Trade unionists from UNISON, UNITE, RMT and NUJ gathered in the rain at Walthamstow Town Square under the slogan “Remember The Dead and Fight for the Living” to mark this year’s Workers Memorial Day. They were joined by local activists and the family of Raymond Holmes who was killed at work in Coppermill Lane in 2010. The day is an international event recognised across the world as a day to remember all those who have lost their lives or have been damaged at work. Mick Holder, an NUJ member and leading local health and safety campaigner kicked off proceedings with a speech that outlined just how irresponsible and dangerous the government cuts to health and safety are. Deaths and serious injuries and illnesses caused by work are all on the increase. As enforcement is weakened so the UK looks set to become a leading country when it comes to allowing employers to do what they like at the expense of worker’s health and safety.
Mick was followed by Sanjay Vernay who is a survivor of the terrible Bhopal disaster caused by Union Carbide back in 1984. Sanjay was a baby at the time and lost both his parents and 5 of his brothers and sisters. He talked of the ongoing suffering of the people of Bhopal. One of his surviving brothers committed suicide in 2006, an act that Sanjay believes is very much connected to the aftermath of the disaster. He also told the crowd how the toxic ground causes rain water to become contaminated as it enters the water supplies for the town, causing further sickness. Union Carbide have since been sold to Dow Chemicals who are one of the sponsors of the Olympic Games in London this year. That company and Union Carbide before them have refused to clean up the site and continue to stand by as the people of Bhopal continue to suffer as a result of their negligent attitude to health and safety. Sanjay urges all of us to complain about Dow’s continuing involvement in the Olympic Games.
Finally, Nancy Taaffe, the London assembly candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition Party spoke of the need to fight against the government’s austerity measures that are ideologically driven and are designed to ensure that the rich stay rich and that the poor pay the price of the bank’s mismanagement of our economy.