April 28 is celebrated globally every year as International Workers Memorial Day. The day is set aside to remember and mourn the millions of workers who die every year at the workplace, and to demand improved occupational safety and health. It is a day for working-class people, to “mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”
Like May Day, although more recently, the origins of this important day for toilers of the world lie in workers’ struggle in the United States. In 1989, their trade union centre, the AFL-CIO, declared the day to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of workers in the USA alone, who die from work-related accidents and diseases.
In 1996, the international trade union movement adopted the day as the International Workers Memorial Day, while the International Labour Organisation (ILO) took it up as the United Nations-sanctioned World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Since 2026, the World Health Organization (WHO) and ILO have issued annual estimates of the number of people killed due to work-related accidents and diseases every year. The number has ranged between 2 million and 3 million workers, annually! Many more also suffer irreparable loss, physically and mentally.
This is absolutely unacceptable but is also inescapable if production continues to be driven by the profit motive. We must fight to fundamentally change the dynamics of the world of work, in the final analysis, such that we as workers, whose labour produces the social wealth, are the lords and masters of society.
As we fight for a new socialist world and the world of work, we must not fail to demand reforms of the current system. Any improvement in workplace safety and health is a win for us, and a worthwhile tribute to those whom we have lost.
by Muda OGIDAN