Assembly Members have come together today (1st May) to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day in the Senedd. The event is the first of its kind and was hosted by David Rees, AM for Aberavon, in partnership with the TUC and Unite the Union. The event is a response to the Westminster Government’s recent attacks on Health and Safety Legislation, and has highlighted the clear divide between the two different administrations’ outlooks on workers’ rights.

David Rees AM said:
“The majority of organised successful businesses in Wales regard health and safety as an essential part of efficient working. The reason our legislative system exists is to prevent death, injury or illness at work, protecting livelihoods in the process.”

“In my constituency, Aberavon, we have a proud industrial heritage, but we must always remember the sacrifice made by those who have lost their lives. This Workers Memorial day event will serve as a platform to highlight the importance of Health and Safety Legislation and emphasise why it is critical to ensure that this legislation is not eroded by any Government in the name of forging a better environment for business.”

“Health and Safety is the cornerstone of a civilised society; for David Cameron to start the new year saying his resolution is “to kill off health and safety culture” shows not just insensitivity to bereaved families, but also how out of touch he is with countries with more civilised workplace arrangements in Europe and other parts of the world.”

Andy Richards, President of the Wales TUC, said:
“The UK government is making out that health and safety does not matter – that it is a politically correct and unnecessary burden on business. But it is proven that health and safety protection in the workplace really does matter. The relaxing of rules and regulations will mean that more and more workers will be put at risk, made ill, injured or even killed at work.
This is part of a wider attack on workers’ rights by the coalition government and we welcome the opportunity to work with the National Assembly for Wales in the interests of Welsh workers in the face of these attacks.”

Welsh Labour Leader, Carwyn Jones, said:
“Health and safety at work is not an optional extra – it’s an everyday necessity that quite literally means the difference between life and death in so many industries and for so many workers.
“Welsh trades unions are at the forefront of ensuring that health and safety is given the prominence it deserves. The UK Government has to face up to its responsibility when it comes to workplace protection and I am proud of the role our unions are playing in that effort.”

Since the 2010 election the Westminster government has presented a number of proposals and consultations aimed at rolling back employment rights. In addition, the UK government is cutting 35 per cent of its funding for the HSE (Health and safety Executive) in the next year.

Earlier this year the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, vowed that:
“One of the coalition’s New Year resolutions is this: kill off the health and safety culture for good. I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or diamond jubilee year, but the year we banished a lot of this pointless time-wasting from the economy and British life once and for all.”

Since the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced in 1974 there has been an 80 per cent decrease in fatalities. The Event was held on Tuesday 1st May in the Media Briefing Room of the Senedd. There were presentations by Hugh Robertson, the UK TUC lead officer on Health and Safety, and Andy Richards President of Wales TUC. David Rees also raised a statement of opinion which AMs, are currently subscribing to.