FACK Statement – International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April 2018 #IWMD18
“I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll start by saying I refuse to forget you. I refuse to be silenced. I refuse to neglect you.”
These words are “for every last soul” who perished at Grenfell, and are spoken by Stormzy at the start of the Artists for Grenfell single. They could just as easily have been spoken by FACK families.
We will never forget our lost loved ones and ask that you don’t either. Instead, in their memories, devote your energies to fighting for the living.
We continue to refuse to be silenced. Instead we use our voices to increase a chorus of disapproval aimed at seeking an end to this era of de-regulation, in which health and safety protections have been undermined and preventative enforcement has been slashed. 1
We want the chorus of disapproval to reach a crescendo.
Because each and every day here in the UK a lack of good health and safety continues to lead to the deaths of 140 people in work-related incidents or because of work-related illness. The equivalent of 2 Grenfell towers…daily. 2
Let that sink in for a moment.
Opening and closing with the vision of the charred tower block, the music video which accompanies the Grenfell single can’t fail to touch hearts.
And all too often, it is music which evokes memories to tear at a FACK family’s heart, just as a line from the Verve’s “The Drugs Don’t Work” does for Samuel Adams’ mum: “But I know I will see your face again”. Sam was 6-yrs-old when he went for a family day out to the Trafford Shopping Centre and his face was only to continue to be seen in photos and preciously held memories.
Frankie Miller singing “Let me tell you that I love you, that I think about you all time” transports 26-yr-old Michael Adamson’s family and friends back to the devastation of the walk from the crematorium.
Welsh hymn Gwahoddiad is the one guaranteed to reduce Andrew Hutin’s parents to tears, the one that raised the roof of the chapel at the funeral of a young man who had only recently turned 20 when a tidal wave of molten metal exploded from a blast furnace.
How do you begin to choose the songs for your 18 year old son’s funeral? FACK families’ intention is that you never have to. But Mick and Bet Murphy did, guided by those that were among Lewis’ favourites at the time of his death. A song called “Crossroads” taking on particular poignancy, containing lyrics such as: “Hey, can somebody anybody tell me why we die, we die? I don’t wanna die. Ohhh so wrong.”
Fundamentally wrong that these young men were taken from their families, denied the opportunity to live their lives. And why? Because still far too often health and safety is wrongly seen as a burden, red tape, a tiresome impediment to getting a job done, or a costly barrier to making a profit.
There are those whose praises FACK families sing. Among them:
- The firefighters whose emotions overwhelmed them on being clapped and cheered by the local community at Grenfell – that community knowing they had done all they could, and more, to save lives.
- Those who have had the courage to speak out about perils faced by themselves and their colleagues, finding themselves blacklisted as a result.
- Those who work in our Hazards Centres – in Manchester, London and Glasgow – seeking to prevent work-related harm, committed to improving workplace health and safety.
- And trade unions safety reps whose life-saving work often goes unnoticed, but whose work needs to be celebrated and built upon. Because, let’s be clear: a union workplace is a safer workplace.
These are the people who prevent injury, illness and death; who prevent suffering and the consequent need for a soundtrack to tears. They are the ones with whom we must ensure chords are struck.
Because, yes, perhaps a song brings into firm focus a happy moment caught in time…running bare foot from a tent at a bike rally in Edinburgh on hearing Born Slippy by Underworld, Graham and Karen to be the only ones dancing and grinning in the rain.
But Natalie, Dionne, Sharon…they are among those who’d “love, love, love to dance with their fathers again”, who are destined to do so only in dreams.
The dreams and the plans that had been hatched by Linzi and Herbie during long nights spent listening to The Rock from The Who’s Quadrophenia, were not to become reality.
Instead, in the aftermath, songs that filled the void “at the dimming of the day” bring into dark focus the utter desolation.
Just what would Dorothy and Douglas give to hear Mark belting out again: “I gotta take a little time…In case I need it when I’m older”. He wasn’t to get any older than the age of 37.
Another of his favourites was “I want to live forever”.
We know that no-one lives forever. But, work should be life-changing in a positive way. It should never ever be life-ending.
So we intend to continue to build a legacy for our loved ones, that will live on forever through improved protections that keep your family members safe and healthy
FACK facilitator Hilda Palmer has quite rightly described Grenfell as an “Enough is Enough” moment. And the death of each of our loved ones was our own personal enough is enough moment.
Let us repeat: lack of good health and safety leads to loss of life equivalent to two Grenfell towers each and every day in this country.
Enough is surely enough! By Louise Taggart Founder FACK member, sister of Michael Adamson.
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 in 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 2002
Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005
For more information and to support FACK, contact Hilda Palmer, Facilitator for FACK: Tel 0161 636 7557