Report: ‘They were human, not heroes’ – International Workers’ Memorial Day 2020

28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day when we remember those workers who have lost their lives due to inadequate health and safety measures on the job. In 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic starkly exposes the crisis of the NHS after 10 years of austerity measures, and an ever-growing number of doctors, nurses and other key workers die of Covid-19 due to the lack of personal protective equipment, the slogan ‘Remember the dead – fight for the living!’ resonates more widely than ever. Numerous events were held globally and in the UK to mark the occasion.

In many workplaces as well as at home, people remembered the essential workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus. Below are reports of some rs21 members on the day of action.

Hazel Graham, who observed one-minute silence in remembrance of key workers from her home in Cumbria, writes:

‘[I]s silence and clapping enough? It is important to mourn the dead but equally important to fight for the living. They did not need to die. They could still be with us if the correct PPE had been provided, if people were prioritised above profit, if lockdown had been thorough and happened weeks earlier. More will die unless we fight. Clapping and calling them heroes (which they are) is not enough to prevent more key worker deaths. What action are you taking, beyond clapping, to fight for the living?’

In Manchester, solidarity actions have been organised at several hospitals across the city. At North Manchester General Hospital, people gathered at 10:30am for a motorcade demonstration, a form of safe and socially distanced protest that was originally introduced by migrant justice and prison abolitionist groups in the US. The action was followed by a minute of silence at 11am both at this location and at Trafford General Hospital.

One minute silence at Trafford General Hospital. Photo by Bev Keenan
One minute silence at North Manchester General Hospital. Photo by Ian Allinson
A car from the motorcade protest in Manchester. Photo by Ian Allinson

It is, however, not only health workers who have died of coronavirus due to inadequate personal protective equipment. In London so far, 21 transport workers, 15 of those bus drivers, have lost their lives in the pandemic. Around 20 bus drivers along with Brent Trades Council gathered to remember them at 11am at Willesden Bus Garage.

Photo by Steve Eason
Photo by Steve Eason

Many of us who were not able to physically attend memorial events remembered with posters and placards displayed in windows.

Photo by Pete Cannell in Edinburgh.

Charlie Powell from East London remembered the key workers who died with her song ‘Heroes’.



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