Statement: Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK)
International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April 2020
In the weeks leading up to this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day, our FACK hearts have collectively felt the heaviest they have for quite some time, many of us having already lived for a decade or more with the heartbreak currently being inflicted on those losing loved ones to COVID-19.
Like them, we didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. Like them, we know that the deaths of our loved ones could and should have been prevented. Like us, they know there will be no justice for their grandparents, mums, dads, siblings, or children. And we all know that we will never know The Whole Story.
And so, as we sought the words to give voice to our thoughts today, we worried that it was just too big an ask…until it struck us: we have said all that needs to be said before!
While our words have previously been said in challenge to work-related incidents and illnesses, there are chilling parallels to the pandemic crisis which engulfs us.
We FACKers remember ALL of the dead, having repeatedly implored that each and every work-related fatality should be recognised, counted and be made to count! And the very same is true of COVID-19 deaths.
The HSE figure of 147 fatalities last year doesn’t include those who die in maritime or air incidents, who die on our roads while working, or those who die by work-related suicide. It doesn’t count members of the public who die as a result of work-related activities, nor the huge numbers killed by occupational illness. When all those lost loved ones are counted – as they should be – we reach nearer 1500 who die in work-related incidents, and a further 50,000 who die each and every year as a result of work-related illness! But unless this true toll is set out in plain sight, depth of impact cannot be measured, lessons cannot be learned, and future needless loss of life cannot be prevented.
So it is for COVID-19 fatalities. As Professor Andy Watterson has stated: “If you do not protect the workforce in a pandemic, you do not protect the public.” And so, to stop the pandemic at work, we need to understand where ALL of the deaths are occurring. Government advisers said at the outset that if deaths in the UK could be kept to under 20,000, that would be a “good” result. Utterly disgusting then. And even more disgusting now as The Whole Story we estimate to be approaching twice that number!
We FACKers have been clear that the work a person does often results from inequality, and that it often results in health inequality. The lower your pay grade, the higher your health and safety risks, whether from overwork, exposure to cancer-causing substances, the inability to turn down overtime and shift work, or the worry about speaking up on health and safety for fear you lose your job.
So it is for COVID-19 fatalities. The lower your pay grade, the more likely you are to be exposed and the less likely you are to be able to remove yourself from harm without losing your income or your job. Nurses, porters, care workers, bus drivers, retail assistants, delivery drivers…keyworkers who all deserve so much better from the government and enforcement authorities, just as our FACK lost loved ones did.
But we FACKers remain resolute, principally because the precious memories of those loved ones fuels us in our fight for the living.
And so it is for those bravely speaking out about the threat from COVID-19 in their time of overwhelming grief. Who could fail to be moved by 16 year old Bethany Pearson, who laid bare the pain felt on going to bed knowing her beloved dad was feeling 5 out of 10, only to wake in the morning to find he was gone? She said the saving grace for her family is that it still feels unreal. And we know only too well that that lack of reality is lasting.
Because, we FACKers, our hearts break all over again at repeatedly hearing that a work-related fatality was an “accident waiting to happen”.
And on COVID-19, so many preventable deaths are occurring. So we weep for Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury’s family. He is the consultant urologist who wrote a post on Facebook, directed at Boris Johnson, warning that healthcare workers urgently needed more PPE. He said they had a human right like others to live in this world disease-free with their families and children. He lost his life 5 days later. His son Intisar says: “my father would not be afraid to point out what was wrong. Because he cared, about people, co-workers, colleagues, family, people he’s never even met.”
We FACKers know just who it is that does care: those who operate our Hazards Centres and the Hazards Campaign; those trade union safety reps who fight with every ounce of their being for hearts and minds, and to prevent loss of life. We know that trade union workplaces are safer workplaces, whether that be day-to-day, or when battling a pandemic.
We FACKers said that “life and limb will be lost…life and limb are being lost…as a result of the continued denigration of health and safety by politicians and also vast swathes of the media.” To hear those who have so denigrated and demolished health and safety protections over the past couple of decades implore us all to “stay safe”…well, it sticks in the craw.
Because…we FACKers have said all that needs to be said before!!
So, until such time as people, not profits, are paramount; until lives are prioritised over livelihoods; until abject carelessness is replaced by exemplary care, we FACKers will continue to fight for your right not to walk in our shoes.
Remember ALL of the dead. And please, fight like hell for the living!
FACK was established in July 2006, by and for families of people killed by the gross negligence of business employers, see www.fack.org.uk .
Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998
Linzi Herbertson –husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work on 30th January 1998
Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2004
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005
For more information and to support FACK
Hilda Palmer, Facilitator for FACK
c/o Hazards Campaign,
Windrush Millennium Centre,
70 Alexandra Road,
Manchester, M16 7WD.
Tel 0161 636 7557