The country is to be asked to observe a minute’s silence next Tuesday (28 April) to remember all the health, care and other key workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus, in a campaign launched today by three health unions.
UNISON, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives – who between them represent more than a million NHS and public service workers, including porters, refuse collectors and care staff – are urging politicians, employers, people at work and those on lockdown at home to join the tribute at 11am.
The minute’s silence – held on International Workers’ Memorial Day – will allow everyone to pay their respects and give thanks for the lives of those whose work involved caring, saving lives, keeping key services running and the rest of the country safe, say the unions. The tribute is also a show of support for the families of those who have died.
The three unions are hoping the government and other organisations will get on board and join the campaign for there to be a minute’s silence on the day, which every year commemorates workers who have died around the globe.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is the ultimate tribute to remember workers who’ve lost their lives and put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and vital services running. Every year the sacrifice of workers around the world is recognised, but this year has a special significance because of the pandemic.
“Thousands of key staff are on the frontline while the rest of us are in lockdown. That’s why we’ve issued this call for the whole country to take part and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. The best tribute we can all pay them is to stay inside to protect the NHS.
“The minute’s silence is a thank you to all the workers including nurses, midwives, cleaners and care staff who’ve died from this devastating virus.”
Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Donna Kinnair said: “We’ve become used to hearing a great roar on a Thursday night for key workers, but this respectful silence will be a poignant reminder of the risks they run to keep us safe.
“I hope the public gets behind this with the same affection they show when applauding our people.
“The silence is a simple show of respect for those who have paid the very highest price, but their loved ones must know the levels of gratitude we feel as a nation and take some comfort from that.”
Royal College of Midwives chief executive and general secretary Gill Walton said: “We had expected 2020 to be a celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife but, although we actively applaud their service, this is not what we had imagined.
“Instead, across the country, midwives and maternity support workers are seeing the impact of coronavirus not only on the women in their care, but on their colleagues as well.
“We are proud to join UNISON and the RCN in this campaign and to recognise and remember those who we have lost.”