Workers' Memorial Day 28 April – we need MEPs who will protect workers’ lives

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On 28 April, Workers' Memorial Day, we commemorate workers that were injured or lost their lives due to unsafe working conditions. Every year, almost two hundred thousand European workers die as a result of workplace diseases, illnesses and accidents. A healthy and safe work environment is not only indispensable for workers, but also contributes considerably to labour productivity and promotes economic growth. Work-related injury and illness currently costs European societies €476 billion every year. Investing in safe and healthy workplaces is better for everyone, rather than having to deal with the effects of work related illnesses and diseases.

The EESC is preparing an exploratory opinion on Investments in Occupational Safety and Health (OSH): costs and benefits requested by the Finnish Presidency of the EU. On the occasion of International Workers’ Memorial Day, Adam Rogalewski, EESC Workers' Group member and the rapporteur for the opinion said: when commemorating our fellow workers, colleagues and friends who have died at work, we should not forget that work related deaths are not only those resulting from fatal injuries but also those caused by occupational diseases. The number of fatal accidents at work has progressively decreased in Europe but there is a worrying increase in deaths due to work related diseases, in particular cancer, which amounts to approximately 100 000 deaths a year. Reducing work related diseases and providing workers with a healthy work environment should be at the top of the EU priorities for occupational safety and health (OSH) for the next years. It is not only a matter of human rights but a matter for the EU economy.

Oliver Röpke, EESC Workers' Group President said: People’s lives and their health should not be put at risk as a result of their work environment. As trade unionists, we recognise the important contribution that European Union legislation, policy and campaigns on OSH have made in saving workers' lives and improving their working conditions. With the European elections fast approaching, the Workers’ Group supports the ETUC’s call for the next legislature to adopt an official EU target of zero workplace cancer and the introduction of new directives to address workplace stress and musculoskeletal pain at work. Let’s ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’ by electing progressive politicians who will work to protect workers’ lives.

The European elections take place from 23-26 May 2019