Issue date
28 Feb 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Risks 644 - 01 March 2014

 
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Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]

Contents

Union News

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Events and Courses

Union News

Self-employed exemption gets even scarier

The government’s plans to exempt most self-employed workers from safety law is a really bad idea that has just got even worse, the TUC’s head of safety has warned. Writing in TUC’s Stronger Unions blog, Hugh Robertson said the “daft” exemption, which the government initially said was going to apply to those that “pose no harm to others”, has been opposed by unions from the outset. Under the original plan, there was going to be a prescribed list of exemptions that would be prepared by the HSE. The latest proposals, however, flip this on its head, with all self-employed workers excluded unless they appear on an inclusive prescribed list of those still subject to safety law. The reworked draft wording in the Deregulation Bill (Risks 640) states: “It shall be the duty of every self-employed person who conducts an undertaking of a prescribed description to conduct the undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health.” Hugh Robertson describes the draft list as “frightening” (see below). According to the TUC health and safety specialist those not on the very restricted list “will have no responsibilities for the health and safety for others and will not be able to be prosecuted, regardless of how dangerous their actions are.” Robertson adds: “Given that the current self-employed have a fatality rate of well over double that of employed workers this can only make things worse – far worse.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog

‘Frightening’ list is peppered with deadly omissions

Self-employed workers, some in industries well known for their deadly record, are to be excluded from health and safety law under a draft government plan. A TUC analysis of the three most recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) month fatality reports found most could be in occupations not included in the government’s draft ‘prescribed’ list of self-employed jobs to remain subject to health and safety law. “Of the 17 self-employed deaths, six would certainly not be covered, and of the remainder it is likely that another six or seven may not be covered, but it is impossible to tell on the basis of what the list says,” notes TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson. He said the government’s short list of self-employed jobs to remain subject to safety law “is frightening. It excludes huge areas with self-employed people in dangerous occupations such as those working in the entertainment industry building sets, vehicle repair, haulage, people in docks and almost all of manufacturing. Even those areas that are covered are hardly clear. Construction for instance, makes no reference to those working in people’s homes, such as plumbers, carpenters and electricians.” He added: “Of course self-employed people killing themselves is a tragedy, but that is not what this proposal is about. The HSE has never prosecuted a self-employed person who killed or injured themselves. It is the danger to others that the HSE has tried to control, not only of death but also occupational disease and injury. Under the new proposals anyone not in the list will not be able to be prosecuted if they kill or injure someone, however negligent they are.” Describing the proposals as “absolutely appalling”, he added: Even for those self-employed people who want to obey the law, finding out if you are exempt of not will be a nightmare and simply lead to more of them having to turn to consultants. All in all, a recipe for confusion and a licence for cowboys.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog.

Sickness decline disproves ‘sickie culture’ claims

A dramatic decline in the number of days lost to sickness absence explodes the lie that Britain has a ‘sickie culture’, the TUC said. The union body was speaking out after figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed that the average number of days lost to sickness absence has fallen by almost 40 per cent since 1993. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These figures prove that there is no such thing as a ‘sickie culture’, with the number days lost to ill-health falling as employers get better at managing sickness absence. The real health threat we face is the growing culture of presenteeism – where unwell staff are pressurised into coming work by their bosses. This can prolong illness, spread germs and cause unnecessary stress throughout the workplace.” She added: “Many of the main reasons why people take time off, for example to cope with back pain and stress, are actually caused by work. If we want to see sickness levels brought down even further, we should be concentrating more on how to prevent these problems.” The ONS figures reveal the number of working days lost to sickness fell to 131m in 2013. The average worker took 4.4 days off in 2013 due to sickness, compared with 7.2 days in 1993. Over the same period the total number of days lost has fallen from 178m. The main cause for working days lost in 2013 was musculoskeletal conditions such as back and neck pain, which led to 31m days off, while minor illnesses such as coughs and colds resulted in 27m days sick. Stress, anxiety and depression were the cause of 15m absence days, up from 11.8m in 2010.

TUC news release. ONS statistics on sickness absence. The Guardian.

Public sector women bear unpaid overtime burden

The number of staff doing unpaid overtime has gone up in the public sector over the last decade, but has held steady in the private sector, according to a new analysis of official figures by the TUC. The analysis was published ahead of Work Your Proper Hours Day on 28 February, the day when those who do unpaid overtime would start to get paid if they did all their unpaid work at the start of the year. TUC found unpaid overtime is more common in the public sector, with more than one in four public servants doing unpaid overtime compared to around one in six of workers in the private sector. It said the increase in unpaid overtime across the public sector over the last decade is almost entirely driven by more than a quarter of a million extra women doing hours for free. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Times are tough for public sector workers. As the cuts bite and fewer staff find themselves having to take on more work, unpaid overtime inevitably grows. Some of the increase will be down to the professionalism and commitment of staff who want to provide decent services. But there is also evidence of bullying and excessive management pressure in some workplaces.” She added: “It is not surprising that morale is so low across the public sector. Hours are up, workload has increased, pay has been frozen, pensions cut and jobs insecure as public sector staff know that 60 per cent of the cuts are still to come.”

TUC news release and Work Your Proper Hours webpage.

‘Better lawmaking’ in Europe is much worse

A European Parliament resolution agreed in early February has undermined worker protection and “let us down badly,” the TUC has said. The parliament’s support for the European Commission’s deregulatory REFIT programme (Risks 626) approves a plan that puts the brakes on workplace health and safety and other important regulatory plans. Among initiatives shelved are directives on musculoskeletal disorders and carcinogens. A proposed protective amendment to the Commission’s ‘Better Lawmaking’ report, which would have required changes do not jeopardise “environmental, consumer or worker protection”, collective agreements or national laws, was rejected. The European Parliament also voted against measures to ensure that employers and unions are consulted on any measures to reduce “burdens”. According to TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson: “Of course this has all played right into the hands of Cameron and the anti-regulatory wing of the Commission who are doing his bidding and will make it even more likely that the new Commission, due to be appointed shortly, will also take up the deregulation agenda.” He added: “Remember, in June this year there are elections to the European Parliament and you may want to see how your MEP voted and challenge them.” The TUC is to use Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April to highlight the importance to MEPs of protective health and safety rules.

TUC Strong Unions blog. European Parliament resolution.Find out how your MEP voted. ‘We love red tape’ facebook page.

Shock drop in construction inspections in Wales

A drop in the number of official safety spot checks on building sites in Wales could lead to workers being put at risk, construction union UCATT has warned. The union was commenting after figures obtained by BBC Wales revealed that inspections by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the last financial year were down 35 per cent. HSE conducted 529 inspections of construction worksites in 2012/13, down from 818 the year before. The number of prosecutions undertaken by the HSE in the Welsh construction sector fell from three in 2011/12 to none in 2012/13. BBC Wales reports that the fall in HSE enforcement activity comes at a time when there are more building sites in Wales. Official statistics show new construction orders last year were up by 4 per cent. UCATT executive council member for Wales, Neil Andrews, said: “It allows rogue employers to save money, and knowing that the inspections have been cut by 35 per cent will give them a licence to continue and expand their operations outside of the rules.” He added: “The old approach where you didn't know the inspector was going to turn up on the job, I think that kept employers on their toes and made them more aware of their commitment to health and safety. Whereas the fear of them being caught now is massively reduced because of the lack of inspections.” Nick Blundell, UCATT regional secretary for Wales, said: “Inspections save lives. This fall in inspections is putting construction workers in danger.” He added: “With the construction industry slowly recovering after the recession the fall in inspections is even more dangerous as it means that even fewer sites will be inspected. New entrants into the industry are particularly vulnerable and at risk of suffering an accident.”

UCATT news release. BBC News Online.

Cosmetic’ schools survey to ignore asbestos

A survey of schools in England that will ignore asbestos will leave staff and pupils at risk, unions have warned. The government says it needs to spend an extra £6m on a survey of 8,000 schools to check the condition of school buildings across England. But public sector union UNISON has expressed concern that the survey will not check for asbestos. It says more than 75 per cent of UK schools still contain asbestos, concluding the survey assessment is “purely cosmetic”. Julie Winn, the chair of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC), said: “The extension of the property data survey programme is a golden opportunity for the government to collect data centrally on the presence and management plans for asbestos in UK schools. Without this information, the scale of the problem cannot be known and proportionate resources cannot be planned for and allocated.” She added: "Why has asbestos been inexplicably excluded from this survey? We believe that it suggests that the government is burying its head and does not want to know the true scale of the problem and how much it will cost to fix it.”

UNISON news release.

Bullying Bedford Council even worse than anticipated

A stress and harassment survey of GMB members employed at Bedford Council has found the problem to be even worse than originally feared. The survey conducted in December 2013 and January 2014 was undertaken by the union after it received an increase in calls from members claiming they had been bullied and unfairly treated (Risks 630). The union said findings presented to council managers last week confirm there is culture of bullying and unfair treatment within Bedford Borough Council. Martin Foster, GMB Beds County branch secretary said: “The results of the GMB survey are even worse than we thought it would be. No less than 58 per cent of respondent claim that they have been harassed, bullied or discriminated against. Of these 45 per cent claimed a council manager bullied them while another 31 per cent felt bullied by senior management.” He added: “Most shocking of all 90 per cent of the respondents said they would not be confident in reporting bullying or harassment to their council manager. This may not come as a surprise when 76 per cent believe they are being bullied by managers.” He said GMB would be raising the matter urgently with Bedford Council. “Due to the serious nature of the survey results the talks should be at the highest possible level,” the union official said.

GMB news release.

Injured prison worker wins landmark liability case

A prison catering manager seriously injured when an inmate dropped a 25kg (55lb) sack of food on her has had her compensation bid backed by top judges. Prison Officers Association (POA) member Susan Cox, 46, who worked at Swansea Prison, had previously had her claim rejected by the county court. But last week the Court of Appeal ruled the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was liable for the prisoner's negligence. It means the POA member, whose case was backed by the union, will be entitled to full compensation for her injuries, to be awarded at a later date. She was injured in September 2007 while supervising six prisoners carrying food from a delivery van to the first-floor kitchen. An inmate became trapped in a service lift and a giant sack of rice spilled over the floor. She instructed the inmates to stop work while the spillage was cleared, but was struck by a falling sack of food as she bent down. “What had happened was that another prisoner had ignored her instructions to stop work and had attempted to carry two sacks past her as she knelt,” Lord Justice McCombe said. “But he lost his balance and hit his head on an adjacent wall; one of the sacks which he was carrying then fell off his shoulder onto her back.” Ms Cox suffered agonising spinal pain after the incident. Despite accepting the inmate who dropped the sack was negligent, Swansea County Court last year refused her claim for compensation. However, Ms Cox's legal team argued on appeal the prison service was liable for the inmate's actions in the same way that it would be responsible for the negligence of any employee. Lord Justice McCombe, sitting with Lord Justice Beatson and Lady Justice Sharp, said the “negligent prisoner” received £11.55 a week for his work in the kitchens and the prison service must therefore consider him an employee. “The Ministry of Justice took the benefit of this work and I can see no reason why it should not take its burden,” Lord Justice McCombe said. POA assistant secretary Glyn Travis said the judgment “means that prisons can no longer use a legal loophole to evade their responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for their employees.”

Thompsons Solicitors news release. BBC News Online.

Unite warning on claims management rip off

Unite is taking a professional negligence claim against two high street law firms who failed a former food worker with industrial deafness. The law firms, acting for a claims management company, were engaged after the former Northern Foods employee and Unite retired member responded to a radio ad by a company offering to investigate deafness cases. The 75-year-old from Nottingham had worked in a confined kitchen using industrial machinery for 17 years without having any protection for his ears and had noticed a deterioration in his hearing. The claims management company visited the Unite member at his home in 2008 to carry out an initial hearing test. His case was referred to one law firm, which went bust. It was then referred to another which, although it issued court proceedings, ultimately had those proceedings struck out because it failed to comply with two Court orders. Last year the retired member of Unite contacted the union for legal advice. Lawyer brought in by the union are now pursuing a professional negligence claim against the solicitors. The Unite member said: “When I found out my claim had been struck out because the solicitors representing me had failed to respond to Court orders I was horrified. I’m looking forward to putting an end to this saga and only wish I had contacted Unite the Union earlier to avoid the stress and upset of the last six years.” Unite’s Annmarie Kilcline said: “Aggressive advertising by claims management firms traps people who don’t know what to expect from law firms and end up with a poor service and getting ripped off. If our member had contacted Unite Legal Services in the first instance he would have been dealt with by solicitors who are experts in their field. Instead he was strung along by inept legal firms and nearly lost out on compensation. I’m glad we have managed to find someone to pay up.”

Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Civil enforcement officer hit by dangerous driver

A civil enforcement officer from Leeds has received compensation after she was hit by a car while on duty. UNISON member Jane Cannan was walking down a road in Otley in West Yorkshire when a Land Rover driver lost control as he parked the vehicle. He mounted the pavement and hit her front on, pinning her against a wall. She was taken to hospital with injuries to her lower back, hip and severe bruising across her midriff. The enforcement officer developed a serious haematoma that covered the right side of her lower back to the top of her right leg. The swelling was so extensive it took several months to improve and on her return to work - eight months after the accident – her back was still swollen. Ongoing symptoms from the crash meant that Jane had to reduce her working hours because she was unable to stand or do physical activities for long periods of time. As a result of the incident, the 88-year-old driver had to surrender his driving licence. Jane received an undisclosed payout in a union backed compensation case. John Cafferty, UNISON’s Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary, said: “This was an extremely traumatic experience for our member. We are pleased that we were able to support Jane at this difficult time and to ensure that she received the compensation she deserved for her injuries and her loss of earnings.” Amanda Dixon from Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by UNISON to act in the case, said: “This gentleman had a hugely powerful car that he was unable to control. It took Jane months to rebuild her life, both physically and psychologically, and she still suffers almost three years on.”

Thompsons Solicitors news release.

OTHER NEWS

Pilots back helicopter safety plan

Helicopter pilots operating around Britain's shores and represented by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) have welcomed wide-ranging recommendations made in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) review of helicopter operations. The review followed a series of serious incidents, some involving multiple fatalities (Risks 640). Under the changes, helicopters will be banned from taking off in severe weather. CAA is also calling for a limit on the size and number of offshore workers boarding North Sea flights. Pending further safety improvements to helicopters, oil rig workers will only be able to fly if they are seated next to an emergency window exit and aircraft will not be allowed to take off when waves are higher than 20ft. The restrictions – which will come into force on 1 June – will only be lifted if helicopters are fitted with extra flotation devices or passengers are provided with better emergency breathing systems. Commenting on the CAA report’s recommendations, published on 20 February, BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan, said: “The hundreds of dedicated helicopter pilots flying in support of Britain's oil and gas industry and ferrying people to offshore rigs welcome these proposals which will help them make every single flight a safe flight. Pilots will work with the CAA and operators to improve helicopter safety in the North Sea and ensure there is no backsliding as memories of recent accidents fade.” He added: “The CAA has recognised that independently setting and protecting decent helicopter flight safety standards in the North Sea is more effective than a ‘light touch’ approach. Pilots particularly welcome the ban on flying in adverse conditions and the recommendations on how the chances of surviving an incident can be improved.”

BALPA news release. CAA news release. The Scotsman. BBC News Online and related story.

Bid to reclaim NHS asbestos costs in Scotland

The medical costs of treating people in Scotland who suffer from diseases linked to asbestos could be reclaimed under a new bill. Campaigners have said NHS Scotland spends more than £20m a year diagnosing and treating people from the effects of exposure to asbestos. The bill, lodged by SNP MSP Stuart McMillan, would allow the NHS to claw back those costs from the companies who exposed their workers. The NHS has been able to recover the costs of treating the victims of accidents since 2003, where an individual made a successful claim against a third party. However this principle does not cover diseases, and campaigners say a new law is needed to include asbestos-related conditions such as the cancer mesothelioma. Phyllis Craig, who chairs the Clydeside Action on Asbestos group, called on the Scottish Parliament to address the issue “as a priority.” She said: “The responsibility for meeting these costs rests with the employers who exposed their employees to asbestos, contributing to the development of their illness. It is only just that the employers have to meet the costs of care that result from their negligence.” The group is working with MSP Stuart McMillan to change the law through his Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Scotland) Bill. Mr McMillan said he expects strong resistance to the move from insurers, but it is supported by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC). Dave Moxham, deputy leader of the STUC, said: “The insurance industry has managed to avoid meeting their full responsibilities towards those with an asbestos-related disease for decades. It is vital that people who are undergoing investigations for suspected asbestos-related disease, or who need ongoing care and support to manage their condition, can access the health services that they need.” The move follows a similar initiative in Wales, with was passed by the Welsh Assembly in November 2013, but has been stalled over a legal question about the assembly’s power to enact the law (Risks 589). Solicitors representing asbestos victims believe the same problem would not occur in Scotland, which has greater devolved powers.

Evening Times. Daily Record. Herald Scotland. BBC News Online.

Attempted citizen’s arrest of blacklist boss

The Blacklist Support Group has attempted to serve a Citizen’s Arrest Warrant on Callum McAlpine, the first ever chair of the covert and illegal blacklister the Consulting Association. The arrest bid on Friday 21 February - the fifth anniversary of the raid on the Consulting Association by the Information Commissioner’s Office - took place at the Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd London offices (Risks 589). Callum McAlpine admitted to a parliamentary select committee this was the venue for the first and subsequent Consulting Association meetings. Blacklist Support Group members combed the corridors in an attempt to serve the notice. McAlpine staff approached by the campaigners claimed Callum McAlpine was not in the building. Despite repeated requests, no senior figure from the company emerged to meet with the activists, who say they were attempting to enforce the law. A fleet of police vans turned up at the offices near Hyde Park Corner to deal with the disturbance. The blacklisting campaigners point out that no director or senior manager has faced charges for what is an undoubted employment law and human rights offence. Over the same period, phone hacking of celebrities has led to a series of prosecutions. The campaigners add that while the celebrity victims of phone hacking certainly suffered a breach of privacy, blacklisted workers endured this and were denied work as a result. The consequences of the blacklist were usually devastating and sometime fatal, they say. A new Families Against Blacklisting Group has been created to give the partners and children of blacklisted workers somewhere they can find support and share advice.

Reel News coverage. Blacklist blog. Morning Star. Construction Enquirer.
Families Against Blacklisting Group, facebook page.

Suspended jail term after bricklayer is paralysed

A Lincoln builder has been handed a four-month suspended prison sentence after a self-employed bricklayer broke his back in two places in a three metre fall from faulty scaffolding. Robert Wilkin, 70, was left paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair following the incident at a warehouse in North Hykeham on 14 February 2013. He spent five months in hospital and has had to have his home especially converted so he can live on the ground floor. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious safety failings in the construction of the scaffolding by Rodney Foyster, who had subcontracted Mr Wilkin to carry out the bricklaying work. Lincoln Magistrates’ Court was told Foyster was not trained in scaffolding. He failed to check it was safe for use and failed to ensure the safety of workers once it was in use. He bought and erected the second-hand scaffolding before Robert Wilkin was appointed. Scaffolding towers were positioned both on the inside and the outside of the warehouse. Wooden boards were removed from the tower on the inside and used to form a makeshift bridge between the two towers. Mr Wilkin, who was working with his son, Damien, fell from the wooden boards onto the concrete floor three metres below. After the incident the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served a prohibition notice on Foyster, halting further work on the scaffolds until acceptable safety measures were put in place. He was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 18 months, ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work. He was also ordered to pay £2,941 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Mr Wilkins said: “My life has been ruined because I can no longer do the things I used to do. I can’t go out on my own or drive. I feel my freedom has been taken from me and it’s been really hard on my family.”

HSE news release and construction webpages. Construction Enquirer.

Worker suffered horrific injuries in explosion

A Worcestershire engineering firm has been fined for safety crimes after a worker lost both his legs in a factory blast. Clive Dainty, from Kidderminster, was working at Filtration Service Engineering Ltd (FSE) on 8 December 2011 when a 335-litre vessel exploded as it was being pressure tested. The extent of the explosion tore the two parts of the vessel apart, with one part hitting Mr Dainty and forcing him into a cabinet against a wall. The 51-year-old was hospitalised for several months and had to have both legs amputated. He also suffered head injuries and has severely restricted movement in his arms, which have been repaired with metal plates. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that FSE was testing the vessel as there were concerns about the quality of the welding. However, instead of simply filling it with water, the firm decided to use compressed air. The pressure built up to such an extent that eventually the vessel exploded. Filtration Service Engineering Ltd was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £15,325 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety breach. Following the sentencing, Mr Dainty said the company “was fined what they could afford without it having to fold. It wouldn't have been fair on the other workers if they had lost their jobs because the company had to fold. The company has been punished, which is right.” He added: “I'm obviously in a wheelchair, and I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes in a cold sweat. It's cost me a lot, my relationship fell apart when I came out of hospital, but I'm not going to give up on life.” He said he hoped to get prosthetic limbs and when a compensation case was concluded make adaptations to his home to make it more wheelchair accessible.

HSE news release and pressure testing guide. Express and Star. BBC News Online.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Bangladesh: Big brands linked to tragedy urged to ‘pay up’

Only five of the estimated 29 global clothing brands linked to the Bangladesh factory that collapsed last year with the loss of 1,138 lives have committed to paying into a compensation fund for the victims. The Clean Clothes Campaign said so far only Zara-owner Inditex, Mango, Canada's Loblaw, Denmark's Mascot and El Corte of Spain had committed to the fund, which is trying to raise $40m (£24m) in time for the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster on 24 April. Several big British brands, including Primark and Matalan, are among the companies that have not paid into the fund, although Primark has paid the wages of workers laid off after the disaster. The collapse also left more than 2,000 injured. Ineke Zeldenrust of CCC said: “Compensation efforts to date have been completely haphazard, unequal, unpredictable and non-transparent, and have left large groups of victims with nothing.” The campaign said it was “time for clothing brands to pay up.” Global trade unions urged consumers to bombard their favourite brands with demands that they pay into the fund. “It is time to name, shame and campaign,” said Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary global trade union body IndustriALL. “On April 24, one year will have passed since the horror of Rana Plaza. No more excuses.” Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the TUC, wrote to Alessandro Benetton, the chair of the fashion chain, to demand the Italian company pays into the fund. She said Benetton's donation should “reflect the size of your company and take into account the direct relationship your company had with at least one of the factories in the building. Retailers not so far contributing to the ‘Rana Plaza Arrangement’ on compensation include Adler, Auchan, Benetton, Camaieu, Carrefour, Carrona, Cato Fashions, Children’s Place, JC Penney, Kids for Fashion, Lee Cooper, Manifattura Corona, Matalan, NKD, Premier Clothing, PVT (Texman), Store 21, Yes Zee and Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.

Clean Clothes Campaign news release and Pay Up! action webpage. The Rana Plaza Arrangement. TUC Stronger Unions blog. TUC news release. IndustriALL news release. The Guardian.

Russia: Pilots locked in dogfight with Aeroflot bosses

Aeroflot pilots are being left out in the cold following a long-standing safety dispute between their union and the management. The Equal Times online journal reports that Russia’s biggest airline carrier is under intense pressure from labour rights groups who say the company is putting lives at risk by refusing to listen to the safety concerns of pilots. Aeroflot pilots based at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport have accused the company of forcing pilots to work in hazardous conditions and failing to fairly compensate pilots for night flights and thousands of hours of overtime. The claims have been upheld in the Moscow City Court. But the airline has contested the ruling and three members of the Sheremetyevo Trade Union of Airline Pilots (ShPLS) have since been arrested on what the union and its supporters are calling trumped-up embezzlement charges. In October, ShPLS’s executive director Alexei Shlyapnikov and his senior colleague Valeriy Pimoshenko were detained after allegedly taking a bribe from the company, while Sergei Knyshov, another ShPLS member and a respected Moscow lawmaker, was later arrested in connection with the case. The ‘Aeroflot Three’ are now facing up to ten years in prison if tried and convicted. As well as backing from the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and its affiliates, the pilots have also won the support of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the UK’s Trades Union Congress (TUC). ShPLS and its supporters have organised several protests to highlight what they see as the company’s policy of putting profit before customer and staff safety. According to the trade union, heavy pilot schedules mean they are overworked without sufficient breaks. The number of pilots on long-haul flights has also been reduced from three to two. The cumulative fatigue as a result of these conditions, they argue, could lead to human error. Russia’s air safety record is dismal compared to other major nations. According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 13 plane crashes in Russia since the beginning of 2013 alone.

Equal Times. Sign up to the LabourStart online campaign to call for the release of Shlyapnikov, Pimoshenko and Knysho.

USA: Free pizza after Chevron fracking explosion kills

One hundred residents of a tiny Pennsylvania town where a fracking well exploded into a deadly tower of flame, killing one person and burning for five days, have received an apology in the form of a pizza coupon. Chevron Appalachia Community Outreach sent the residents of Bobtown a certificate that entitles them to a large meal (‘Special Combo Only’) from Bobtown Pizza following the 11 February tragedy. The gift certificate also gets its holder a free 2-litre fizzy drink fix. The gift certificates were accompanied by a letter dated 16 February assuring residents of the $250 billion company’s dedication to safety. It said: “Chevron recognises the effect this has had on the community. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbours, our employees, our contractors and the environment.” The intense fire posed “incredible risk to the workers who eventually put it out after days,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nineteen workers were on the well pad during the explosion, a company spokesperson said. “Preparations were being made to run tubing, which is often done prior to bringing wells into production.” Chevron's edible outreach has not gone down well with some recipients. One resident tweeted: “Worst apology ever: Sorry our... well exploded. Here's a free pizza.” In a statement to CNN, Chevron stated that the corporation “offered a token of appreciation” to neighbours who were affected by the events.

TUC Touchstone blog. Pittburgh Post Gazette. ABC News.

Events and Courses

What will you be doing on 28 April?

The TUC webpages for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2014 are now up, ready and waiting to list your planned activities. This year the theme for the annual event is 'Protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights.' The TUC 28 April webpage notes: “The TUC believes that we should use the day to highlight the need for strong regulation at national, European and global level. We need to stop companies in the UK from benefiting from the lack of health and safety standards that lead to disasters such as the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over 1,100 workers.” It adds: “We also need a strong strategy on health and safety from the European Commission which will raise standards throughout Europe, while in the UK we need an end to the cuts in enforcement and regulation and instead action to tackle the huge number of occupational diseases and injuries.” Among other activities, the TUC will be urging people to contact candidates in the European elections scheduled for Thursday 22 May 2014 to press the case for better workplace health and safety standards.

Ÿ  TUC Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2014 webpages. If you know of any union 28 April events, email details to the TUC health and safety department.

28 April is Workers’ Memorial Day

The theme for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April this year will be: 'Protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights'. ITUC, the global union body coordinating the event worldwide, says it is also encouraging unions to use the slogan, 'Unions make work safer' on their materials.

Ÿ  For news, resources and updates on UK Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 activities, see the TUC 28 April webpages.

Ÿ  For global coverage, see the ITUC/Hazards 28 April webpages and facebook page.

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR January to March 2014

Ÿ  TUC courses

The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is Hugh Robertson
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