EMPLOYEES, managers and trades union members gathered in Portsmouth yesterday to mark Workers’ Memorial Day.
A peaceful rally was held at midday at the Workers’ Memorial in Victoria Park to remember those who lost their lives at work, and to call for an end to government plans to deregulate health and safety rules.
Mark Carden, of the RMT union, said: ‘Life is the ultimate sacrifice. We must make sure it’s safeguarded at work.
‘We need tighter regulation of health and safety, not the deregulation the government’s suggesting.’
Unions fear government plans will reduce workplace safety inspections, and enable companies to cut time spent on job risk assessments.
They believe the measures could cause more deaths and injuries at work.
Mr Carden said: ‘People are forced to take jobs based on need.
‘They can’t shop around based on health and safety practices.
‘So we need one rule, and it has to be strong. People mustn’t die at work.’
John Stephenson, a 63-year-old BAE Systems employee, said: ‘I came to support the cause.
‘The company gave us time to do so.
‘People are dying in a number of industries, not least at the dockyards because of asbestos in shipping.
‘We have to do refits and cuts to health and safety rules could result in more deaths.’
Portsmouth City Council’s strategic directors Michael Lawther and Roger Ching both attended the quiet gathering.
Hampshire Association of Trade Union Councils secretary Louis MacDonald addressed them and others in the crowd.
Mr MacDonald said: ‘We need stronger laws in place, laws where people can be imprisoned for their negligence in workplace accidents.
‘Fines for firms is no good, because it’s the workers who pay them, in refused raises.’
Meanwhile, unions will be out in force at the weekend to protest about cuts again.
A march through Portsmouth is planned on Sunday, to mark May Day, a traditional workers’ festival.
The march will leave Victoria Park at 12.30pm and will go through the city before ending at Southsea Common.