'Protect construction workers' demand

International Workers’ Memorial Day: Construction employers must insure workers – or be removed from sites

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Construction union Unite is demanding that leading construction clients and principal contractors ensure that all workers on their projects are fully protected by death and injury insurance – or be removed from sites.

While the industry has made improvements in reducing fatalities, there have been 178 deaths in the sector in the last five years according to the Health and Safety Executive. Thousands of serious and life changing injuries also occurred during that time.

The union made its call to coincide with International Workers’ Memorial Day today (May 28) when workers come together to ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’.

Unite has written to all the major construction clients and principal contractors demanding that they provide guarantees that all workers throughout the entire supply chain on their projects are protected by a death and injury insurance scheme.

Construction industry agreements, such as the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) agreement, state clearly that employers are required to ensure that all their workers are covered.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “All employers in the construction sector should abide by industry agreements. When someone dies at work, they leave behind a family to feed. The failure of the boss to provide the most basic safety standards has a devastating impact and haunts families for years to come.

“We honour those lost but our job now is to protect the living,” she added. “Unite is getting organised and building power in our construction workplaces and communities because this is where we make real change happen.”

According to Unite, accident and death benefit cover is available for only £3 per week per worker but many employers are refusing to pay it. This means that when a fatal accident occurs, an already devastated family is plunged into immediate financial hardship.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said, “Unite has a simple demand – safeguard and protect workers. Clients and contractors need to ensure their entire supply chains are properly protecting their workers. Companies that refuse or fail to comply should be swiftly removed not just from site but from our industry.”

Unite has been forced to name and shame various employers on flagship projects including HS2, where abiding by industrial agreements is compulsory, because they have failed to follow the rules and provide accident and life cover for their workers.

By Barckley Sumner

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