This Friday I will be joining the Mayor of Tameside and other local dignitaries at All Saints Catholic College in Dukinfield for the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to 38 miners who were killed in an explosion at the Victoria Colliery (which is close to the modern-day school site) back in 1866.
Of course, in Victorian times, such tragedies were sadly commonplace throughout many industrial workplaces, where health and safety considerations were often overruled in pursuit of greater profit.
It was the appalling working conditions during the industrial revolution which led to the formation of trade unions and organised labour. In turn, these organisations fought for better working conditions, treatment of employees, workplace benefits and higher pay.
Roll on 153 years since that dreadful mining disaster that took 38 lives in Dukinfield, and whilst working conditions are immeasurably better in every respect, the workplace for some is still a very dangerous place.
The fact is that every year more people are still killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer has decided that their safety just wasn’t that important a priority.
And because of this, this Sunday marks Workers’ Memorial Day which commemorates those workers.
Workers’ Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is organised in the UK by the Trades Union Congress and its member unions. It is also officially recognised as an event by the British Government.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is “dangerous substances – get them out of the workplace” where the focus will mainly be on carcinogens, asbestos and diesel exhaust pollutants; very pertinent to some of the former and existing industries here in Tameside.
So on Friday, I’ll proudly remember those 38 people killed in Dukinfield back in 1866; but on Sunday, my attention will be on the workers of today who have been killed, injured, or who’s lives have been put at risk. And I vow that, as your Member of Parliament, I’ll always fight to improve workers’ rights and conditions; have better health and safety in the workplace and stricter enforcement with higher penalties for breaches of these laws. And I’ll always support the democratic rights of working people to join together in trade unions to campaign for those better conditions, too.