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The TUC and unions worldwide have warned against the exploitation of migrant workers on the 'unsafe and unregulated' construction sites set to build the facilities for the 2022 football World Cup. With twelve new football stadiums required for the 2022 event in Qatar, unions are pressing FIFA and Qatar 2022 to improve the 'appalling' living and working conditions experienced by migrant workers in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The call comes alongside a new report the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), detailing the working and living conditions of the mainly Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese workers in the gleaming cities of Doha and Dubai. Including interviews with workers and human rights activists, the report describes the appalling living conditions of the workers in huge segregated mostly male townships. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers with very few employment rights, no access to unions, no health and safety protection, and forced to live in inhumane conditions, will be literally putting their lives on the line to deliver the 2022 World Cup. It's time FIFA cleaned up its act and took action now to protect these workers.' Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the Building Workers International (BWI), commented: 'Just 6 per cent of the working population of Qatar is Qatari - their economy and their ability to deliver the World Cup is totally dependent on severe exploitation of migrant labour, which we believe to be barely above forced labour conditions.' The union bodies are writing to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Qatar's FIFA delegate, construction magnate Mohamed Bin Hammam, calling for the organisations to explain how they will protect the hundreds of thousands of workers who will be subject to unsafe and unregulated working conditions on construction sites, with no independent unions or effective safety inspection. FIFA's licensing programme requires football manufacturers to respect workers' rights, but there are no equivalent standards for companies building the World Cup venues.
Hundreds of engineers working for Romec, the company that maintains premises for Royal Mail, Tesco and other major firms, have taken industrial action in a dispute over 'misuse' of tracking technology to 'harass and victimise' staff. The CWU members refused last weekend to respond to any call-out or emergency work outside of normal paid hours. CWU national officer Ray Ellis said: 'Experienced engineers with good service records are being victimised through a misuse of tracking technology. The company is abusing a raft of procedures in the pursuit of cost savings and in the attempt to reduce headcount without following legal redundancy arrangements.' He added: 'We believe Romec is breaking data protection laws and using tracker information to harass and victimise engineers. Managers are trawling data for tiny discrepancies dating back over eight months or more and then vigorously and unreasonably interrogating staff, and in some cases disciplining and even sacking them.' Romec is an engineering and facilities company owned 51 per cent by Royal Mail and 49 per cent by Balfour Beatty. Its contracts include Royal Mail delivery offices and mail centres, Tesco and Sainsbury's supermarkets and the British Museum. Dave Ward, CWU deputy general secretary, commented: 'Our message to Royal Mail is - you might be able to outsource Romec, but you can't outsource the CWU.' Intrusive electronic surveillance at work has been linked to problems including increased stress, strain injuries and a drop in productivity.
A trade union is reminding business owners to keep their premises safe after a driver was forced to give up his job after he slipped on an unsecured mat and broke his ankle. The Unite member from Taunton has needed four operations on his ankle since the incident, which happened in 2006 as he collected a bed settee which was being returned to Argos by the White Lodge public house in Somerset. He has been told it will take his ankle another year to heal and he will never be able to return to his 25-year career as a driver. The granddad of one, whose name has not been released, was working for DHL Excel Supply Chain delivering goods for Argos. Two years after the accident DHL decided to let him go. He hopes he will eventually be able to return to some type of work if he can find an alternative career. He said: 'As well as losing my job, it's meant I've put on three stone in weight and I can't take my five month old granddaughter out for walks in her pram. I will never be able to regain those moments with her.' Lawyers brought in by Unite to secure compensation argued the floor mat should have been made from non-slip material or that it should have been embedded into the floor. Whitbread Group, which owns the pub, admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £165,000. Unite regional coordinator Livie Reid said: 'As a result of this accident our member has been left in agony for the last five years and out of work. A simple risk assessment would have avoided this from happening.'
The union RMT has accused rail bosses of risking safety in a 'strike-breaking operation' at Heathrow Express. Ahead of a 48-hour walk out last week, the union said managers at the rail firm were being lined up to drive trains with 'wholly inadequate training' for the job. RMT raised specific concerns with the Office of Rail Regulation, telling the watchdog it believed the management tactic would 'compromise' public safety. Speaking ahead of the walk-out, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said the company should 'sit down with us and work out a pay deal that fully rewards our members for their hard work which has generated company profits of over £6 million on a turnover of £60m. The company knows it has tabled a completely unacceptable pay offer that is loaded with strings, yet despite a massive vote for action by our members it has made no attempt to negotiate or improve its position.' Further action is planned for Friday 24 June and will also be scheduled in July.
White asbestos deserves its top level cancer rating, the government's chief scientific adviser has told ministers. In a move thought to have been a response to lobbying of the work and pensions secretary by asbestos-industry linked groups, Iain Duncan Smith asked Sir John Beddington, head of the Government Office for Science, to consider whether any evidence exists that would 'justify an imminent change to the 'international scientific consensus on the classification of asbestos' and so allow ministers to reconsider UK legislation.' A March 2011 meeting of experts, chaired by Sir John, considered evidence including several papers by scientists associated with the asbestos industry. Reporting his findings in a letter to the secretary of state, Sir John wrote 'it is not possible to determine a threshold level below which exposure to 'pure' chrysotile could be deemed 'safe' for human health. The same applies for exposure to chrysotile from cement during removal and disposal activities.' He concluded 'it is my opinion that on the evidence available there is no justification for an imminent change to the international scientific consensus on the classification of chrysotile as a Class 1 carcinogen.' This ranks chrysotile as an unequivocal cause of cancer in humans. In February, the European Commission told the UK government in a 'reasoned opinion' the UK interpretation of the EU asbestos directive was illegally lax. The Health and Safety Executive has since 'confirmed its agreement' with the EC finding that it under-implemented the law and has agreed to amend the legislation (Risks 504). It is believed HSE will recommend an extension of the regulations, with more but not all asbestos work required to be done by licensed contractors. All asbestos work will have to be notified to the authorities along with the submission of a method statement for how the work is to be done, the HSE proposals are expected to say.
Lawyers acting for people suffering from asbestos-related diseases have renewed their appeal for a 'fund of last resort' to step in when a firm's employers' liability insurer cannot be found. Claimant lawyers said they had waited more than a year for the results of a consultation on setting up an Employers' Liability Insurance Bureau, reports the Law Gazette. The scheme would work as a safety net for victims of disease - mainly incurred through their work decades ago - when victims cannot trace their employers' insurance records. Welfare reform minister Lord Freud has confirmed that the idea is still under consideration but has yet to give a date for publishing the government's consultation response. A spokesperson for the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) reiterated its call for reform. He told the gazette: 'Victims of industrial disease, such as those dying from mesothelioma, are left subsidising insurers when they are unable to trace the relevant policy documents... insurance companies have collected premiums to pay out in the event of such claims.' He added there was already a comparable scheme in place protecting millions of motorists. 'There is no excuse for failing to treat workers in the same way,' he said.
Strong and effective workplace regulations and inspection regimes are necessary to deliver decent employment and safety standards at work, according to new UK and international reports. But the UK-based Hazards magazine and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) both warn that this essential role is being undermined by an erosion of the funding and the function of enforcement agencies. Hazards says the current UK government commissioned review of health and safety is 'is not really about changing the law. It's about risk envy - our competitors don't all abide by strict rules governing safety and decency at work, so why should the UK?' It adds this is a topic on which Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, charged with undertaking the review (Risks 507), 'is an acknowledged expert.' Hazards says in the US, the professor has employed a 'risk-risk' analysis to argue tighter domestic regulation on polluting industries could mean an unjustified bill for firms that would then be disadvantaged in global markets. In the case of Portland cement, a potential human carcinogen, a March 2010 report co-authored by Professor Löfstedt and press released by the cement industry concluded 'putting forward stringent regulation on the US cement industry, will lead to a risk transfer from the United States to offshore (most notably China), leading to negligible environmental improvements for the United States and the global community.' This approach 'is informed by an assumption that regardless of the costs, it should be the world's dirtiest players that set the standard,' Hazards warns. It adds 'the deregulatory urge is already so engrained at the UK's safety watchdog, HSE, it routinely fails to act on evidence that legal standards designed to protect workers from established poisons' like lead (Risks 432), cancer-causing chemicals (Risks 445) and workplace dust (Risks 506) are inadequate and tightening them will save lives. In a separate article, Giuseppe Casale, director of the ILO's Labour Administration and Inspection Programme (LAB/ADMIN), spells out the importance of 'strong and effective labour administration and labour inspection systems' for economic and social development. 'For the ILO, the role of labour inspection is to secure the enforcement of a country's labour laws dealing with such matters as conditions of work and the protection of workers' health and safety,' he said.
British businesses are losing their competitive edge because of a failure to tackle the risks of injury and illness in the workplace, a report from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has concluded. Survey findings from the safety professionals' organisation published last week show employers are underestimating the economic benefits of worker protection and are placing it low on their list of priorities. IOSH says work-related accidents and ill health cost businesses nearly £8 billion a year, with absenteeism, low productivity and legal bills among the 'financial hits'. It adds the overall cost of health and safety failures to the British economy, including welfare and health bills, is estimated at a 'staggering' £22 billion. In a new 'Life Savings' campaign illustrated by examples of employers saving millions by making work safer, IOSH argues 'good, proportionate health and safety' is not a burden on business, but 'is being used by forward-thinking CEOs and managing directors as a driver for growth.' It wants ministers to make sure that their austerity measures, and the 'blitz on red tape', do not damage people's health or lead to accidents. IOSH also echoes the union call on the government to reverse the decision to axe the Health and Safety Executive's infoline. IOSH President Steve Granger said: 'It's frankly wrong for ministers and business leaders to talk about health and safety as 'red tape' and a burden on business.' He added: 'As well as the primary aim of saving people's lives and livelihoods, good occupational health and safety can also deliver vital cost savings and help your business to grow.' One company, E.ON, saved nearly £12 million in one year by improving its safety performance and Rolls Royce saved £11 million over three years.
A United Nations agency has said mobile phone use is 'possibly carcinogenic'. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) expert panel this week decided to classify 'radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.' Dr Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, the chair of the IARC working group, indicated that 'the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.' IARC director Christopher Wild said: 'Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings, it is important that additional research be conducted into the long?term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands?free devices or texting.' Mobile phones are increasingly becoming a standard piece of workplace kit, particularly for the growing group of workers spending all or a part of their day offsite. The number of mobile phone subscriptions is estimated at 5 billion globally. A summary of the working group's findings on the cancer hazard from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields will be published in the 1 July issue of The Lancet Oncology.
A Brazilian construction worker was buried alive while building a basement in London's Belgravia, one of the wealthiest postcodes in the world. Father-of-nine Arlindo Visentin, 58, died helping three other workers build a basement at the private property when he was crushed by a collapsing wall of gravel and clay weighing between three and five tonnes. Contractor Nadeem Aftab, Visentin's employer, was fined £100,000 following the incident in Wilton Row, Westminster. He was also ordered to pay costs of £61,590 after pleading guilty to criminal safety breaches. London's Old Bailey heard that on 13 June 2007 Visentin was working in the basement area when the collapse took place, completely burying him in clay and gravel, causing fatal crush injuries. Judge Paul Worsley said: 'This tragedy was wholly avoidable. It is the fault of Mr Aftab and it will be on his conscience.' A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the temporary works required to support the earth during the underpinning operation were not adequately planned. The earth that remained following the underpinning of the walls was not properly supported, and at the time of the incident no measures were in place to prevent falls into the excavation. Aftab failed to make sure the workers on site were trained, qualified and competent to carry out underpinning. Following the hearing, HSE inspector Lisa Chappell said: 'Mr Visentin spoke very little English and did not share a common language with any of the other workers or with Mr Aftab. This incident highlights the need to have effective worker consultation and communication with all employees to ensure they understand the control measures that should be in place to prevent harm.' She added work of this type 'should be planned and managed by competent people... a competent temporary works engineer should design an appropriate sequence of works, and the work should be actively managed by a person who had the necessary knowledge, training and experience to ensure it is carried out safely.'
A gear box manufacturer has been fined £180,000 over the death of a worker who was crushed by a slab of metal. Father-of-five Nigel Lindley, 47, from Oldham, was putting together a large metal gear case when one of the sides collapsed on him in 2008. Manchester Crown Court heard workers at Renold Power Transmission Ltd were untrained. The company admitted criminal breaches of health and safety law. Mr Lindley had been using an overhead crane to move two sections of the metal case into place on 27 November 2008. He removed the chains from one of the sides so he could align them properly and secure them together. As he knelt down to hammer a connecting dowel through the sections one of the sides fell on him. He died later from severe crush injuries. His widow Gail said: 'When Nigel had his accident at work which led to his death I felt as if my whole world had collapsed. He was my best friend as well as my husband, a father and grandfather. I have been taking anti-depressants now for about 12 months. I still wake up most mornings crying.' Phil Strickland, the investigating inspector at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: "Workers at the site were not told how to safely assemble large gear box cases and so had to make it up as they went along. The risks of workers being crushed by heavy objects is well known in the engineering industry but Renold Power Transmission failed to treat the danger seriously by carrying out a proper assessment and providing training.' In addition to the fine, the firm was ordered to pay £8,946 in prosecution costs.
Two companies, a director and a sub-contractor have been fined a total of £130,000 for health and safety failings after a construction worker suffered serious burns following an electric shock from an overhead power cable. Self-employed steel erector Mark Rushbrook, was constructing two new poultry units at Sunny Farm in Swineshead, Bedfordshire. He was using a scissor lift to clad the gable end of a steel frame when it came into contact with a power cable and he suffered an 11kv electrical shock. Mr Rushbrook, 24, sustained burns to his stomach and hands, and internal muscle damage in the 25 June 2009 incident. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the gable end of the structure was within 4.3m of an overhead power line. HSE told Luton Crown Court the defendants failed to identify the potential risks of working near overhead voltage lines and had not put necessary precautions in place, including notifying the relevant authorities. Farm owner C&P Bird Brothers Ltd, admitted criminal safety breaches and was fined £40,000 with £5,500 costs. Peter Bird, a director of C&P Bird Brothers Ltd, was fined £5,000 with £2,500 costs. The company that designed and manufactured the steel frame, Morspan Construction Limited, was also the main contractor. It admitted criminal safety breaches and was fined £60,000 plus £5,250 costs. Self-employed steel erector and sub-contractor on the project Michael Skayman was fined £25,000 plus £4,750 costs.
A Cambridgeshire company that prints and manufactures pharmaceutical packaging has been fined for criminal safety breaches after an employee's arm was dragged into a machine that makes medicine boxes. John Armstrong suffered severe crush injuries which required almost a hundred stitches to his hand, wrist and arm while working at Firstan Limited in Huntingdon. On 18 November 2009, Mr Armstrong, 63, was working on a machine that flattens and folds boxes to be sent to pharmaceutical companies. When the machine started to malfunction, he reached to hit the stop button but his arm was pulled into the unguarded 'in-running nip' of the rollers, and he sustained serious injuries to his arm. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Stephen Faulkner said: 'While Firstan Limited asserted Mr Armstrong should not have been engaging in that activity at that time, the court accepted he would not have sustained his injuries had the machine been properly guarded. In-running nips are a common hazard in many industries including printing and should be guarded to prevent human contact. They are caused by the rotating parts on machinery. These parts may be in contact, producing a nip point.' Firstan Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £5,000 with costs of £2,521.20.
Food manufacturer Heinz has been fined after a worker at its Wigan baked beans factory lost a finger in industrial machinery. The 65-year-old had an index finger torn off while he was making a new part for a packaging machine, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard. HJ Heinz Company Ltd, which employs approximately 32,500 people around the globe and has an annual turnover of over £700 million, admitted two criminal breaches of health and safety law and was fined £20,000 plus £4,496.50 costs. The injured worker, whose name has not been released, was using an emery cloth to polish the component on a rotating machine, when his hand was pulled in. He also suffered nerve damage to two other fingers and cut his hand during the incident at Heinz's Kitt Green plant in April 2008. The court was told Heinz should have undertaken a risk assessment to determine the safety measures required before the work was carried out. It could have provided an alternative way of polishing the metal part so that an emery cloth did not need to be used. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Deborah Walker said: 'This worker has suffered severe injuries to his left hand, which will affect him for the rest of his life, because Heinz didn't make sure he was working safely. He had been employed by Heinz for more than 20 years, but was not given any refresher training on safe working practices in that time.' She added: 'The risk of emery cloth being pulled into rotating metal-working machines is well known. Manufacturing companies should make sure employees are following the latest health and safety guidance on this issue.'
The government in Japan has decided to abolish the upper cap on radiation exposure for workers at the crippled Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant. The move, which has alarmed workplace safety experts, comes after reports two workers had already exceeded to maximum dose. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in anticipation of prolonged restoration work at the facility, decided to lift the yearly 50-millisievert maximum permissible amount of radiation exposure for workers at the troubled Fukushima plant. The ministry last month notified the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) of the decision in writing. It will uphold the combined 100-millisievert maximum allowable exposure for workers over a five-year period, inclusive of doses they are exposed to during regular inspections of other nuclear power plants. The change came after it became likely that workers at the Fukushima plant would not be able to be engaged in regular inspections at other nuclear power generation facilities after their stint at Fukushima. However, experts are voicing concerns over the change of policy, saying it could adversely affect the workers' health. Masanobu Nishino, secretary-general of the Kansai Occupational Safety and Health Center and an expert in occupational exposure to radiation, said: 'Considering the fact that workers are exposed to only around an average 1 millisievert of radiation a year through regular inspections at nuclear power plants, even the limit of 50 millisieverts is too much and this raises concerns over workers' health. It should be the role of the health ministry to instruct workers to be exposed to no more than 50 millisieverts.' Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) this week said two control room operators shown by preliminary tests to have had cumulative exposures of over 100 millisieverts were being retested. 'The possibility (of the two men) exceeding the limit underscored the severity of working environment at the plant,' said Goshi Hosono, director of the government's nuclear crisis taskforce. He urged TEPCO to conduct internal exposure tests for all plant workers as quickly possible to assess the extent of whole body exposures.
Last year, the leaders of the US-based foreign labour supply company Global Horizons were indicted in what the Department of Justice considered the biggest human trafficking case ever brought by the federal government. They were charged with holding 400 Thai guest farm workers in the United States against their will in conditions that essentially amounted to slavery. The workers had guest visas to work in the United States, but were kept under brutal conditions under armed guard in Hawaii and forced to live in hot shipping containers 'with no carpet, beds, furniture, indoor plumbing, kitchen or air conditioning,' according to federal investigators. They were under constant threat of violence from gun-toting guards, and on one occasion a guard told the workers they would be shot if they tried to escape. Company officials will be prosecuted, but the firm is still trading, even though it is barred for three years from involvement in the guest worker programme. Campaigners believe the ban is not enough. 'Debarment of Global Horizons is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't solve the problem. It eliminates one party, but what about the farms doing it? There still are tons of recruiters working overseas to recruit new workers for these farms,' Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) president Baldemar Velasquez told the publication In These Times. 'Anytime you have a guest worker programme, it is inherently very corrupt,' said Velasquez. 'Farm workers have to have an organisation [through which] they can air their complaints without a fear of retaliation. They need some type of organisation, such as a union, in place so they can police their own experience. This is the only way we are ever going to really eliminate the problem of forced labour in the United States."
Miners in unionised coal mines are far less likely to be killed or injured at work than miners in non-union operations - and this effect may be getting more pronounced, a new study has found. The independent Stanford University research, funded by the US government's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), found a dramatic decline in injuries and fatalities at union mines. The comprehensive study, conducted by law professor Alison D Morantz of Stanford Law School, looked at coal mine fatality and injury statistics from 1993 to 2008. She concluded: 'My best estimates imply that overall, unionisation predicts about a 17-33 per cent drop in traumatic injuries and about a 33-72 per cent drop in fatalities.' Mine Workers (UMWA) president Cecil Roberts says the study 'quantifies the profound differences in safety underground coal miners experience when working union versus working non-union.' The study's findings suggest that the union safety effect may have 'intensified'. Professor Morantz concludes: 'Unionisation's attenuating effect on the predicted frequency of traumatic injuries seems to have grown since the mid-1990s.' This coincides with the development by UMWA of a more comprehensive safety programme and expanded training for union safety experts at the local and national levels. UMWA's Cecil Roberts says that while the study shows union mines are safer, tragedies can still happen, such as the 2001 explosion at the Jim Walters #5 mine in Brookwood, Alabama, that killed 13 miners (Risks 21). 'We in the UMWA learned hard lessons in that tragedy and others that preceded it,' he said. 'We took steps to provide better protection for our members, and this study demonstrates that those steps are working. We will continue to work as hard as we can to keep the mines where UMWA members work the safest in the world.'
A hotel worker who spoke out after an alleged serious sexual assault by former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have been able to do so because she was protected by union membership. The 32-year-old housekeeper, originally from Guinea, was employed at New York's Sofitel Hotel, where the assault occurred. Staff at the hotel are represented by the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. She could not be fired for coming forward thanks to anti-victimisation provisions in the union's contract with the hotel. The clauses contract on issues including job security and grievance channels provide safeguards allow workers to address workplace issues that compromise a safe environment. The contract also facilitates accountability from not only the patrons, but from management. New York City hotel workers are the most unionised in the world, with a membership rate of 75 per cent, according to the union. The incident has put a spotlight on the nature of housekeeping, which is usually the most physically demanding job in the hotel business. Housekeepers clean anywhere from 10 to 14 rooms a day, folding, scrubbing, vacuuming, and emptying trash. In response to the heightened attention, New York lawmakers have introduced legislation to provide 'personal security buttons' to hotel workers. 'But it's easy to forget that unions and collective bargaining were also just as important in providing safeguards, even as these rights are subject to increasing rollbacks across the country,' reports In These Times.
New materials have been added to the revamped 'We didn't vote to die at work' campaign pages of the trade union backed health and safety magazine Hazards. Detailed briefings show deregulation of workplace safety is a false economy - it costs money and it costs lives. Academic studies highlighted in the resources also show health and safety regulations not only drive good practice, they can spur job creation and economic growth. Posters, t-shirts and other resources are available so you can promote the message on your attire or on your union noticeboard. There's also a related facebook group.
Retail union Usdaw is campaigning for a fair deal for agency workers. It's 'Put Agency Workers on Fair Ground' campaign says the UK has the highest use of agency workers across all of the major industrial countries - higher than Japan, the USA and the whole of Europe. The union warns that the use of agency labour is increasing and adds: 'If we want to see lower pay and worsening terms and conditions then we all just need to sit back and do nothing. If, however, we want to ensure that all workers are treated fairly then we need to ensure that we help Put Agency Workers on Fair Ground.'
COURSES FOR JANUARY 2011 TO MARCH 2011
Action Mesothelioma Day 2011 is being held on Friday 1 July, with events scheduled countrywide. Details of activities in Chesterfield, Dundee, Merseyside, Leicester, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester and London are already available on the Mesothelioma UK website.
Newsletter (5,800 words) issued 3 Jun 2011
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-19630-f0.cfm
printed 19 May 2013 at 19:50 hrs by 220.127.116.11