Samantha Asumadu taking cue from an investigation by Tortoise Media urges us on International Workers Memorial Day to remember those who died because of the economic model that brutally oppresses the working class

Today is International Workers Memorial Day. Never heard of it? There’s a reason for that. The workers we need to commemorate, who have died in the ‘line of duty’, otherwise known as the back breaking often little rewarded work that keeps a country such as ours going are in the main from working class, and or, black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Yeah those people you don’t sit and stare at on the tube. Like me (having worked as a traffic marshal/labourer on a construction site), my late mother (a childminder) my sister (a care worker) my half brother (a former office cleaner).

Jacob Rees-Mogg writing in the Daily Mail recently, said the following:

“After a tip-off from a fellow Minister, I visited an office in Whitehall whose officials report to my department. In a room which could fit several dozen people, not a soul could be found. Instead the scene was Westminster’s answer to the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, who hid from danger and remained asleep for 200 years. Yellowed bulletins dated March 2020 were curling on noticeboards and it seemed like the only people who had been in the room since then were the ever-diligent cleaners.

The cleaners are a reminder that some people worked exceptionally hard during the pandemic, many in the office but also at home. The cleaners and security staff never stopped”

Jack Shenker in his award winning investigation for Tortoise Media, ‘Death At The Ministry’ shows that with that statement, how completely out of tune with reality and morally bankrupt Jacob Rees-Mogg actually is. 

Because those workers who ‘never stopped’? Many of them died.

Emanuel Gomes died on the 23rd April 2020. It was also the day that his employers the OCS Group UK International facilities management company acknowledged receipt of a letter written by UVW, the United Voices of the World union. They wrote a formal letter to Peter Tierney, the OCS account director for the Ministry of Justice contract, setting out serious concerns over the treatment of workers during the pandemic and accusing OCS of taking “no meaningful action to protect the health of the cleaners, despite the fact that a breach of [health and safety regulations] may amount to a criminal act.”

That of course was preceded by OCS’s own letter, issued to cleaners at the beginning of the pandemic that has killed 100,000s of people,  informing them that ‘their role was “essential in the running of the justice system”, and that they had been formally designated as key workers to whom lockdown restrictions did not apply.’

Thus Emanuel Gomes had continued to travel to the Ministry of Justice each day, going back and forth on the tube, throughout each and every coronavirus lockdown. Until he died of an illness consistent with the symptoms of coronavirus that is. There was no mass testing program back then of course, so we will never truly know.

“The cleaners believe they are putting themselves and others in serious, imminent and unavoidable danger,” said UWE’s letter, emailed to OCS on the day Emmanuel died. OCS took no action, and refused to offer occupational sick pay. 

Thus Emanuel’s colleagues walked out on their jobs in protest two years ago today, 

Today, International Workers Memorial Day, is the second anniversary of, despite the huge risk to their jobs – them walking out of the @MoJGovUK in protest at his death. According to Jack’s investigation a few months later, they finally won their battle for union recognition and sick pay.

Jacob Rees-Mogg can continue to take the piss of the British public, his offshore interests and onshore shenanigans will continue to need scrutiny, but don’t think he did anything to honour the men and women who worked throughout the pandemic with his little diatribe in the Daily Mail. He only further dishonours himself (if possible) and denigrates the working class by his complicity and enforcement of the economic model that oppresses us daily and flagrantly. 

Further info

Death at the ministry

Podcast Death at Justice

Samantha Asumadu is a former documentary filmmaker and foreign correspondent and the founder of Media Diversified. She is a writer and journalist and is currently working on her first two books, The Wannabe and The Columnist Class, Egos and Accountability – More info here: Between a Rock, a Hard Place and a Dystopia.

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