Tomorrow (Wednesday 28 April) on International Workers’ Memorial Day, Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, will join Unite families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 to walk the memorial wall at London’s South Bank.
They will be joined by TUC representatives to observe the minute’s silence at midday for International Workers’ Memorial Day.
Unite is throwing its weight behind calls for a statutory public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, recently rejected by ministers, and is backing the campaign for the National Covid Memorial Wall in Lambeth, south London, to be made permanent.
“The scale of loss in the UK is so high relative to other countries that the reasons for this have to be looked at by a public inquiry,” said McCluskey.
“The people we lost must be remembered and honoured, and the whole country, including the government, has to learn the lessons of this crisis,” he added.
The memorial wall is made up of 150,000 individual painted hearts, one for every UK person who lost their life to the disease in the past year. The wall is around half a kilometre long and takes around 10 minutes to walk.
“You cannot help but be moved by this campaign,” said McCluskey.
“In the past year, 150,000 people lost their lives, leaving 150,000 families and countless loved ones with huge holes in their lives. For all those who have sacrificed and suffered through this terrible time, we owe it to them to walk this wall,” he added.
Len McCluskey will join Hannah and Leshie, who both lost their fathers, both key workers, to the disease last year.
“Dozens of Unite members died from this dreadful sickness and they are in my thoughts today,” said McCluskey.
Hannah’s father caught the virus while travelling to his work in a factory.
He died at the age of 55 following 42 nights spent in intensive care. Hannah fears that her dad was exposed to Covid-19 on public transport to and from work. She has received abuse online for talking about the loss of her father.
Leshie lost her father, Ranjith, to Covid-19 in April 2020. He was one of 27 London bus drivers who died of the disease between March and May last year.
According to the Institute of Health Equity, bus drivers were more than twice as likely to die than other Londoners. Leshie wants a public inquiry into the decisions that led to her father’s death.
“It will be a huge privilege to walk the wall with Unite family members and I am so grateful to them for the work that they are doing on behalf of all those who lost their lives, and the bereaved who remain, to deliver not just a place of national remembrance of this time, but justice,” said McCluskey.
“Unite offers the bereaved families our full support in securing a permanent home for this incredible wall, and in the continued battle for the full and frank public inquiry the country needs,” he added.
By Ryan Fletcher