An article published today by Sean Baillie of the Scottish Socialist Party. Whilst Blantyre Project has no political affiliation or agenda, Sean’s connection and words relate to Blantyre and have meaning on this internationally recognised day. Sean sent this in and writes,
“International workers memorial day takes place annually around the world on April 28, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.
Having only realised and heard about it on the morning of the 28th April I felt a little bit naive and ashamed. Growing up and spending the majority of my life in Blantyre a town largely built around the coal mining industry and unfortunately the place of a massive mining disaster in 1877, An explosion that claimed the lives of 207 miners, the youngest being a boy of 11. This is exactly what should be remembered and commemorated on such a day. Yet I couldn’t find anything commemorating this or the day in general in the area. A smack in the face of the men, woman and children that lost their lives on that day and the families that had to struggle on after. The 92 widows and 250 fatherless children who were left unable to pay the rent on their mining cottages leased from the pit owners almost a third of which that hadn’t left being forcibly removed 6 months later.
In my eyes the day should be one of gratitude and remembrance to the working class families all over the world who have toiled and fought for the right to work, the right to work safely and the right of their fare share, of the wealth created through their hard graft. This is a fight that still carries on to this day. There have of course been major improvements in the pay and conditions of working people. The heath and safety at work act, the minimum wage, holiday pay, and sick leave. Even the creation of a job seekers allowance has helped unemployed workers maintain some resemblance of a life whilst in between work.
With all this you would think the fight had been won? Far from it everything mentioned is again under attack, being worked around and cut all to the detriment and hardship of the working class. Millions of people employed on zero hour contracts, with no minimum contracted hours no set wages to budget a life around, Holiday, sick and redundancy pay being undermined as a result. If you even get any redundancy pay as the nature of a zero hour contract means an employer doesn’t need to offer any work meaning an employee could be left in the dark without work and pay for weeks despite being contracted. Employment agencies being used as middle men to skim profits off the workers wage and as a tool to bend round employment laws to hire and fire whenever an employer feels like it. Unemployed workers on job seekers allowance being forced to go and work 40+ hours a week for private companies on less than the minimum wage through “workfare” schemes. Essentially giving large private companies free labour at the taxpayer’s expense.
Around the same time and shortly after the Blantyre mining disaster many workers up and down the country started to form trade unions to fight against the poor pay and conditions, the unsafe practices they were forced to work under. The working class eventually gained the right to vote and the labour movement was born. Great improvements were made housing improved, the National Health Service, the health and safety at work act, the minimum wage. All things that have been won and established through the unity and strength of the working class.
With them now being eroded and the Labour parties abandonment of many of these issues to fit in with the ruling class’s agenda, I’m upset by the lack of commemoration of the hard working brave men, woman and children who went through so much and did so much so we could all have a better life.
I look around and think what they would make of life today would they stand and watch as inequality grows larger, as the poorest in our society and being hit the hardest in order mend the problems created by the rich in this thing they call austerity. Anti- trade union laws, The Rights that they fought for slowly being eroded, the working class being divided between those luckily enough to work and those being targeted for being on “benefits”.
So on this years international workers memorial day I am going to remember those that went to work in order to provide for their families and never came home, those that went and their lives changed dramatically through injury and work related disease. Remember the families left in mourning. Remember the struggle that was fought by all the workers before my time that fought and worked hard so we could all have a better life. And I vow never to let this day pass as quietly again, never to let the memory of those who died in unsafe conditions be forgotten. And never let it ever be repeated through the erosion of workers rights and working conditions.