28 April | #IWM2020

What is IWMD?

International Workers’ Memorial Day is a day when trade unionists and civil society all over the world remember those who have been killed, injured or made ill at work. It is also a day we renew our efforts to organise collectively to prevent more deaths, injuries and disease as a result of work.

Theme for 2020: Coronavirus

The focus this year is of course the global COVID-19 pandemic. The heart-breaking number of workers who have died from coronavirus is a tragedy felt deeply by us all. Too many of our friends and colleagues have fallen ill, lost their lives or continue to be put at risk at work every day. Many more will be grieving the loss of loved ones.

The coronavirus pandemic affects every worker regardless of sector or locality. Tens of thousands of workers worldwide have died. More have fallen ill. Many workers are on the front line in maintaining life as near normal as possible for all of us. They risk infection, their life to keep us all safe. It will be these workers who we depend on to get us through these unprecedented and challenging times.

We could not have a starker reminder of the important role of trade union health and safety reps in saving and protecting workers’ lives, than the current crisis we are all facing.

While we may not be able to attend the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC/ICTU) memorial event, which usually takes place at the commemorative tree at Stormont, as public gatherings are not advised or allowed; there are many ways we can take part in our collective day of remembrance and solidarity.

Observe one Minute Silence

At 11am on Tuesday 28th April, NIPSA is asking us to take part in a minute's silence. It will be a moment to pay tribute to the heart-breaking number of workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus or other work-related illness or injury, and to thank all those who continue to do vital work at great risk. The initiative is supported by NIC/ICTU and reps may wish to request employers mark it, by asking the workforce to cease work for one minute at 11am.

Organise an Online Campaign

Use the ICTU social media graphic to tweet your support for the minute’s silence. You can also call for appropriate and sufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment kit and associated training, including testing. Use the government’s guidance, produced by the Northern Ireland Engagement Forum on Covid-19, ' Working Through This Together: A Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safe’, to ensure workers and workplaces are safe.

Display a Poster/Organise a Campaign on Social Media

Use the window of your home or your workplace notice board to raise awareness of #IWMD20, or post on social media. Hazards Campaign have produced a poster which you can download here.

Hazards Campaign have also produced a number of ‘Exposed at Work’ sharable graphics, which can be found here.

Reel News have worked with health and care workers to produce a great film led off by an Intensive Care Nurse who speaks out about the deadly risks to staff and patients due to PPE shortages.

The International Trade Union Confederation has created resources, and these posters are available in a number of languages via 28 April Website.

Become a Branch Health and Safety Rep

Every day, branch health and safety reps in workplaces save lives and prevent illness and injury.

Does your branch have a health and safety rep? If not, contact your branch secretary about becoming one.

Support the Bereaved

NIPSA have been crucial in securing bereavement and compassionate leave in workplaces. As we come together to remember those who have lost their lives, as trade union activists we can also reach out to support those experiencing grief.

There are many practical steps branches can take to remember colleagues, like a book of condolences or setting up an online memorial page. Some branches may consider establishing an online fundraiser for a charity close to the heart of a colleague.

Experiencing a bereavement in isolation will be particularly tough. Attendance at funerals is currently restricted due to social distancing measures, but a minute silence or vigil could allow colleagues the opportunity to come together to remember collectively. Branches may also wish to send a card.