Health and care workers who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic have been remembered with a minute’s silence.
Nicola Sturgeon and her Health Secretary Jeane Freeman stood in silence outside the Scottish Government’s headquarters in Edinburgh for the commemoration, held on International Workers’ Memorial Day.
The event, which has been marked every year in Scotland for almost two decades, pays tribute to those who have lost their lives in the course of their employment.
Mary Senior, vice-president of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) said the coronavirus pandemic made this year’s event “more poignant”.
As well as the minute’s silence at the Scottish Government HQ, where Ms Sturgeon and Ms Freeman were joined by the interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith and chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen, the Scottish Parliament paid its own tribute.
At Holyrood, business was halted at 11am, with Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh and representatives from all parties taking part in a short ceremony.
The STUC organised an online event, with Ms Senior saying: “That we are meeting here today virtually in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic makes our event more poignant and workplace dangers all to real for so many.
“Workers on the front line in the NHS, in care homes, supermarkets, public transport and schools, as well as those working from home, struggling with spiralling workloads and balancing caring commitments, dealing with mental health stresses, we remember them all today and pledge to continue our fight to protect front-line workers, to provide proper PPE, testing and ensure that all of workplaces, wherever they are, are safe.”
STUC president Jackson Cullinane spoke about how unions had acted to try to protect workers during the pandemic.
He said: “In the fight against Covid-19 we’ve had to intervene when some employers would try to force people to come and do work that was deemed to be non-essential and to ensure when those people were leaving that work they had their income protected.
“We’ve had to challenge in some cases when employers have not adhered to the correct two metre social distancing rules and other safety measures.
“And of course we have pushed, and will continue to push, to try and address the crisis in the lack of PPE for those workers in the frontline.”
He said trade unions will have a crucial role as the country emerges from the crisis.
Mr Cullinane stressed safety measures must be in place, including provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for those workers who need it.
He said: “We are beginning to get references being made, from Government and elsewhere, to resetting and restarting the economy, and I think we have got to be absolutely adamant that if people are going to have the confidence to go back to work at any point, then there has to be proper data, proper testing, proper tracing.
“We have to have the confidence that the PPE issue has been resolved and there are adequate supplies for all.
“We have to ensure that the measures on social distancing, which will remain in place for some time, are applied not just at the workplace but to and from the workplace.”