Marking International Workers Memorial Day 2023

On Friday we marked International Workers Memorial Day 2023, when we commemorate those that died at work and renew our fight for health and safety in the workplace.

Trade unions, politicians and activists met in Princes Street Gardens at the Workers’ Memorial Tree. There were moving speeches, including the below speech given by a workplace rep from your branch, Euan Stewart:

This day is when we remember the workers who have lost their lives through their employment.  We must also remember that it is not just Industrial Accident that causes death and injury at work.  Stress and the pressures placed upon workers cause significant harm to workers and their families.  There is often a very fine line between robust management and bullying.

These matters frequently come to union reps to deal with.  Union reps are also workers who experience the same societal, economic and workplace pressures as everyone.  Their reward for their efforts is simply the knowledge that they are helping others and sticking to their values of justice and human decency.  

Our union reps experience immense pressures on their time, skills, knowledge and emotional and mental wellbeing.  As workplaces become more toxic and employers and governments attempt to drive harder bargains the stress and pressures on our union reps intensifies.

Vicarious stress and trauma is also experienced by union reps as they often deal with shocking and disturbing cases with workers who are already traumatised by their experience and, as a result are close to losing control of themselves.  It is quite natural and human that helping someone who is traumatised can cause stress and trauma in the helper.

Recently, a union rep told us that in a conversation with a medical professional about his psychological wellbeing he suddenly burst into tears.  A surefire sign of stress and possibly trauma.  This should not be happening.

Harm to workers, including union reps, is preventable.  It is up to all of us, union reps, workers, union leaders, managers, employers, politicians and others to put in place the measures that ensure the prevention of harm to workers in their employment.”

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