To Renfrewshire Council today to attend a rather dignified event called Workers Memorial Day, this is a day set aside to remember all workers who have been killed or injured at work or as a result of work. A modest crowd of Approx. 30 people gathered at the front of Renfrewshire Council’s main building where there is a plaque in honour of such workers. A lone piper played a lament and a couple of speeches were made followed by a minutes silence and then a photograph taken of everyone around the plaque. This took place at the side of the very busy path leading to the front entrance to the council and hundreds of visitors and council workers were coming and going as this took place, I formed the unfortunate opinion that the vast majority had no idea why we were there which is a great pity.
Recent events in the North Sea serve to remind us of the price of oil in much the same way as we were often reminded of the price of coal and fish in the past when disasters happened, these people deserve to be remembered and respected in the same way as others who have lost life and limb doing their jobs whether it be police fire ambulance or military, they all contribute to our society.
Undoubtedly one of the main causes of accidents and incidents at work is the drive for ever greater profits, for many years I worked in the Gas Industry which has it’s share of dangers and I’ve seen risks being taken because of money, I was lucky to be employed by direct labour with a strong union; unlike some of the unfortunate contract workers who did the same job as me for less pay and in far more dangerous conditions, many of these unfortunates were Irish immigrants who were being exploited, not unlike today in fact. This was as a result of the chase for profit, profit which makes the capitalist system which we live in corrupt and dangerous. Quite simply capitalism regards money as more important than people, I speak as someone who has worked on a building site on scaffolding while a contract worker doing the same job as me was working precariously high from a ladder and very little if any HSE on the site O.K this was 25 years ago but this lack of attention to HSE still goes on, it’s something that has got to change.
I caught a glimpse of old friend; comrade; and fellow Glenburn boy Alan Ritchie now General Secretary of Ucatt, the Construction Union on T.V. last night, he was breathing fire and brimstone over his interviewer as he mauled the industry; the Govt. and everyone else about failures to protect workers, he made the point that the Olympics was a possible major problem waiting to happen if HSE was not properly addressed. as he explained why the Olympic Games' building project risks disaster, he made the point that some firms were getting away with murder, just like that building site 25 years ago. Alan chairs the joint union committee which deals with the Olympic project and is quite rightly demanding that direct employment be used with proper union contracts. He also made the salient point that the Sydney Olympics using direct employment saw the loss of one life while the Athens Olympics which used a poorly regulated workforce saw 13 lives lost and they were only recording the registered nationals who died not the foreign workers, there s a high price to be payed for not being organised.
He said with cold fury that the best way of murdering someone in the UK today was to set up a construction company break HSE laws and get a derisory fine, as little as £7,000 in past cases.
It’s quite simple, any company who knowingly breaks HSE law resulting in accident or death should have those responsible put in prison and; much much more has to be allocated to this serious problem to stamp out what we are all used to calling “cowboy builders” those who have lost their lives and suffered horrible injuries deserve at least not to have suffered for nothing we as a society owe them that, think about them and workers everywhere today.