‘An incredible memorial’

Unite GS Len McCluskey visits National Covid Memorial Wall by London’s St Thomas’ Hospital

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Yesterday (April 28) was Workers’ Memorial Day. As part of the union’s observation of this date when we remember all those who have lost their lives at work, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and other leaders from the trade union movement joined family members who’d lost their loved ones.

The wall is covered in individually hand-painted hearts commemorating each life lost in the pandemic. And with over 155,000 hearts now painted on the wall, the memorial stretches nearly a mile long and takes a full 10 minutes to walk.

Hannah Brady, 25, (pictured below) travelled from Wigan with her sister Tasha to reiterate their call to make the wall permanent and for the government to agree to a full public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

Hannah Brady

Hannah and Tasha lost their father, Unite member Shaun Brady, a dedicated worker at the Heinz factory in Wigan. He was 55 years old. It is believed he caught the virus at work.

Matthew Fowler, one of the founders of a campaign group for bereaved families which helped create the Covid Memorial Wall, lost his father, Unite member Ian Fowler.  Just 56 years old, Ian,  was a semi-retired design engineer at JLR Castle Bromwich. Matthew said he was “the life of the party – including the ones he wasn’t invited to. He was my hero.”

Matthew Fowler

Leshie Chandrapala lost her father, Rajith Chandrapala, a London bus driver and Unite member. “Better protection could have meant that he would still have been here with us today,” she said. “I have lots of questions about why he and so many bus drivers have died of Covid. That’s why I’m calling for a public inquiry on Workers’ Memorial Day.”

Leshie Chandrapala

‘An incredible memorial’

“This wall is an incredible memorial and one that I’m here to pay my respects to,” Len said.  “I’m here to congratulate the bereaved families and their campaign for putting this together and also to offer my condolences to all of the people who have lost loved ones.

“I urge everyone here in London to come and visit this wall – it’s a highly emotional experience and it’s also here for us not only to remember the dead but also fight for justice,” he added. “And that justice here is fighting for a public inquiry.

Tasha and Hannah Brady with Len McCluskey

“Although this wall is full of love, it also brings for me an element of anger,” Len continued. “How many of these 156,000 lives could have been saved if the government had acted quickly enough on a whole host of different issues that we urged them to do such as PPE provision?

“We need this wall to become a permanent memorial and we need a public inquiry so that the questions that these bereaved families still have are answered. It’s the only way that they’ll get closure.”

(l to r) Tasha, Hannah, Len, Matthew, Leshie pay their respects

Pics by Mark Thomas 

Compiled by Amanda Campbell 

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