Hundreds of construction workers from the Olympic site joined a Workers' Memorial Day lunchtime rally in Stratford, east London today. It was one of a series of protests around the country.
The slogan of the day is 'Remember the dead – Fight for the living'
Pete Farrell, chair of the Construction Safety Campaign, told Socialist Worker, 'We're fighting for justice for people killed in all workplaces – not just construction sites.
'Workers' Memorial Day is officially recognised this year, and that's because we fought for it. It's not because the bosses have started feeling sorry for workers. If it was they'd lock up bosses who are responsible for workplace deaths.'
Gerry Sheridan, son of Henry Sheridan who was killed in an accident on the Olympic site, said, 'I'm here to show respect for my Dad and all the others who have died. We need safety on our building sites.'
Tony O'Brien, national secretary of the Construction Safety Campaign, told the rally that he was worried as 'Even the present government has watered down Health and safety legislation. Employers are allowed to police themselves! But if the Tories win the election they will allow employers to decide not to be inspected.'
Liliana Alexa, whose son Michael Dragos was killed when a crane collapsed in September 2006, said she was glad that legislation had since been passed to regulate power cranes on sites, but angry that no one has been held responsible for her son's death.
Simon Hester a Prospect union rep with the Health and Safety Executive said that the HSE is terribly understaffed. There are only 26 construction inspectors to cover the thousands of sites across London. This means that only 8 percent of all reported accidents are properly investigated.
Dave, a construction worker at the site, told Socialist Worker, 'As long as you have your hard hat the bosses aren't too bothered. They're just covering their arses. The unions piss me off when they just roll over. They're just not hard enough.'