HPC remembers fallen workers

Unite members gather in Bridgwater to mark Workers' Memorial Day

Reading time: 4 min

Construction workers from Hinkley Point C (HPC) in Somerset gathered around the Unite Workers’ Memorial in Bridgwaters’ Blake Gardens to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday (April 26).

They were joined by Unite officers along with representatives from trades councils and other workplace unions to lay wreaths and hear speeches. In total over 60 people gathered for the breezy lunchtime event.

The memorial was unveiled by Unite’s Hinkley Point C branch in 2021 to remember those who have lost their lives working at the site, and has been the focus of International Workers’ Memorial Day events in the area ever since.

In front of the memorial, members placed a coffin covered with PPE and Unite flags.

Speakers from Unite, HPC, occupational health, the regional TUC and sister unions, all highlighted the importance of remembering those lost to workplace accidents or diseases.

Unite site convenor and scaffolder Dave Borthwick (pictured speaking below) started proceedings with a minute’s silence followed by fellow Unite rep Luke Panasera releasing two doves.

Shane James, a Unite health, safety and environment rep and foreman at HPC (pictured speaking below), spoke to the assembled crowd and said, “International Workers’ Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and it is wonderful to see so many people here, honouring the sacrifice of all workers.

“Behind every statistic is a name, a face and a story of the human cost.”

Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer bought fraternal greetings from general secretary Sharon Graham, retiring national officer Jerry Swain and regional secretary Steve Preddy.

Heathcliff highlighted the work unions have done over the years by improving laws and making the working environment safer, adding; “We are here because of the HPC project. Unite’s work at HPC will leave a legacy. The common framework agreement we negotiated is industry-leading when it comes to health and safety standards, and we will keep improving them.”

Unite health and safety lead Rob Miguel focused on this year’s theme around climate change and workers’ health, giving some sobering statistics about the impact that a heating world will have on workers. He also pointed out that unionised workplaces have 50 per cent fewer accidents than non-unionised ones.

Rob highlighted figures from the Hazards Campaign showing that thousands of people across the UK die as a result of occupational health issues and work-related stress – including hundreds from suicide.

Rob said, “Construction has four times as many suicides as the average. Unite is fighting to get suicide recognised under RIDDOR and for the HSE to investigate cases where work is a factor.”

As attendees walked back along the riverside, they would have had Heathcliffe’s words in their minds: “Health and safety is a right, not a privilege. Stay safe, be strong and remain united!”

By Keith Hatch