On International Workers’ Memorial Day, ETUCE commemorates workers that lost their life to COVID-19


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The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that a harrowing 6000 workers lose their lives every day across the world. On 28 April 2020, at the occasion of International Workers’ Memorial Day, trade unions across the world unite to commemorate those who lost their lives in the workplace or, due to work-related illnesses. No worker should lose their life and health because of work. Preventing and combatting work-related deaths is a historic fight for trade unions. The current COVID-19 crisis highlights that a strong and legally binding occupational health and safety framework is the only way to prevent the senseless losses of life in the workplace.

Health, safety, and lives matter. At a time when essential workers across Europe are putting their own well-being at risk for the public good, we honour, mourn, and commemorate workers who lost their lives, in particular to COVID-19. Today, ETUCE joins other trade union federations to raise the alarm and demand: no more, as highlighted in the joint Statement signed by the European Trade Union Confederation, and sectoral European Trade Union Federations, including ETUCE. In this joint address, the European trade union movement unites to commemorate frontline workers, and urges governments to acknowledge the causes of these losses, and work with trade unions towards the elimination of occupational health and safety risks. In connection to this, ETUCE is co-signatory to the call led by the European Trade Union Federations and the ETUC to Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, to recognise COVID-19 as an occupational disease.

In particular, the ETUCE sends solidarity to education personnel required to perform their duties in their workplaces during this pandemic, and advocates for the protection of their employment and working conditions, and health and safety. We have recently released a statement on COVID-19 urging governments, public authorities, and employers in the education sector to urgently address, in consultation with education trade unions, the issues of protection of the health and safety measures in place, both in the cases of schools closures, and in the development of exit strategies and return-to-schools policies. The health and safety measures should address personnel working remotely, personnel present in education institutions, as well as vulnerable groups of workers, and respect workers’ rights, including in regards to compensation and sick leave provisions. 

On the eve of IWMD, European Director, Susan Flocken, commented: “International Workers’ Memorial Day is a difficult, but necessary yearly commemoration.  All work-related deaths are the result of a failure of occupational health and safety measures, and could have, by design, been prevented. The COVID-19 crisis only amplifies the need for strong health and safety procedures in the workplace, and at this time, inaction from our governments is simply unacceptable. Trade unions have been leading the fight against work-related deaths, and our demands must be heard and translate into concrete measures”.