Len McCluskey and Unite families to 'walk the wall' as union backs call for Covid public inquiry
- Tuesday 27 April 2021
Where: National Covid Memorial Wall, North Wing, Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank, London SE1 3FT
When: From 11:30 hours, Wednesday 28 April
The general secretary of the UK's leading union, Unite, is joining Unite families who lost loved ones to Covid-19 to walk the memorial wall this International Workers' Memorial Day.
Len McCluskey and the families will also join with TUC representatives to observe the minute's silence for International Workers’ Memorial Day, which will be held at midday.
Unite is throwing its weight behind calls for a statutory public inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic, recently rejected by ministers, and is backing the campaign for the National Covid Memorial Wall in Lambeth, south London, to be made permanent.
The memorial wall is made up of 150,000 individual painted hearts, one for every UK person who lost their life to the disease in the past year. The wall is around half a kilometre long and takes around 10 minutes to walk.
Len McCluskey will join Hannah and Leshie, who both lost their fathers, both key workers, to the disease last year. Hannah's father caught the virus while travelling to his work in a factory, while Leshie's father was one of 27 London bus drivers who died of the disease between March and May last year.
Speaking ahead of his visit, Len McCluskey said: "You cannot help but be moved by this campaign. In the past year, 150,000 people lost their lives, leaving 150,000 families and countless loved ones with huge holes in their lives. For all those who have sacrificed and suffered through this terrible time, we owe it to them to walk this wall.
"The scale of loss in the UK is so high relative to other countries that the reasons for this have to be looked at by a public inquiry. The people we lost must be remembered and honoured, and the whole country, including the government, has to learn the lessons of this crisis.
"Dozens of Unite members died from this dreadful sickness and they will be in my thoughts today. It will be a huge privilege to walk the wall with Unite family members. I am so grateful to them for the work that they are doing on behalf of all those who lost their lives, and the bereaved who remain, to deliver not just a place of national remembrance of this time, but justice.
"Unite offers the bereaved families our full support in securing a permanent home for this incredible wall, and in the continued battle for the full and frank public inquiry the country needs."
Notes to editors:
Len McCluskey will walk the wall with members of the families of two Unite members who lost their lives to Covid-19:
Leshie Chandrapala, London
Leshie lost her father, Ranjith, to Covid-19 in April 2020.
Ranjith was one of the 27 bus drivers who died of Covid-19 in London between March and May 2020.
According to the Institute of Health Equity, bus drivers were more than twice as likely to die than other Londoners. Leshie wants a public inquiry into the decisions that led to her father’s death.
Hannah Brady, Manchester
Hannah's father was a key worker in a factory when he contracted coronavirus.
He died at the age of 55 following 42 nights spent in intensive care.
Hannah fears that her dad was exposed to Covid-19 on public transport to and from work.
Hannah has received abuse online for talking about the loss of her father.
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.