Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Memorial to 'working class hero' Michael McGahey unveiled

Ex UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe unveiled a statue to mark the 10th Anniversary of Mick McGahey's address to the Midlothian TUC Worker's Memorial Day event.

The Annual Memorial Day Commemoration was held at George V Park, Bonnyrigg followed by the unveiling. UNISON made a substantial donation to the memorial and, among others, was represented by Mick McGahey jnr, Matt Smith (UNISON Scottish Secretary), Agnes Petkevicius, Tom Waterson, John Stevenson and Lui Giacomello. Edinburgh, Midlothian and Lothian Health UNISON Branches laid wreaths at the Workers Memorial Day garden.

Rodney described Michael McGahey as a 'working class hero'. As someone who never lost touch with his roots and socialist values. Also someone who was ardent about health and safety. This was not just about safety at work, but also about building 'economic health and safety'.

He listed some of McGahey's sayings which were just as relevant today. "We are a movement not a monument", he quoted as a reminder of the need to continue to move and to fight on.

"We know the reasons why Michael never became NUM President, but whether he had stayed as a steward or a delegate he would still have had a major impact on the movement", said Rodney.

Tributes also came from Eric Clarke, ex NUM Scotland General Secretary. He stressed the importance of Michael's work in promoting a personal survival kit for miners that allowed them time to escape through gas. He also underlined the man's humour and pored scorn on those who may have described him as 'dour'.

David Hamilton MP and ex NUM delegate praised the discipline and purpose Michael brought to representing members. He recalled at one STUC Congress that McGahey had told the miners' delegates that it was 'an honour and privilege to be representing the members' and that they were there 'on the blood and the sweat' of their members.

Gordon Brown

In another Workers Memorial Day event, organised by Fife UNISON, Chancellor Gordon Brown MP planted a tree at Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy.

Kevin Findlay, UNISON Fife branch Health and Safety Officer, said, "It is still sadly the case that many people are suffering and dying due to work-related illnesses and accidents."

The official HSE statistics for Great Britain show that 220 workers died of injuries sustained at work, almost 1,900 died on the asbestos cancer mesothelioma and 6,000 of all occupational cancers. Other estimates put the figures for ill-health and deaths from work-related illness far higher at 50,000. Unions are calling for:

Formal recognition of Workers Memorial Day by the government;
Amendments to the Corporate Killing Bill so those responsible for decisions leading to death or serious injury/ill-health are held fully accountable;
Urgent measures to make Directors legally responsible for health and safety (replacing ineffective voluntary codes of practice) which has recently been endorsed by the Health and Safety Commission;
Measures to increase the rights of workers and of safety reps.

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