Respects paid to those killed and injured at work as South Tyneside marks International Worker's Memorial Day 2021

Union members have paid their respects to those who lost their lives or suffered injuries at work as they marked Workers’ Memorial Day 2021.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 8:57 pm

Serving and former trade union representatives in South Tyneside laid a wreath at North Marine Park in South Shields on Monday, April 26, ahead of this year’s event on Wednesday, April 28.

International Workers’ Memorial Day is a global awareness event to commemorate people who have died, become injured, disabled or left unwell by their work.

Ordinarily, a commemoration ceremony and candle-lighting service would be held at the South Shields town hall in order to mark the date.

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Ongoing Covid restrictions mean this year's International Workers' Memorial Day tributes will be observed virtually in South Tyneside.

But adapted arrangements have instead been made due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

The framing context of the coronavirus pandemic has given this year’s event an added poignancy, Unison South Tyneside‘s branch secretary, Janet Green, told The Gazette.

"We felt this was quite a nice way to do it this year,” she said.

"We’re actually looking at building on this as a way to hold the ceremony in years to come.

A plaque installed at North Marine Park to mark a previous Workers' Memorial Day in the borough.

"There are so many people who’ve been left with Covid or who are suffering still from long Covid. Over 127,000 people have lost their lives in this country to the disease and many of those have been working people.

"That, on top of other injuries and illnesses brought on by work shows just how important health and safety is in all workplaces.”

South Tyneside Borough Council is calling on residents to honour the occasion, as it broadcasts a virtual tribute through its social media channels at 11pm.

The recording will include messages from the current mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Norman Dick, and the council’s interim head of paid service, George Mansbridge. Cllr Dick is joined by the Mayoress, Jean Williamson to light a candle as part of the Covid-safe tribute.

Borough trade union representatives past and present laid a wreath this week at North Marine Park to honour International Workers' Memorial Day. In the back row: Martin Smithwhite, of Unite; Tom Hunter, from GMB; Dave Scott, Unison; Graham Laidler, Unison; John Pearson, GMB. In the front row: Maureen Deans, Unison; Wilf Flynn, Unite; John Major, Unite; Janet Green, Unison.

Ms Green also appears in the short film, alongside two other borough union representatives – John Pearson of GMB and Mark Smithwhite from Unite.

“Workers’ Memorial Day is an incredibly important event,” said Cllr Dick.

"Tragically over this past year in particular there have been so many lives lost across many sectors and workplaces due to coronavirus.

“This Workers’ Memorial Day will be especially significant as we pause to reflect and remember all those people in the UK and around the world whose lives were cut short in the course of their work while caring for and supporting others during these dark and difficult times.

The mayor and mayoress of South Tyneside, Councillor Norman Dick and Jean Williamson

“We also think about the devastating impact the loss of life has on the family, friends and work colleagues they leave behind.”

The council’s tribute will be broadcast via its social media channels, including its Facebook, Twitter and Youtube accounts.

As part of the tribute, residents will be encouraged to observe a minute’s silence at 12 noon and light a candle as a show of solidarity with workers who have lost their lives to the pandemic, as well as in workplaces everywhere.

The mayor added: “We hope that people take a moment to join us as we express our condolences and pay their tribute to friends and colleagues lost while doing their job while giving thanks and appreciation to all those who continue to work to keep us all safe.

“By taking time to reflect, we also highlight the importance of safety at work, remind people about the needless loss of life and look at what more can be done to reduce the risk so that people are better protected in the workplace in future.”

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