Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April

Jack Palmer

In 1912 when the Titanic sank, workers’ lives were considered expendable by the bosses. But is the situation any better today?

Of the 919 crew members on the Titanic, 703 perished in the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic.

Even without the deaths on the Titanic, a life at sea was dangerous and each year claimed many lives unnecessarily. In 1911, the number of deaths from so-called industrial accidents totalled 4,296. The number of seamen killed that year was 1,254.

It has taken over a century of struggle by the trade unions to bring that figure down and in the year 2010/11 the number of deaths from industrial accidents was 171. However, the real scandal is the 20,000 people who die each year in the UK due to injury or diseases linked to their work.

The government of millionaires is attacking our health and safety legislation. The Health and Safety Executive’s budget has been cut by 35%. There has been a 50% cut in the number of workplace inspections and the number of prosecutions have fallen by the same amount. The bosses are demanding many more safety regulations be swept away.

Workers’ Memorial Day is held on 28 April every year. The TUC says: “the day serves as a rallying cry to remember the dead, but fight like hell for the living.”

The Labour newspaper, the Daily Herald, ended its first editorial on Titanic’s disaster with the following, ‘Let our tears not blind us to the real tragedy. The blood of those slain cries for justice. Shall we not hear.’

For centuries working people have demanded justice for those slain in the workplaces by the bosses whose sole motivation is profit. If we don’t fight to maintain the gains of the past then the bosses and their government will surely take them away.