Unite members in North East Lincolnshire have played a major role in today’s International Workers Memorial Day (WMD April 28) events in their area.
This is the 13th year in which services have been held. They began when Unite member Herbert ‘Nobby’ Styles spotted an advert in the Hazards magazine urging trade unionists to Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living.
Nobby worked for Blue Star Fibres in Grimsby for 37 years until he was made redundant in 2013 and during which time he performed many union roles.
Working with local trade unionists, Nobby raised funds to get memorial stones laid and trees planted in Immingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes and the first WMD services were held at each on 28 April 2003.
Today, Nobby warmly welcomed all those who attended at the three locations.
Numerous wreaths were laid by, among others, families who have lost loved ones, representatives of many local union branches, companies and the Labour Party.
A minutes’ silence was held, the names of 35 local people killed at work were read out and speakers highlighted the continuing unacceptable loss of life.
Each year, over 1,400 people are killed at work in the UK and another 50,000 die of workplace related cancer, heart and lung disease. Worldwide, 2.3m people are annually killed by work, a figure that exceeds those killed by war.
At Immingham, Steve Elliott, a retired Unite member who worked in the chemical industry for many years laid a wreath on behalf of the NE Lincs TUC, which he is secretary of.
He told the crowd that he was “increasingly seeing former work colleagues of mine dying far too early of asbestos related diseases.” He stressed the need for workers to collectively organise within unions to push management into taking health and safety seriously.
Peter Barrass (pictured), chair of the Unite branch at Lindsey Oil Refinery, made the same points when he laid a wreath. “Having a strong trade union is important because by working with management and the HSE we can make workplaces safer.”
The day though belonged to the families of those workers who have lost their lives such as Paul Doyley, a Unite safety representative at Millennium Chemicals, now known as Cristal Global. He died five years ago when a valve at work exploded. The company were heavily fined after they were found culpable.
Paul’s father, mother and his sister, Jill attended the WMD event next to the War Memorial in Grimsby. An emotional Jill said, “We are remembering my lovely brother and paying tribute to all those other people who have lost their lives through work.”
Jill added, “I would like to thank those Unite members, especially at Paul’s workplace, and officers who were so supportive to our family when he was killed.”