UNION officials led tributes to people killed or injured at work in a poignant service for International Workers Memorial Day.
Wreaths were laid during Saturday’s remembrance service at Hartlepool Art Gallery and Information Centre in Church Square.
More than 100 people from various unions, civic dignitaries and the families united to remember family, friends and colleagues who were injured or lost their lives at work.
The day, held in Hartlepool since 1999, is part of a campaign to stop avoidable workplace deaths and to call on employers and Government to make all workplaces safe.
Edwin Jeffries, president Hartlepool Trades Union Council, which organises the event, said: “The day was also successful in bringing together a number of employer organisations, politicians and trade unionists to reinforce the fact that the current trend of increasing numbers of deaths in the workplace, 142 recorded deaths in the workplace in 2009-10 to 173 in 2010-11 to 203 in the first nine months of 2011-12, is unacceptable.
“The Government must stop their deliberate trivialisation of Health and Safety, aided and abetted by the media, and their attack on Health and Safety regulations.
“The Health and Safety Executive and local authorities must have the necessary regulations and powers and the resources to enforce them.
“It is only with enforceable and enforced legislation and the employers working together with the trade unions to improve Health and Safety in all workplaces that we can ever hope to reduce the number of workplace accidents, injuries, diseases and deaths that, in the majority of cases, are avoidable.”
The service was conducted by Father Adrian Tuckwell of St Patrick’s Church and Reverend Rosalyn Hall of Holy Trinity, West View.
In all, 27 wreaths were laid by bereaved families, Hartlepool council chairman Carl Richardson, MP Iain Wright and trades union representatives.
A lone Scottish piper piped guests into Christ Church at 12.30pm where a minute’s silence was observed.
Iain Wright described the event as a “poignant and moving ceremony”.
He also outlined two cases of Hartlepool people who had contracted asbestos related cancer, in the workplace, and how the families had to fight a long battle to win minimum compensation.
Guest speakers included Ronnie Draper, general secretary of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), Tim Bush of union UNITE and Vicky Wanless of Browell Smith & Co Solicitors.