Today is International Workers' Memorial Day

Posted on April 28, 2020

Today we commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day. It is a day to remember every worker who has been killed or injured at work.

Everyone – wherever they work – has the right to a safe working life.


This year, many of us will be commemorating the day from our homes as we continue to practice social distancing. But as we know, many workers do not have the ability to work from home and go into workplaces that could cause them harm. Many, many Together members are working right now in difficult and challenging roles and for that we recognise you and thank you.

In March this year, we learned of the tragic loss of 5 QBuild staff in a Lockhart River light plane crash, a terrible shock to their colleagues and friends.

Every day during the COVID-19 pandemic our health workers in particular are facing the threats associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that across the world, health workers are going to work to treat and care for sick patients, with the knowledge that they or colleagues could get sick and die simply by doing their job. This International Workers’ Memorial Day we remember and thank the health workers around the world who have lost their lives at work keeping us all safe.

The pandemic has brought close attention to this sector in terms of bed numbers and ventilators – but the core of healthcare is the workers who deliver that care. Our members in public health in particular at this time are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic – doctors, allied health, scientists and admin staff ensuring patients are able to be admitted, diagnosed, treated and sent home safely.

Today, we remember those healthcare workers who have lost their lives from COVID-19, many infected at work caring for the sick and vulnerable. These workers put themselves at greater risk of infection to ensure that many more people would survive this disease. The danger of infection and death for health workers is real - in the USA, India, the UK, Iran, Italy, China and even in Australia (where a Victorian nurse is so far the youngest Australian killed by COVID-19) health workers are facing up to this unprecedented medical event.

The health workers who have died should be praised for their bravery and remembered as heroes. However, their deaths were not all inevitable. In many cases, the lack of appropriate PPE has been repeatedly raised by health workers – again, around the world. The importance of planning and swift reaction by governments, as well as listening to the feedback and reports from health workers on the ground, at the frontline.

We know in Queensland we have been lucky to avoid so far the terrible loss of life we have seen in other countries, but we need to be vigilant. The Queensland Government needs to ensure that we have adequate and consistently supplied PPE to protect health workers and patients across Queensland to ensure that every death that can be prevented, is prevented.” – Sandy Donald, Together Senior Vice President and Senior Medical Officer at Cairns Hospital

We remember the health workers who have died fighting COVID-19. Below are just a few of those we know about from around the world.

Sumith Pramachandra (Australia) - Nurse

Sumith Pramachandra (55) died from COVID-19 related illness in Dandenong Hospital on 6 April. His daughter Sharyn shared on Facebook ““Our dad was a disability nurse, a health care worker on the frontline, but for those of you that aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously, it may be hard not to see your friends and family at the moment but you can choose to isolate now or potentially live with the heartbreak of losing them forever.” - Source

Li Wenliang (China) - Doctor

Li Wenliang (34) was a 34-year-old doctor who was one of the first people to sound the alarm about the new outbreak. He died of the coronavirus on February 7 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where he had been in intensive care for three weeks. Li raised the alarm about the novel coronavirus by messaging his friends from medical school. - Source

Marcello Natali (Italy) - Doctor

Dr. Marcello Natali (57) worked in Codogno, a town south of Milan, in a region severely affected by the virus. He told Euronews that the PPE available was inadequate. “The situation has not gotten better since the end of February,” he said. “We received some masks, some glove kits, nothing else. A mask that should last half a day here lasts a week.” Dr Natali died on March 18. - Source

Wilma Banaag (UK) - Nurse

Wilma Banaag worked at Watford General Hospital. She worked for the NHS, and became infected during her work in a COVID-19 ward. She died on April 18. The NHS trust (her employer) said of Wilma "She enjoyed her job caring for elderly patients and she will be very much missed." - Source

Marion ‘Curtis’ Hunt (57, USA) - Social Worker

Marion "Curtis" Hunt (57) worked at Cornell Scott-Hill health centre with patients recovering from drug addiction, where a patient tested positive with COVID-19. His supervisor described him as going  “above and beyond” for his clients. He died on 23 March. - Source

We also remember and pay tribute to the rural and volunteer firefighters who lost their lives protecting families and homes during the bushfires earlier this year. Although those events seem far from our memory right now, we know many brave people lost their lives defending homes and communities. We offer our thoughts to their families.

You can participate in this Queensland Council of Union’s Workers’ Memorial event online this year by tuning in on Facebook. Click here for more details.

To everyone who continues to work and contribute to their communities during these difficult times, we thank you.

Health Workers Petition

As health workers in Queensland risk their safety at work every day, the Queensland government refuses to pay them what they are owed. This is clearly not acceptable. Already over 6000 Queensland have signed the petition calling on the Queensland government to pay what is owed to Health workers - add your voice here.

Working from Home Survey

The Together Working from Home survey is still open for a few more days. Completing this survey will give your union office a better understanding of the challenges your are facing in the "new normal" of working from home. You can complete the survey by clicking here.

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