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28 APRIL 2004
INTERNATIONAL WORKERS' MEMORIAL DAY


Trade Unions kick off 2004 28 APRIL

International Commemoration Day for Dead & Injured Workers , 6 January, 2004

ICFTU's General Secretary Guy Ryder has issued the first notice to trade unions throughout world requesting that they begin preparing for the 9th International Day for Dead and Injured Workers.

"SAFE & HEALTHY WORK FOR ALL" is the 2004 primary theme for 28 April and "EMPLOYER ACCOUNTABILITY" is the secondary theme this year. Background information is contained in the annex of this message. A copy of the official 28 April symbol is also attached.

Ryder emphasised that it was up to national trade union centres and GUFs to decide the focus for and types of activities they would organise, saying "our purpose is to encourage you to commence organising this year's 28 April activities as soon as possible".

He also emphasised that 28 April will be a key date in the run up to this year's Global Unions May 1st mobilisation, which will focus on "Respect", as an overriding theme with a particular focus on workers' rights and women workers (especially in connection with poverty in export processing zones and the informal economy).

Quite a number of 28 April events take place because national trade union bodies and Global Union Federations (GUFs) organise them on annual basis and he encouraged them to continue this development but urged that trade unions inform the ICFTU of their plans to facilitate international coordination of events. He said that historically, trade unions have organised a wide range of activities for 28 April, from large rallies or sectoral strikes, to educational & lobbying events, or simple information distribution activities. However, many have sought to incorporate at least a simple candle-lighting or incense ceremony, including a short commemoration speech, and a moment of silence, broken by poetry or music, in combination.

Ryder said that thematically, the ceremonies or events throughout the world are made to reflect the overall orientation of 28 April, which normally begins by commemorating the dead, sick and injured workers and ends with a message of hope for life and the living. Ryder said this year the ICFTU would like to document at least one main event in each country, complimented by other smaller ones, where these are possible.

STEPPING UP COUNTRY AND U.N. RECOGNITION FOR 28 APRIL

Ryder invited trade union bodies to initiate a process in their own country for national recognition of 28 April.

Currently the following countries or territories have adopted 28 April as a national observance day: Argentina, Bermuda, Canada, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and Taiwan.

A recent TUAC SURVEY of national trade union bodies throughout the world shows that requests for their Governments to recognize 28 April have been initiated in the following countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Korea, Malaysia and Poland.

Trade union in the following countries have also agreed to initiate a process with their government in the course of year 2004: Benin, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, Romania and Singapore.

Ryder asked trade unions to work with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in their region because its Director-General Juan Somavia said it would observe the international day with its own activities.

Ryder also reminded affiliates of the a 28 April Monument Sites Project. In 2002 a 28 April publication about worker monuments was published for $10 US (including shipping). The copies of the book "Dead But Not Forgotten" are available through ICFTU. Proceeds will help build a fund toward the eventual construction of an international 28 April monument. This book is a valuable resource for your 28 April library.

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Annex: 28 April, 2004 - Main Themes

"SAFE & HEALTHY WORK FOR ALL": 28 April Primary theme.

It has long been a tenet of our OHSE Working Party that the state of workplace health & safety is an effective barometer of the quality of life and public health for the majority of people in any society. Available upon request is the 2003 ILO document published for 28 April, "Safety Culture at Work".

Trade unions are invited to highlight whatever issues are relevant and appropriate in their country or sector. It would be particularly useful if the choices could link up with some of the activities of the Global Unions' Working Party on Occupational Health, Safety and Environment (OHSE). Some of the most relevant are:

a) OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY and the follow up to the 2003 International Labour Conference regarding a plan of action for occupational health and safety. You can find information on this here.

b) CHEMICALS as they relate to Occupational and Public health, especially asbestos and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS). The Working Party has agreed to promote a clear position on a world ban of asbestos. Promoting such a ban in your country would be particularly important. In addition, any actions related to the POPs list of three chemicals groups would contribute to the efforts of the Working Party: 1) pesticides (aldrine, DDT, dieldrine, endrine, heptachlor, chlordane, mirex and toxaphen), 2) industrial compounds (PCB's) and 3) byproducts (PCB variations, PCDD, PCDF, and dioxins).

c) PROMOTION OF SUSTAINABLE WORKPLACES as a means of linking occupational health to the social and community environment dimensions of work and workers. This would link up with our work at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on implementing the outcomes of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). In this context it would be useful to promote worker's health in connection to community environment and social issues.

Information on any of these topics can be obtained by contacting ICFTU/TUAC.

"EMPLOYER ACCOUNTABILITY"

This secondary theme for 28 April was chosen to reflect the growing importance in the current era of globalisation, especially as it relates to our primary theme and as a way of broadening the understanding of workers about accountability issues and employers. The focus on employers can be grouped as follows:

i) Governments and Public Sector: Governments are both employers in their own right and guardians of public frameworks governing the private sector as well. You are invited to focus on one or both of these related aspects. In some countries, public sector employers are not bound by national legislation on OHS and this should be questioned. The adequacy of protection for all workers - including public sector workers - should be a matter of principle, everywhere. A significant concern is the issue of cuts in public services, which are practically universal, and of their impact on working hours of remaining staff, stress levels, increased likelihood of occupational accidents, impact on the delivery of services, and last but not least the detrimental effect on the families of public sector workers. Studies in many parts of the industrial world have shown that public sector workers put stress at the top of their list of work place issues - even above wages.

Finally, the role of government is essential in ensuring that proper frameworks (regulations, inspections, reporting) are set up and maintained to ensure the accountability of all employers on a broad range of questions that relate to occupational health, safety and environment. When focusing on private employers there is usually a role for government that can be emphasised or insisted upon.

ii) Private or Corporate Sector: The health and safety issues in private enterprises are wide-ranging, and what should be emphasised will depend on the national or regional context that you consider priorities. For the most part, you are invited to identify issues that reflect current national or international campaigns of trade unions and of coalitions with which trade unions are involved.

You are particularly invited to take actions that promote key institutional mechanisms that address the responsibilities of business, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the various ILO Instruments and measures. 28 April should, in particular, point out the contributions to the enhancement of corporate responsibility and accountability made by social dialogue and sound industrial relations based on the full respect of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. And finally of great importance is to highlight the role of workers and trade unions in implementing solutions through active participation in workplace decision making.

For more information contact Lucien Royer at royer@tuac.org

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