'These are not accidents'

IWMD: Unite remembers migrant roofer killed in collapse

Reading time: 4 min

On International Workers Memorial Day, Unite members of the London Building Workers branch gathered with trade union comrades to remember a roofer killed at work.

Ekarmanjeet Singh was originally from Gurdaspur in India and had been working as a roofer in the UK for three years before his death. The 25 year old died on December 12 last year after the roof he was working on of a terraced house in Forest Gate collapsed on top of him and a co-worker.

Unite members joined trade unionists from Waltham Forest Trades Council, Redbridge Trades Council, the Construction Safety Campaign councillors as well as the local MP to remember Ekarmanjeet outside the house in Pevensey Road where he died.

On the day of the accident ,firefighters from three local stations worked to free Ekarmanjeet from under the rubble, providing immediate emergency care once he was released – but he was sadly pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance workers.

Following a minute’s silence speakers highlighted the dangers that those in the construction sector face on a daily basis, the reasons why these issues are still happening and the campaigns that trade unions are organising to make workplaces safer.

Unite construction member and Waltham Forest Councillor Mick Gilgunn talked about the Construction Safety Campaign formed in the 1980s following deaths at the Canary Wharf site, and how the campaign works with unions like Unite to improve safety.

Mick Holder from Waltham Forest Trades Council (WFTC) said, “We have been campaigning for over 40 years now, and still there are deaths in construction.”

“Roofs don’t just collapse on people. These are not accidents, but predictable and preventable, and negligent bosses should be jailed.”

Mick pointed out that deaths in construction have gone up in recent years, just at the time when the government is cutting resources to the HSE.

Mick added, “The Tory government has not only underfunded the HSE, but has undermined safety culture in work more widely, promoting the idea of ‘cutting red tape’ and making the idea of ‘health and safety gone mad’ a joke.”

“I’d rather be told what to do by someone in hi viz, than visit another wreath laying for a needless death at work!”

Unite London and Eastern regional officer, Declan Murphy also spoke at the gathering and feels that the root cause of the death was exploitation.

Declan said: “There was no training, no proper PPE, no method statement and a cash in hand job. This was complete exploitation by an employer who cared more about making money than the safety of workers.”

Declan also told attendees that two of Ekarmanjeet’s work mates at the site ran off after the collapse rather than help their colleagues, probably because they were scared of being found working on the site without the proper documentation.

Speaking to a local paper, Ekarmanjeet’s family described him as a “very honest, very humble and fun-loving person” who “loved children and animals and always made others happy”.

Kevin Parslow, secretary of WFTC said, “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased. No one should go to work and never return and no family should ever have to experience this.”
Following the gathering in memory of Ekarmanjeet many of those attending moved on to join a IWMD rally at Walthamstow Market.”

By Keith Hatch