high health and safety standards.

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