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Safety pledge marks Workers’ Memorial Day

Commemorative wreaths were laid out as tributes at the Alameda Gardens for Workers’ Memorial Day in memory of people who lost their lives at work.

The theme for the ceremony this year – held on Wednesday, a day before Workers’ Memorial Day itself - was ‘strong laws, strong enforcement and strong unions’ and follows the announcement of a new health and safety policy.

Neil Costa, Minister for Employment, members of Unite the Union and other VIPs arrived to a chorus of bagpipes.

A minute’s silence was then held before the Royal Gibraltar Regiment buglers played ‘Last Post’ as the crowd lowered their heads in solemn commemoration.

“We deeply care for the well-being of every employee, as well as all those who may be involved in, or affected by, any of our operations,” Mr Costa said on the fifth local anniversary of the ceremony.

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“As a result, management and performance must be improved to create a safe working environment for employees, contractors, visitors and the general public. The government pledges to achieve the highest possible health and safety standards.”

He spoke on the government’s ‘wholesale review’ of the resources required to deliver and administer health and safety in the public sector and the new health and safety policy.

“For many years, Unite has campaigned, on behalf of its members, who may have been injured at work, made ill and even, regrettably, killed by dangerous substances or working conditions in the workplace,” he said.

“We must make work related deaths, injuries and illnesses squarely and forever a thing of the past.”

Mr Costa said that this ‘fundamental work’ is only the beginning of a more focused, determined and substantive approach to the critical endeavour of keeping everyone safe.

“We will continue to strive for a world where work does not make you ill, injure you or kill,” he said.

Gillian Birkett, Unite the Union Regional Officer, said that the ceremony also serves as a rallying cry to remember the dead, but fight for the living.

“Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. They die because their employer decided that their safety just was not that important. The Worker’s Memorial commemorates those workers.”

Ms Birkett said that Gibraltar needs proper inspections and enforcement and that is why the Rock also needs strong unions.

“Unionised workplaces are safer, yet the UK Government is trying to stop unions from protecting the health and safety of their members and restricting the rights of health and safety representatives,” she said. “The government’s policy recognises Unite’s health and safety representatives and aims to clarify their roles. It will introduce a health and safety advisory council and the enforcement of the management of health and safety work act of 1996.”

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WREATH LAYERS

Neil Costa, Minister for Employment; Unite the Union Health and Safety Committee; Ministry of Defence; Royal Gibraltar Police; City Fire Brigade; Defence Fire Service; Gibraltar Port Authority; Royal Gibraltar Regiment; Defence Police; GHA Nursing staff; GHA Ambulance Service; Construction Industry; Elderly Care Agency.