International Workers Memorial Day is an extremely important date in the calendar. It is the day we pause to remember those who have lost their lives to industrial indifference; and, in their memory, we vow to make things better and safer for future generations. That is inevitably done through the prism of our laws – the legislative change we have successfully campaigned for in the past and the legislation that we still need to change.
Every year until now such discussions centre on a picture of things getting better; positive changes in the law and reducing accident rates. This year, however, things are very different. This year, for the first time in a generation, things are getting worse. Accident rates are increasing and unless we act quickly, the number of workplace deaths each year will follow that trend.
In legislative terms, the reasons are twofold: Opportunities lost; and regressive legislation from Westminster.
The opportunity lost was the Corporate Homicide and Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007. The Act has had no impact whatsoever. It does not serve as a deterrent and has not regulated behaviour. It is a pale imitation of the legislation that was called for at the time.
There has been plenty of regressive and aggressively anti-worker legislation during the lifetime of the current Westminster parliament. Chief among them is Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. It is a small section of a large Act that has had a seismic impact on workers’ rights. In terms of health and safety, workers have less rights now than in Dickensian times. The inevitable impact of the legislation is the increase in work related accidents that we have seen.
Today, on International Workers Memorial Day, Thompsons call for no more lost opportunities and demand that Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act is immediately repealed.
We support Patricia Ferguson MSP’s Member’s Bill on Fatal Accident Inquiries. The Scottish Government’s Bill on the same subject is an anaemic version of Patricia Ferguson’s proposal. We must learn the lessons of corporate homicide and demand that no less than Patricia Ferguson’s proposal will do.
We support Richard Baker MSP’s proposal in relation to Corporate Homicide to finally deliver legislation that will make a difference; and we also support his Bill to restore workers’ rights under European health and safety law that will go a long way to ameliorate the impact of Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act.
To achieve these goals would be a truly fitting tribute to the memory of those we remember on International Workers Memorial Day.