By James Turner
ON 28 April we came together to recognise and commemorate the people who have lost their lives or have been seriously injured during the course of their work on ‘Workers Memorial Day’.
Held across the UK, Channel Islands, Ireland and Gibraltar over the years, the day is observed in solidarity with all trade unions that recognise the families who have suffered a loss and the individuals who are sadly no longer with us.
Unite the Union bought and donated the bench pictured in Howard Davis Park for public use some years ago now, and to this day we utilise this beautiful and peaceful public space to gather and present wreaths in a mark of respect for the people who have not returned home to their loved ones, families or friends after a working day or indeed those who have suffered life-changing injuries affecting everyone around them and within their communities.
It is a simple fact based on statistics that unionised workplaces – no matter which organised union you choose to be part of – bring a safer working environment, no more so than where elected health-and-safety representatives are present. They seek on your behalf the application of safer working practices and safe systems with employers, working collaboratively with the employer in safety forums, conducting workplace tours or inspections and establishing a formal reporting mechanism recognised by the Jersey Health and Safety Inspectorate, who then have the power and ability to apply significant fines to employers falling short of such standards if anyone is injured. The JHSI can also issue improvement notices in workplaces where significant failings are identified and reported. This, by and large, creates the formal structure of continuous improvement and importantly applies traceability and accountability when things sometimes sadly go wrong, protecting you or your family’s position if a claim is required for remedy.
Do you work in a safe workplace? If the answer is no, join a trade union.
Do you think your workplace or working practices are unsafe? If the answer is yes, join a trade union.
On this day we also seek to recognise and praise the army of volunteer representatives within trade unions who dedicate their time and commitment to our memberships, often facing resistance or victimisation from bad employers who seek to simply cut corners or costs when it comes to your safety or their legal obligation to their duty of care. It is the thousands of representatives across the UK, Channel Islands, Ireland and Gibraltar that Unite the Union wish to thank directly for their relentless pursuit of a safer working environment; without them you may indeed be put at risk from poor enforcement or neglect of legislation, substandard personal protective equipment or general neglect of the day-to-day hygiene or welfare standards falling below the expected levels and obligations employers should recognise.
Should you join a trade union? Yes, we think everyone should be a member of a trade union; no one is better placed to assist you in workplace safety or employment matters. This is in addition to the other local benefits union membership brings. Do your research and see which union suits your needs best.
Do not believe the rhetoric that ‘unions do not exist in Jersey’ or ‘you cannot be part of a trade union and work for this employer’, the latter line being unlawful if stated directly. It is fundamentally untrue. Anyone can freely join a trade union and be represented when needed. This is your right.
Union representatives receive legal protection under law for any detriment incurred for conducting their trade union roles; this is in addition to the risk of an industrial dispute if such treatment occurs to any of our representatives. Unite the Union is fully committed to the protection of its elected representatives.
Unite has local offices and staff in St Helier, a full-time regional officer, over 80 elected representatives, with members in over 300 workplaces across Jersey.
We fight for all workers on a daily basis. Join a union today.
James Turner is the regional officer for Unite the Union in Jersey.