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GHA personnel pay tribute to colleagues on Workers’ Memorial Day

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

Frontline workers at the Gibraltar Health Authority paid tribute on Tuesday to colleagues in the UK who died during the Covid-19 crisis, holding a minute’s silence outside St Bernard’s Hospital on Workers’ Memorial Day.

Staff from all areas of the GHA were joined at midday by the Minister for Health, Paul Balban, as they stood on the hospital steps in a solemn mark of respect, and ensuring social distance in line with public health guidelines.

They also laid white wreaths honouring healthcare workers who had made the ultimate sacrifice caring for their patients.

A bugler played the Last Post as part of the tribute and later Amazing Grace was played on bagpipes.

The start and end of the minute’s silence was marked by sirens from a GHA ambulance that had been adorned with a rainbow as a sign of hope for better times after the pandemic.

Wreaths were laid too in the lobby of the Gibraltar Parliament, in a tribute led by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and attended by a small number of dignitaries.

The tributes in Gibraltar coincided with similar solemn acts of remembrance across the UK, where workers who lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic were remembered with a nationwide silence.

People across the UK paused for a minute in sombre tribute to the sacrifice made by those on the front line, in roles ranging from doctors and nurses to carers, cleaners, porters and bus drivers.

CHIEF MINISTER'S MESSAGE

In a message on Workers' Memorial Day, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlighted the "powerful slogan" used on the day: 'remember the dead, fight for the living'.

"How apposite that message will be this year in particular, when we think of health workers around the world who have lost their lives at work treating those with Covid-19," he said.

"As the grandson of a man who died at work, I remember the grandfather I never knew and my pride in having introduced the observance of this day in Gibraltar."

"Again this year I am also rightly proud that no worker has died at work in Gibraltar in the past year."

"None have died at work in Gibraltar since I became Chief Minister, despite a huge increase in construction in the time I have been in office, and I hope none ever will again."

"In most instances, deaths and injuries at work have happened because there is a lack of investment in the health and safety measures that must be taken in all work environments. That is unacceptable."

"In this, our eighth year of observingWorkers Memorial Day, I will continue to channel all my energy into the protection of everyone in our community, in particular those of our health workers who are on the front line of the battle against Covid-19."

GSD AND TOGETHER GIBRALTAR

The leaders of the GSD and Together Gibraltar highlighted the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the workplace in messages issued for Workers’ Memorial Day.

The GSD’s Keith Azopardi said the virus and the measures put in place to stop its spread were a powerful reminder of the importance of workplace safety, while Together Gibraltar’s Marlene Hassan Nahon highlighted an opportunity for society to reflect on the failings of the labour markets to protect vulnerable, yet vital workers.

“The lockdown is motivated by a public health crisis and a virus that permeates all activities and sectors,” Mr Azopardi said.

“The issue of safety in the workplace has a powerful reminder in the COVID pandemic.”

“This is not a traditional risk of industrial accidents from machinery or derived from working practices. These are risks derived from an external threat that can find its way into the workplace.”

“Businesses and workers all need to adapt to this new working environment and adopt practices that minimise these risks until these threats are over.”

“Safe practices should be at the core of our approach now and in the future.”

Ms Hassan Nahon said it was important to honour those who had died or been injured at work, but that the Covid-19 crisis also provided an opportunity for change.

“Many of our most fundamental workers; our carers, those who transport and distribute vital supplies, our first responders, cleaners, emergency services etc. are often suffering from precarity, depressed wages, unsafe working conditions and predatorial business practices,” she said.

“In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, they are fulfilling their duties impeccably in the face of danger, putting themselves in harms way so that we may protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

“It is not enough to clap for their courage and sacrifice.”

She added: “On this day we remember all victims who have died in the workplace, but this year, it is especially poignant to recognise all healthcare workers who have died on the job, as a result of this pandemic, across the globe.”

“We therefore ask that everyone spare a thought and a moment for those who have lost their lives around the world on the frontline of the fight against the virus.”

“And for those that keep fighting, we must remember all that they are going through and recognise that essential workers must be rewarded as such, and that every worker deserves safe and dignified working conditions.”