A Unite member who won an International Women’s Day award from Manchester City Council for campaigning for safer workplaces wants her fellow union members to participate in today’s International Workers Memorial (WMD) Day nationwide events (April 28).
Hilda Palmer is the co-ordinator for the independent Greater Manchester Hazards Centre that provides advice on health, safety, welfare and hazards at work.
Hilda is also acting chair of the National Hazards Campaign. This is a UK wide network established in 1988 and which brings together Hazards Centres, trade unions, health and safety groups and specific campaigns that include Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK).
This was started in 2006 by families left angry and frustrated at knowing their relatives had been unlawfully killed at work with their killers mostly escaping significant punishment. Hilda is the FACK facilitator and works tirelessly to support families who have lost loved ones.
Around 1,400 people are annually killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 die as a result of a work-related illness. The Health and Safety Executive says that 70 per cent of these deaths are due to management failure.
Yet proactive inspections are being cut and even banned by the coalition government in most workplaces. Meanwhile, the blacklisting of building worker trade unionists who have raised health and safety concerns has been allowed to flourish with the coalition refusing to order a public inquiry.
FACK wants ‘urgent government action to halt the complacency about deaths at work and decent laws which will bring dangerously negligent bosses to justice.’ It wants safety reps given more rights. Organisation members participate in nationwide WMD events on 28 April that were first organised by the Hazards Campaign in 1992.
It was Hilda’s work with FACK and WMD that led to her winning the special IWD recognition award named in memory of Margaret Ashton from Manchester City Council. This was presented at a packed awards ceremony at Manchester Town Hall.
Ashton, a suffragette, was in 1908 the first elected woman to sit on the council and helped found the local Women’s Trade Union council to set up a babies hospital. She later fell from favour by opposing Britain’s participation in the First World War. Hilda has followed in Ashton’s footsteps by opposing Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.
“I was naturally delighted to find myself presented with the award as clearly Margaret Ashton is someone to admire,” she said.
“I accepted it not for myself but for all the greats in the Hazards movement, the FACK founders and the families of relatives killed in entirely preventable incidents at work. I especially dedicate the award to Joanne Hill, mother of Cameron Minshull, and her family.” Cameron was a 16-year old apprentice when he was killed at work in January 2013.
“We will remember all those killed at work on WMD on 28 April. There are events right across the country. I’d urge Unite members to go to one of them. We will remember the dead whilst fighting for the living,” said Hilda.
Mick Whitley, the Unite NW regional secretary, was “delighted to see that Hilda’s hard work with FACK, Hazards and on WMD has been recognised. Rightly so as she has done some remarkable work.”