Today, 28 April, is Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD). It’s when the trade union movement and safety campaigners hold a day of action to defend workers’ health and safety.
Today, our health and safety is under attack in ways unprecedented in recent times, with attacks on regulation, enforcement, cuts and the refusal to tackle the massive toll that health and safety breaches take on workers.
Campaigners are determined to defend workers’ protection, for our sake and that of future generations. The slogan ‘Remember the dead, fight to the living’ says it all.
Every year, there are thousands of events across the world on WMD, attended by millions of people. There are hundreds in the UK, and in my home-town of Walthamstow, in north east London, the gathering was particularly poignant.
Waltham Forest Council declares itself a proud host to the 2012 Olympic Games, but many here are disturbed by Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the artistic wrap around the Olympic stadium in neighbouring Stratford.
It was Dow who, in 2001, bought Union Carbide – more than 16 years after the chemical leak disaster in Bhopal, India. That killed 15,000 people and injured half a million, and is being blamed for major local health problems 27 years later.
It was moving to hear Sanjay, from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, speak about the campaign at this morning’s rain-swept meeting. He had lost both parents and other family members in the disaster and since his arrival in the UK only a few days ago had spoken at meetings in Edinburgh, Oxford and Westminster and earlier this morning at Tower Hill, a few minutes from the Tower of London.
In his remaining time here, he will be speaking at meetings, calling for the Olympic authorities to cancel Dow’s sponsorship.1
Meanwhile Amnesty International has also condemned the Dow wrap deal, and several British politicians have campaigned to dump Dow from the games. Last October it wrote to the Chair of LOCOG (Lord Sebastian Coe) expressing serious concern about Dow Chemical as a sponsor to the Olympic Games.
1. You can get more information on the Justice in Bhopal website at www.bhopal.net, which included an article by Guardian journalist Paul Lewis which gives more background.