'Covid lessons must be learnt now' say TUC after Workers' Memorial Day event in Leeds

The lessons of successive Covid-19 waves must be learnt now to try prevent more workers dying in future, the Leeds TUC president said after a memorial event today.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 4:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 4:50 pm
The Workers' Memorial Day event at Victoria Gardens in Leeds (photo: Steve Riding).

This year's Workers' Memorial Day, in Victoria Gardens outside Leeds Library, was scaled down due to Covid, but no less poignant, said Jane Aitchison.

The event, which was attended by Leeds East MP Richard Burgon, was part of a global day of remembrance workers who lost their lives at work or from work-related injury or illness.

In 2019, 42 people in the UK who had died through workplace accidents were commemorated.

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Leeds East MP Richard Burgon lays a wreath at the Workers' Memorial Day monument in Victoria Gardens, outside Leeds Library (photo: Steve Riding).

Ms Aithison said: "This year we were remembering nearly 8,000, including over 1,000 NHS and care staff, 139 education staff, 65 journalists and over 100 transport staff, including Leeds bus drivers."

Leeds First bus drivers Andy Powell and Nazrul Hussain died last year of Covid, with a third colleague's death having been announced in February this year.

Leeds City Council has answered the TUC’s call to light their civic buildings purple tonight (Wednesday) as a special memorial this year to those who have died at work as a result of the pandemic.

Ms Aitchison said the event had added focus in light of comments allegedly made by Boris Johnson in which said he would rather see "bodies pile high" than take the country into a third lockdown.

Mr Johnson has strongly denied saying it.

Ms Aitchison added: "I think people do feel that the trade unions have to step up and fight harder and harder for the staff that we represented in order to keep them safe, because Covid isn't over."

Representatives of Keep Our NHS Public were at the event, and Ms Aitchison said she supported their calls for a 'People's Covid Inquiry'

She added: "We really need to learn those lessons now, not wait until after all the time.

"We're unfortunately seeing more and more people die. At the moment not in huge numbers, but if unfortunately a third wave comes, then we ought to be learning those lessons now."

The TUC as a whole has also called on Yorkshire MPs to demand the prime minister announce a date by when the inquiry will start, and to launch a public consultation to shape what the inquiry will cover.

TUC Regional Secretary Bill Adams said: "We’ll forever be in the debt of the workers who died during this pandemic - nurses, carers, bus drivers and so many more.

“They lost their lives looking after our loved ones and keeping our country running in the hardest of times.

“We owe it to them, and to their families, to get on with the public inquiry. The prime minister must announce a date when it will start.

“Any public inquiry must look at why workers were put at risk – be it through inadequate PPE or being unable to afford to self-isolate.

“This isn’t about settling scores. It’s about getting answers and learning the lessons to save lives in future.

“On International Workers Memorial Day, we remember those who have died, and pledge ourselves to fight for safe workplaces for everyone."

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