Migrant workers need extra help staying safe, says TUC

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date: 27 June 2007

embargo: 00.001hrs Thursday 28 June 2007

Problems with language and a poor understanding of the culture in British workplaces means that migrant workers may need extra help from employers and unions to stay safe at work, says the TUC today (Thursday).

In a new safety guide out today, the TUC warns that some rogue employers are likely to be cutting corners and risking the health of their migrant workforce.

'Safety and migrant workers' says that many migrant workers are more vulnerable than UK workers to illness, injuries or even death at work due to a combination of a lack of safety training, non-existent or inadequate safety clothing and equipment, and poor English skills.

The guide for employers and unions says that the long hours worked by many migrant workers mean many risk accidents due to overtiredness, are denied sick pay so come into work when they are too ill to do so, and a lack of fluent English prevent many from grasping basic safety procedures at work.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Employers should be doing more to keep all their employees safe and well, wherever they come from. And in workforces with many migrant workers, where language difficulties pose potential problems, bosses need to make that extra effort to ensure everyone knows how to stay safe at work.

'The Government must stump up more money so that unscrupulous employers who flout the law are brought into line. Too often migrant workers face huge risks to their health, safety and welfare simply because their employers are fail to carry out sufficient safety checks. Not providing protective equipment, failing to offer training, ignoring working time rules and paying illegal poverty wages is sadly an all too common experience for many workers who come to the UK.

'The average employer receives a visit from a safety inspector once every 12-20 years and many small employers will never be inspected. Tragically, we are more likely to hear a report of a migrant worker being killed or injured than of an employer being prosecuted for failing to meet their safety obligations.'

The TUC recommends employers and unions work closely with migrant and UK workers to carry out thorough risk assessments and follow formal accident and injury reporting procedures. Workers need access to first aid, fire safety plans need to be in place, and all workers must have free, suitable, protective clothing and know how to use it.

The guide is published on the day members of the TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Employment meet with exploited workers in Cardiff - including migrant workers, homeworkers, refugees, asylum seekers and disabled workers - to hear about their experiences of unsafe working in the UK.

Commission members will meet with Andrew Davies AM, the Welsh Minister for Social Justice and Public Service Delivery, then with migrant workers and organisations such as the South East Wales Race Equality Council and Race Equality First that have provided support and education for them.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- 'Safety & migrant workers: A practical guide for safety representatives' is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/safetymw.pdf

- The guide contains numerous examples of where unions have worked with employers on initiatives to improve s safety for migrant workers.

- For more information about the TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Employment and a list of Commissioners, please visit www.vulnerableworkers.org.uk

- Commissioners attending the Cardiff visit are: Frances O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary, TUC; Kevin Beeston, Chairman, SERCO; Mohammed Aziz, Director, Faithwise; Fran Bennett, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University; Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Unite; Debbie Coulter, Deputy General Secretary, GMB; Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON. To arrange an interview please contact the TUC press office.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet : a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries: Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337; M: 07900 910624;
E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175; E: media@tuc.org.uk

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