Remember the Dead, and Fight for the Living!
LINDA WHELAN with portrait of her son Craig.
photo: The Journal
IF you really want to know about things happening to people at work, you often have to turn from the national media to the local papers. Here is an item from the Bolton News.
Father-of-one, Craig Whelan, was just 23 when he died while working on the 200ft chimney at Carnaud Metal Box Plc's factory in Westhoughton, in May 2002.
He and another steeple jack, Paul Wakefield, were attempting to burn off a black tarry residue from the inside of the chimney when catastrophe struck.
They were inside the chimney half way down when the explosion happened.
Barrister, Anthony Berrisford, told London's High Court the fumes suddenly ignited, causing a fireball of such intensity that it burned through the metal cables holding up the hoist on which the two men were standing.
Family of fireball death steeplejack win compensation
Two executives were almost prosecuted for manslaughter, but it did not happen. Although Craig Whelan's parents won compensation for the death of their son, this did not stop them campaigning for justice, for Craig and for all the other workers killed or maimed in accidents at work, which could often have been prevented, and for all those likely to be endangered in the future.
Last year Linda Whelan, a founder of Families Against Corporate Killing (FACK), hit out at government plans to relax safety regulations and cut back workplace inspections.
Mum hits out at plans to relax safety laws
But the Durham mother and her supporters face opposition even on the one day a year when workers killed at work are supposed to be remembered. As a friend informs us on Facebook:
"For years the joint trades councils in Durham have held a peaceful march and service to mark Workers Memorial Day on the 28th April. The event is traditionally held in the quiet Durham village, Stanley Crook, as St Thomas' Church has a Workers Memorial window. Then, suddenly, last year the police told us we would be arrested if we marched through the village. Details here:
And it looks like the same thing is happening this year:
ORGANISERS of a march in memory of people who have died at work have been warned they will be liable if anything goes wrong at the event.This almost sounds like the police are inviting any peverse or dangerous driver to disrupt or endanger the marchers. In fact, as Linda Whelan said last year when the police suddenly refused permission for the march, by refusing road closures, the marchers were not intending to cause any trouble or disruption, and had not previously had problems.
County Durham’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) has confirmed it does not support the Worker’s Memorial Day march planned to take place on Sunday (April 28).
The march through Stanley Crook, County Durham, has been organised by Families Against Corporate Killers (Fack) with support from several unions.
Linda Whelan, founder of Fack, has previously told The Northern Echo she plans to go ahead with the march despite objections from the advisory group, which is made up of several bodies including Durham County Council and Durham Police.
Last year’s march was cancelled due to SAG’s objection, but Mrs Whelan said she is determined to go ahead with the ten-minute long march, which will feature families of people who have died at work, union representatives and old mining banners.
The walkers will start at 1.30pm at the eastern end of the village before the march to St Thomas’ Church nearly a mile away where a service will be held.
A statement from SAG said: “The Safety Advisory Group has been informed that the planned route of the march is down the middle of a road.
“Public safety is paramount and the SAG does not support the march going ahead as planned on the grounds of health and safety.
“The organisers have been advised that for the march to go ahead safely it should either take place off-road or a road closure should be put in place.”
The march will not be physically stopped by police but, should it cause any accidents or incidents, the march’s organisers will be solely responsible for the consequences.
“In the past we have kept to one side of the road so traffic can still get past, and we found that actually many motorists joined the procession to express their support.”
Mothers anger as police cancel memorial march
As she said, the march was not one of protest but of respect.
Would the authorities' attitude have been as unco-operative and obstructive if this had been an armistice day procession? Or honouring service personnel killed in action? We doubt it. So why are workers killed at work less worthy of respect?
In recent years it seemed sometimes as though International Workers Memorial Day was being co-opted by the authorities, as more acceptable than, say, May Day. But evidently not so, at least not in Co.Durham. And probably not elsewhere, even when as this year it falls on a Sunday, if the powers that be can help it.
Remembering those sisters and brothers who have been killed, and internationally, is subversive enough, and even more so when it is coupled with organising to protect the living.
International Workers Memorial Day
Sunday 28th April 2013
Join us: 11am Tower Hill at the statue of the
Unknown building worker,
opposite Tower Hill underground.
photo:© Stefano Cagnoni/reportdigital.co.uk