On 28th April, we mark Workers Memorial Day. For trade unions like UNISON across the world, this is the day when we remember those who have been killed, injured or made sick at work. And when we do so, we use it as a reminder that trade unions need to continue to fight for proper health and safety measures in our workplaces. There is always a stark need to ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’- but never more so in the midst of a pandemic that has killed thousands of workers in the UK. That’s why this year, UNISON is one of the unions calling for a minute’s silence at 11am on 28th April. General Secretary Dave Prentis explains:
Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS. The minute’s silence is a thank you to all the workers including nurses, midwives, cleaners and care staff who’ve died from this devastating virus.
As well as remembering those who have been lost to the virus, UNISON continues to fight to protect our members. As well as directing members to the detailed guidance on the national website, UNISON reps and organisers have been doing their best to support members with concerns around personal protective equipment (PPE) and other issues related to COVID-19.
On the Isle of Wight, Local Government branch secretary Mark Chiverton called for more equipment to be made available as well as for greater testing for patients discharged into care homes. He explains that:
Since the imposition of the COVID-19 restrictions, it has been exceptionally busy for the Branch. Our time has been dominated by concerns about the amount and type of PPE being available for staff in various work settings – and particularly in social care. UNISON has made numerous representations about this as well as the need for testing of all service users being admitted to care settings from hospital and for the staff groups working with them.
Meanwhile, at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth Health branch chair Tracey Darnley has been doing her best to ensure UNISON members are informed and supported:
I am going around to all staff to offer any support and information that I can. I’m also listening to their concerns and fears and speaking to members about the latest updates from the Trust which includes making sure that they have the correct PPE. I want them to know that we are still here as a union to advise and support members.
Both UNISON officers work with Regional Organiser James Smith, who explains:
I’m always proud of the work our representatives do. However when you consider the personal pressures they are under just coping with the effects of the pandemic on ordinary life, plus the bravery and professionalism required to continue to deliver services at work, I am simply amazed at the leadership skill and commitment they have displayed in looking out for their colleagues.
When this is over and we look back, we’ll see that without the work of UNISON and other unions, and the vital work our members continue to undertake, this crisis would have been much worse.
Help UNISON remember key workers who have lost their lives in the pandemic. Take part in the minutes silence at 11am on Tuesday 28th April.
Are you a key worker with a story to share about what’s happening in your workplace in the fight against Covid-19? The we want to hear from you so we can celebrate you, our heroes, and everything you’re doing.