International Workers’ Memorial Day: ETUCE honours the lives of education workers lost to workplace accidents and illness


Each year almost 2 million workers lose their lives to work-related causes, according to alarming estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO). The terrible war in Ukraine and worldwide conflicts are further causing countless deaths of teachers, and civilians. Furthermore, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to ensure workplace safety and the prevention of illness. On 28 April, ETUCE commemorates the lost lives of workers, on the occasion of International Workers’ Memorial Day.  

The loss of lives following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the cruelties committed are a shock to education trade unions across Europe who have expressed their solidarity in the joint EI-ETUCE Statement on Ukraine. The impact on the workers and families experiencing the war first-hand is harrowing. Our thoughts are with the teachers, academics, and other education personnel as well all workers who fell victim to this war, and those teachers who bravely protested the war in Russia. Each life lost is one too many. Moreover, the teachers, academics, and education personnel still teaching in areas affected by conflicts are constantly putting their lives at risk. Today, we also commemorate thousands of teachers and education personnel across Europe who lost their lives during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which continues to threaten the health and safety of workers. Still, not all countries in Europe recognise COVID-19 as an occupational disease.

Furthermore, the teaching profession is increasingly exposed to the impact of occupational diseases. Joint WHO & ILO estimates show that heart diseases and strokes associated with long working hours and psychosocial risk factors are the most frequent cause of death and only become more prominent. While the teaching profession is highly exposed to psychosocial risks, data from the Eurofound research report Living, Working and Covid-19 (2020) show that the difficult working conditions experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to exacerbating the impact of the psychosocial hazards on workers in the education sectors. Besides, in the education sector, physical diseases such as musculoskeletal disorders represent an often overlooked and underreported disorder, for which preventative efforts must be increased. All of this will require action at EU, national, and local level, with legislative as well as other initiatives involving trade unions and employers.

Against this backdrop, on the International Workers’ Memorial Day ETUCE joins the European Trade Union Confederation and other trade union Federations in raising the alarm and demanding the end of all deaths and accidents at work. With this joint initiative, underpinned in a Zero Death Manifesto the European trade union movement urges the European Commission and Parliament to step up and deliver concrete actions to achieve a world with zero fatal accidents at work by 2030.

In commemoration of all workers in the education sector, Susan Flocken, European Director of ETUCE said: “At a time when crises and wars are devastating workers' lives, ETUCE firmly stands in solidarity with education personnel threatened by war and work-related illness in these times of rampant vulnerability. We express our heartfelt solidarity with colleagues, teachers, academics, and all workers subject to work-related deaths and diseases. Workers' health and safety matter, and no worker should be left unprotected, especially not because of preventable workplace accidents. Education trade unions have always been fighting for the health and safety of workers. Now our demands must be heard and transferred into action!

Read more:

Zero Death Manifesto

Educators around the world stand with the people of Ukraine and condemn Russia’s act of war