In July 2016, while across the UK Black Lives Matter protests were ongoing, 5 men of Black African origin, working at a recycling plant were killed by wall collapse in Birmingham. This is believed to be the biggest loss of life at a UK recycling plant. Prior to hese deaths, the site was known to be unsafe for a while and the bereaved families believed that their deaths was a result of the company, Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and Shredmet, being criminal negligent. On Friday 18th November, a jury found the directors of the company guilty of 12 counts of health and safety breaches.
They have asked BLMUK to publish their statement which we have done below.
Statement of the families of Mr Ousmane Kaba Diaby, Mr Saibo Sumbundu Sillah, Mr Bangally Tunkara Dukuray, Mr Almamo Kinteh Jammeh, Mr Mahamadou Jagana Jagana and Mr Tombong-Conteh.
We welcome the decision to convict both the company and directors on all counts.
The trial examined the largest loss of life in a single incident at a recycling plant in the United Kingdom. The proceedings have exposed the scandalous, inexcusable and gross failings of Shredmet and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling and its directors Graham Woodehouse and Wayne Hawkeswood which led to the deaths of our five loved ones on 7 July 2016.
Our loved ones were hard working and family-oriented people. They worked for little money in dangerous workplaces because they wanted to make a better life for their wives and children.
Our loved ones would receive a text message the night before they were needed, as they did on the day before they died. They were exploited on zero hours contracts and low wages.
The evidence in the trial revealed the employers of Shredmet/Hawkeswood Metal Recycling to be cowboys. They designed an inherently unstable wall which was doomed to collapse.
This was a work place were human life and workers’ rights were completely and repeatedly disregarded.
The world now knows what we have always known: that the directors actions were criminal.
As we said many times, the fatal injury rate in the waste management and recycling industry is fifteen times greater than the average across all industries.
As the waste and recycling industry continues to expand, drastic improvements to health and safety should be a much higher priority.
These brutal workplace atrocities will keep happening unless there is a change in the law and wider attitudes. Better protection for people working in the most dangerous conditions is desperately needed.