Please accept my apologies for being unable to join you today – the first time in Barnsley Trades Council’s proud history that this meeting is being conducted via Zoom!
Sadly, this is a sign of the times for many of us as we adjust to the new reality of the Coronavirus crisis: the social distancing; being apart from family, friends and loved ones; working and learning remotely – that is the new normal in the face of the gravest public health crisis any of us have faced.
This International Workers’ Memorial Day is especially poignant as we pay tribute to the service and the sacrifice of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against this pandemic, as well as remembering every worker who has died in the line of their duty, such as the Sheffield police officer killed whilst responding to a road traffic incident.
Today, we take the opportunity to remember them all.
Too often, this crisis has exposed the frailties and fragilities in our public services and our economy which were already struggling after a decade of austerity. We have seen our front-line staff having to reuse Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We have seen doctors and nurses give their lives to keep others safe and look after the most vulnerable. Disgracefully, we are unclear as to how many staff working in our social care sector have died because of the Coronavirus.
Every key worker who loses their live to keep others safe represents an individual tragedy for their families. Collectively, these deaths demonstrate that political decisions have very human consequences.
But occasions such as these are more than opportunities to remember. They are also the chance to commit to building a better working world for all.
From the chaos of the Coronavirus, there will be the need to rebuild our country.
That must mean ensuring that our councils, NHS and care homes have the resources they need and deserve. Creating a welfare system that supports those in need, rather than demonising the needy as feckless and irresponsible. Building an economy works for working people and their families, so that everyone is paid a living wage and have strong rights at work.
Out of this crisis, we see the green shoots of hope of a fairer, more equal country.
It is our job, together, to make it happen.