Workers Memorial Day
Workers Memorial Day 2009 in the Horseshoe at Heathrow's Cargo Village

Workers Memorial Day

At the end of 2008 a worker was sadly killed in the cargo horseshoe area, this was not the first person to be killed in a highly dangerous area for pedestrians. Unite cargo representatives were rightly outraged, as well as organising a working group with the employers, police and the BAA requested the HLC assistance. It was decided the HLC would adopt International Workers Memorial Day as a campaign and hold a one minute silence in the horseshoe to remember and commemorate workers who had died right across Heathrow airport.

This had never been done before and Unite shop stewards worked hard to ensure the event was a true mark of respect. So on the 28th of April at 12.55 the police closed the horseshoe to traffic and the shutters came down on the cargo sheds, workers from Air Canada, Menzies, WFS, Servisair and Swissport, assembled in the centre of the horseshoe and at 13.00 hours held a minute silence. It was a very emotional moment to see a big industrial area come to such a dramatic standstill and remember their comrades.

We continue to campaign for Workers memorial day to be recognised and a minutes silence held right across Heathrow, again this year the horseshoe held another event and attending were Brendan Gold National Secretary for Aviation and Ann and Alan Keen MP’s. The HLC also made a submission when the previous Labour Government held a public consultation on whether to recognise Workers memorial day with a bank holiday. Following the consultation Labour decided if re-elected it would mark the day with an official bank holiday, alas now the Conservatives have been elected the campaign continues. Help us achieve a true mark of commemoration and help us get the 28th recognised.

We aim to have a memorial garden dedicated to Unite members who have been killed not only at Heathrow but the surrounding area, the garden and plaque will be opened 28th April 2011.

Workers Memorial Day - what is it?

For over 20 years, unions and campaigning groups have held WMD events to ‘Remember the Dead’ but also to ‘Fight for the Living’ by making clear the link between deaths and illness caused by work, non compliant to criminal employers, poor H&S laws and lax enforcement. Most people do not die of mystery ailments, or in tragic ‘accidents’. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Marking WMD 2008 worldwide there were over 10,000 union events in over 100 countries involving over 6 million workers.


In the UK, each year 1,500 to 1,600 people are killed while doing their jobs - including those killed on the roads while working. And up to 50,000 people die each year in GB from work-related diseases: about 5,000 from asbestos diseases alone. Unlike those dying in war or major incidents, they are not publicly remembered yet over two million people are killed by work worldwide each year - more than by war or AIDS. "If terrorism took such a toll, just imagine what would be said and done." says Jukka Takala from the ILO. Workers Memorial Day remembers them all and is part of the campaign to make workplaces safer, to reduce deaths, injuries and illness caused by work.

International Recognition. Started by Canadian Public Service Union (CUPE), the Canadian Labour Congress declared an annual day of remembrance in 1985 on 28 April. For years WMD events have been organised in Canada and the USA and then worldwide. Campaigner Tommy Harte, brought WMD to the UK in 1992 as a day to ‘Remember the Dead: Fight for the Living’. WMD is recognised as a national day in 19 countries:

Argentina, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Bermuda, Canada, Dominican Republic, Ecuador,

Greece, Luxembourg, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine & Venezuela but not the UK!