Issue date
21 Mar 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Risks 647 - 22 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

Tribunals fall so workers and justice pay the price

A dramatic drop in number of people taking employment tribunal cases since the introduction of a fees system shows the government is on the side of bad bosses, the TUC has said. Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures released last week reveal there has been a 79 per cent fall in employment tribunal cases – from 45,710 between September and December 2012 to 9,801 cases for the same period last year – since the government introduced a fee for most workers to take cases. The fees introduced on 29 July 2013 mean workers can be required to pay up to £1,200 for taking a tribunal complaint about issues including victimisation for workplace safety activities (Risks 615). TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These figures show that introducing fees for tribunal cases has stopped many people seeking justice. No one will believe that Britain’s workplaces have got fairer overnight. Too many of Britain’s bad bosses are getting away with treating staff badly, confident that the government is on their side.” The TUC leader added: “It is sheer hypocrisy for ministers to suggest that the charges have stopped drawn out disputes and ‘emotional damage’ to workers. Nothing is worse than suffering injustice and knowing that you cannot afford to put it right. These figures also show why workers should be in a union. While there has been a big fall is in cases brought by individuals, unions are still supporting members who have been treated badly and need to seek justice.”

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  UNISON news release.

Ÿ  Usdaw news release.

Ÿ  GMB news release.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Helicopter deaths firm still escaping justice

Scotland’s top lawmaker should bring a criminal prosecution against a helicopter firm whose negligence has been linked to an offshore tragedy, the union Unite has said. Last week’s finding of a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the April 2009 deaths of 16 men in a Bond Super Puma helicopter crash in the North Sea concluded that the tragedy could have been prevented. Sheriff Derek Pyle highlighted Bond’s failure to properly maintain the Super Puma AS332-L2 helicopter, which suffered catastrophic gearbox failure, in the days before 14 offshore workers and two pilots perished 13 miles off the Aberdeenshire coast.  In addition to calling for the prosecution of operator Bond, Unite demanded a full public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety. Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said the union was “bitterly disappointed the FAI findings highlight a number of maintenance and safety inspection failures on the part of Bond, failures which remain a possibility for cause of this fatal crash, yet the operator can escape any form of punishment from industry regulators or prosecution from the COPFS [Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service]. This is unacceptable and should prompt a re-evaluation of the evidence by the Lord Advocate to consider prosecuting Bond and also more than justifies the growing calls for a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety which the trade unions have been campaigning for.” Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots’ union BALPA, welcomed the FAI report, adding: “Sadly, this accident was preventable, but not survivable and the pilots had no chance to save the lives of the passengers due to the mechanical failures.” He said: “We will be pushing the regulator and operators through our membership of the CAA’s [Civil Aviation Authority] Helicopter Safety Review Group to ensure the lessons are learnt.”

Ÿ  Unite news release.

Ÿ  BALPA news release.

Ÿ  FAI – Super Puma helicopter crash, full determination.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Ÿ  Energy Voice.

STUC calls for urgent review of fatality inquiries

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has repeated its call on the Scottish government to review the country’s Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) system. The union body was speaking out after the publication of the findings from the FAI into the deaths of 16 workers in a Bond helicopter crash in the North Sea on 1 April 2009. STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “It is vitally important that lessons are learned at the earliest opportunity following tragedies where lives are lost and any recommendations put in place to avoid further needless loss of life… However, we have to remember it has taken three weeks short of five years to get to this stage, an unacceptably long time for those who have lost most.” He added: “We are now calling on the Scottish government to support proposals from Patricia Ferguson MSP for her Inquiries into Deaths (Scotland) Bill and act quickly to ensure no other families are let down by our inefficient Fatal Accident Inquiry system. The STUC will continue to support offshore trade unions and our lawyers to campaign for a safer offshore industry, for any necessary inquiry to address safety issues in the North Sea and for justice for families left behind following preventable accidents.”

Ÿ  STUC news release.

Union women call for bullying action

Delegates at the TUC's women's conference last week supported unanimously a call for a union-wide campaign to combat bullying and harassment. Debbie Cavalaldoro moved the motion on behalf of the journalists’ union NUJ and emphasised the need for bullying to be specifically defined in legislation – either in health and safety law or the Equality Act. She told the conference that bullying destroyed careers and lives. The motion was supported by other unions, all of whom felt that bullying was a problem in their own areas. All of the delegates who spoke cited bullying based on gender, mainly male to female, as a problem. The motion agreed at the conference “calls on the TUC to mount a campaign on bullying and harassment and to raise the issue at governmental level in order that work can begin on a campaign to get bullying recognised as a specific issue in health and safety legislation or the Equality Act.”

Ÿ  NUJ news release.

Ÿ  TUC women’s conference and final agenda.

CWU celebrates new dangerous dogs law

Postal workers’ union CWU has welcomed a new dangerous dogs law. The measures, which will extend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and see far harsher punishments for owners of dangerous dogs, received Royal Assent this week. It means tougher dog control laws will be introduced in England and Wales in early May. CWU said the law will bring “significant improvements” to the lives of thousands of workers. The union has led the call for law changes with its 'Bite Back' campaign, supported by animal welfare charities, the police, vets, dog wardens and dog trainers.  It says over 26,000 postal workers have been attacked and injured by dogs in the last six years, with two of them  nearly killed in savage attacks. Many others have lost fingers and parts of limbs.  The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill, which includes amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act, contains provisions for the prosecution of owners for dog attacks on private property.  New preventive powers for police and local authorities will ensure they can act early, to help stop dog attacks before they happen. CWU national health and safety officer Dave Joyce said: “I am absolutely delighted that after seven years of hard campaigning the Dangerous Dogs laws will be changed and be introduced in May. These changes will help to keep thousands of postal workers safer and irresponsible dog owners will be held to account and face far harsher punishments for offences.” He added: “This will bring significant improvements to the safety of all workers whose job it is to visit and enter houses and commercial premises where the risk of dog attack is ever present. Reckless, negligent owners, who previously exploited a legal loophole when their animals attacked and injured postal workers, will no longer be able to escape justice.”

Ÿ  CWU news release and Dangerous dogs – Bite back campaign.

UCATT welcomes false self-employment move

Treasury plans to clampdown on bogus self-employment have been welcomed by UCATT. The construction union has argued consistently that the widespread practice by employers of wrongly designating workers as self-employed has denied the Treasury millions and robbed workers of essential employment and safety protections. Now, after a government consultation that closed last month, plans to be put before parliament say a worker would automatically be on the books if he or she was under the direction, supervision or control of an intermediary. Steve Murphy, UCATT general secretary, said: “I am pleased that the government has finally listened to our representations and has accepted the fact that something needs to be done about the rampant levels of false self-employment in construction. Workers have been deprived of proper protection for years when they were forced to work as falsely self-employed.” He added: “I welcome that the government has not backed down on widespread demands to delay or abandon the plans. When working under condition of direct employment, workers will soon be able to also enjoy the benefits of direct employment including sick pay, redundancy pay, holiday pay and pension provisions.”  UCATT says the majority of the measures, subject to parliamentary approval, are scheduled to be introduced in April 2014. HM Revenue and Customs has drafted extensive guidance explaining when a worker would be classified as working under the supervision, direction or control of an intermediary.

Ÿ  UCATT news release. Government webpage on the false self-employment consultation.

Support worker suffers career ending injury

A community care assistant from Swansea had to give up her job after she injured her back lifting at work. The UNISON member, whose name has not been released, regularly lifted an elderly man, who weighed around 20 stone, from his bed to a wheelchair using an overhead hoist as part of his daily care and support. The 56-year-old carer had asked her Swansea council employer for a sling with handles to make the procedure easier but the council failed to provide this additional support. During a routine visit to the man’s home in October 2009, she was moving him from the hoist to the chair when she felt a sharp pain in her lower back. The injury accelerated a degenerative condition in her spine. She has been unable to return to work because she cannot carry out the manual handling tasks the job requires. “I worked as a community care assistant for 23 years and I thoroughly enjoyed my job,” she said. “An accident, which could have been avoided if I’d had better support from my employer, has ended my career.” A UNISON backed compensation claim secured an undisclosed payout. Margaret Thomas, UNISON regional secretary in Wales, said: “The rotation of support staff when dealing with heavy patients is extremely important. It is not right that employees who provide daily care and assistance should be put under physical strain over extended periods of time.” She added: “Unfortunately, our member can now only carry out a narrow range of physical tasks and this has severely limited her working capability, not to mention her day-to-day life.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

OTHER NEWS

Commons committee says ‘blacklist the blacklisters’

Firms that blacklist workers jeopardise workplace safety and should be banned from publicly funded contracts and their victims compensated, MPs have said. The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee’s damning 14 March 2014 report of its investigation into the blacklisting scandal – which followed a campaign for justice by unions and the Blacklist Support Group - says that just ending blacklisting is not enough. The committee says that firms caught blacklisting must undertake a process of “self-cleaning,” including an admission of guilt, paying full compensation and taking other appropriate remedial steps. The MPs argue that monitoring and reporting procedures for health and safety, as well as a commitment to direct employment, should be adopted as standard for all publicly funded projects. The report notes: “There is a clear link between blacklisting and poor health and safety standards in the construction industry. Workers must be free to voice concerns about health and safety on sites, and union shop stewards play a key role in this.” It adds: “It is essential that workers feel that they are able to report potentially life threatening health and safety concerns without fear. Adequate reporting systems are a vital part of preventing the threat to workers of blacklisting and ensuring a robust health and safety culture.” Ian Davidson MP, chair of the select committee, said: “It is impossible to fully quantify the damage that may have been done to people’s careers and livelihoods, and to their families, as well as to health and safety on site, by these practices, but restitution must be made.” He added: “It must not be left just to the companies themselves to determine what this should be, but it must be agreed after negotiations with the relevant trade unions and representatives of blacklisted workers. It must also be applied to all the victims of blacklisting who have yet to be identified, and where the victim has died, compensation must go to their families.”

Ÿ  House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee report.

Crunch time for the blacklisters

Unions and blacklisting campaigners have said a report from MPs calling for justice for workers victimised by construction firms should be the catalyst for meaningful action at last. Commenting on the publication of the report of a House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee investigation into blacklisting, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said “the inquiry has been conducted with diligence and leadership. The interim report gets to the heart of the problem and shows there was a conspiracy by some construction firms to deny employment to workers just for raising health and safety concerns or being in a union and speaking up for their fellow workers.” She added: “The report is a clear call to the blacklisters to stop dragging their feet and refusing to apologise. It is time to start compensating and re-employing blacklisted workers. Failure to do so could lead to contractors forfeiting crucial contracts as momentum builds to run the blacklisters out of town.” GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “The position of the all-party committee could not be any clearer: That local, regional and national government should not spend a penny more of taxpayer’s money with any company guilty of blacklisting - past, present or future - who has not self-cleansed.” Steve Acheson, chair of the Blacklist Support Group, said: “This report vindicates the years of tireless campaigning that many trade unionists and supporters have carried out, not just over the past five years since the secret blacklist was discovered but over decades. The report barely lifts the lid on this evil conspiracy and we will not stop our campaign until a fully independent public inquiry into all of the aspects of blacklisting are exposed and the guilty brought to justice.”

Ÿ  Unite news release.

Ÿ  GMB news release.

Ÿ  Blacklist blog.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Boss abandoned waitress half-blinded by chemicals

A restaurant owner has been fined after a member of his staff was splashed in the face with a caustic chemical. Initially, the incident – which happened at Huffers Cafe, Sudbury, in September 2012 – was not reported to authorities. The employee, Chelsea Stafford, was left half blinded on the street outside. She was given £20 to get a taxi and had to call her mother for assistance. The victim, who made a full recovery, later reported the incident to Babergh District Council. An investigation by the council’s environmental health officers discovered a series of criminal safety breaches. Owner Halit Ozer and his company, Liteball Ltd, pleaded guilty at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court last month to nine separate offences. The 51-year-old had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed his plea on the day of the trial. The offences included criminal breaches of duty in the handling of products and failing to notify the enforcing authority of an injury. Other charges involved Ozer failing in his duty to a young person, failing to provide adequate first aid equipment and a first aider, and two breaches of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations. The court heard that Chelsea Stafford suffered the injury after using a cleaning fluid containing sodium hydroxide. The waitress was attempting to hand dose a large industrial dish washer with a five gallon drum of sodium hydroxide, which should have been automatically dosed. Ozer was fined £4,365 and ordered to contribute £2,100 to the council’s legal costs. The holding company for the business, Liteball Ltd, was fined £120. John Hinton, lead member for environment at the district council, commented: “Health and safety regulation is often ridiculed as unnecessary red tape but this case shows that it is there with the intention of protecting employees.” Sodium Hydroxide generates heat on contact with water and destroys proteins in the eye, which can lead to irreparable damage.

Ÿ  Babergh District Council news release.

Ÿ  Suffolk Free Press.

Ÿ  Environmental Health News.

Life-changing injuries hamper trainee vet’s ambitions

A Shropshire horse breeder has been prosecuted for safety failings after a student suffered severe leg and pelvic injuries when she was felled by four straw bales on her last day of work experience. Emily Dawson, a 20-year-old veterinary student, was on placement at leading independent stud farm, RL Matson & Son of Whitchurch, run by partner Edward Matson. She was collecting hay for the horses’ troughs when she was struck by four falling straw bales, weighing more than 1.2 tonnes, which toppled from a nearby five and a half-metre high stack. She suffered multiple injuries, was in hospital for 19 days and was in a wheelchair for three months. She is still unable to crouch or kneel and struggles to bend. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the incident on 5 August 2012 could have been avoided if the straw bales had been stacked safely. Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court heard two of the fallen bales came to rest on top of each other in front of her right foot. One pinned down her left foot and the fourth straddled the fallen front and rear bales, pushing her torso forward by 45 degrees. Emily’s right leg was in a cast and needed metal rods fixing to the bone to hold it in place. Her left leg was put in traction and for a period of time couldn’t bear weight. An artery in her thigh had been so badly stretched it was close to rupturing. Her pelvis was broken in six places and the left side had to have permanent metal pins inserted to make it load-bearing again. Her ankle was also badly broken and complications have resulted in further operations with the prospect of an ankle replacement in the future. Edward Matson, 48, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,114 after pleading guilty to a criminal  breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. HSE inspector Marie-Louise Riley-Roberts said: “This incident had devastating consequences and a young woman was lucky not to have lost her life. As it is, she has been left with life-changing injuries and impairments that could affect her chosen career.” HSE records show that since 2000, 18 deaths have been recorded as a result of being struck by falling bales in agriculture. This does not include those caused by being struck by a bale falling from a mechanical handler.

Ÿ  HSE news release and guide on safe working with hay and straw bales.

Ÿ  Shropshire Star.

Scaffolding firm done for department store danger

A Hertfordshire scaffolding firm has been fined for a catalogue of criminal safety failings – including throwing and catching metal fittings over the heads of shoppers – as they    erected two scaffolds outside an Oxford department store. Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited also failed to ensure the structures outside Debenhams were properly configured, braced and tied, which compromised their stability. Pedestrians were forced to walk into the road to avoid the work, with no measures in place to protect them from passing vehicles. The scaffolds were erected on the morning of Sunday 30 September 2012 when there was significant footfall in the area. The Cheshunt-based company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that although nobody was injured, the activity was inherently unsafe. HSE established that as a result of the failings there was a significant risk that the scaffold could have collapsed. Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £706 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove commented: “Little thought was given to shoppers as fittings and poles were tossed or passed over their heads, and today’s conviction serves to illustrate the seriousness of the failings we uncovered. Thankfully nobody was injured, but that is the only saving grace.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Painter injured in fall from dodgy scaffold

A painter and decorator was injured when he fell through an unprotected ladder opening on scaffolding at a block of flats in Hemel Hempstead. Self-employed decorator David Currie, 48, suffered a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder in the 6 November 2012 incident. The firm responsible for the scaffold, London-based Beacon Scaffolding, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Watford Magistrates’ Court. The court heard that the firm had been sub-contracted to erect scaffolding around a four-storey block of flats to allow decorators to repaint windows and woodwork. Mr Currie was working on the third level of the scaffolding when he lost his footing and stumbled through an unprotected ladder opening. His outstretched arm fell between ladder rungs and the momentum of his fall caused him to fall to the second level below. HSE found there were no preventive measures, such as protected ladder traps or guardrails, to prevent a fall from one level to another, and that access ladders between each level were too short and did not provide suitable handholds. Beacon Scaffolding Ltd was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,737 costs after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. HSE inspector Rauf Ahmed said: “This incident was entirely preventable. This case highlights the importance of scaffolding companies arranging ladder access openings between scaffold levels in such a way to prevent falls, and providing ladders of a sufficient length to offer suitable handholds above landing places.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and falls webpages.

Ÿ  Construction Enquirer.

Worker removing glue gets stuck in machine

A ceiling company has been fined for serious criminal safety breaches after a worker required skin grafts on an arm that had been caught in machinery. Supervisor Paul Turney, 61, was removing hardened-on glue from the lower roller spindle on a laminator machine when his left arm was caught in the drive mechanism at CEP Ceiling Ltd’s premises in Stafford on 21 January 2013. His forearm was caught in the intermeshing metal gears, which chewed up a large chunk of tissue. He needed the skin graft to help it heal. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Wayne Owens told Stafford Magistrates’ Court: “Mr Turney drove himself to hospital after the accident and has returned there nine times.” An HSE investigation found the covers protecting the drive mechanism had been removed to give easier access to the spindle. The court heard that the company had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. In addition, no safe system of work was in place, and insufficient monitoring of employees took place to identify unsafe practices. James Aggeros, defending the company, told the court: “The company apologises for committing this offence. Mr Turney did suffer a serious injury as a result of this accident but he returned to work fairly shortly afterwards and it has not affected his ability to work.” He added: “Liability has been accepted and Mr Tunney will be compensated for the injury he received.” CEP Ceilings Ltd was fined £24,000 and ordered to pay £1,194 in costs after pleading guilty to two criminal safety offences.

Ÿ  HSE news release and machinery safety webpages.

Ÿ  Express and Star.

Agency worker injured in poorly guarded machine

A Welwyn Garden City manufacturing firm has been prosecuted after an agency worker suffered a hand injury when clearing a blockage on a poorly-guarded palletiser machine. The 33-year-old worker, who does not wish to be named, was attempting to restart a machine at Sika Ltd’s factory after dealing with the blockage when his right hand was struck by a moving part. He suffered multiple fractures of his hand and lacerations in the 12 October 2012 incident. He was unable to return to work to perform a similar role for several months. Watford Magistrates’ Court heard the worker had bypassed an interlocked gate, which was common practice by staff, to clear the blockage in the machine. As he restarted the palletiser, his hand, which was resting on the top frame of the machine, was struck by a moving part which operated the claw mechanism. HSE found the machine guarding was inadequate. It also found that Sika Ltd had failed to properly assess the risks from using the palletiser. Insufficient training and instruction had been provided to workers, and their supervision was inadequate. Sika Ltd was fined £17,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,219 after admitting two criminal safety offences. HSE inspector James Wright said: “Sika Ltd failed to implement effective measures to ensure workers were not exposed to dangerous parts of machinery. They failed to properly assess the risks, ensure the machine was adequately guarded, and that workers were effectively supervised. This has resulted in a worker suffering a serious injury which has greatly impacted on his ability to work.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and manufacturing webpages.

Dad’s work death spurs safety action call

Kenneth Hume was just 29 when he was killed at work, leaving behind a young family. The experience spurred his son, Stewart, to follow his father’s example and train as an electrician – and at the same time become a union rep for Unite and a vocal safety advocate. “I wasn’t at dad’s funeral as mum felt I was too young, but everyone always tells me that there was a queue of cars behind the hearse that stretched through all the streets of the estate where we lived,” he recalls. “That comforts me to know how much my dad was loved by family, friends and workmates.” Now with two young children of his own, a daughter Jorja and a son named Kenneth after his dad, Stewart says “every time either of them do or say something new it makes me think about dad and all the joy that he has been robbed of and that Jorja and Kenneth have been robbed of a loving Papa.” He adds the true cost of a workplace fatality is “not the delay to a project, not the suspension of production, not the cost of an HSE investigation, not the cost of a Fatal Accident Inquiry, not the cost of expensive company lawyers, not the cost of the emergency services attending an incident and not the cost of compensation if there even is any. The cost lies with the families left behind, the emotional and mental cost. No amount of money can take away the pain.” He is urging “every worker” to back a Hazards Campaign ‘Health and Selfies’ push to raise the issue on Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April. He says: “Take a photo of yourself holding a piece of card with ‘I Love Red Tape – it’s better than bloody bandages!’ then tweet your Health and Selfie to your own MP, to David Cameron, to DWP and BIS ministers and to local press, using the hashtags #HealthandSelfie and #IWMD14.” Stewart concludes: “Please take part in International Workers’ Memorial Day, I know I will. I will be thinking of my dad in particular and I’ll have a photo of him and a slogan to suit for my ‘Health and Selfie’.”

Ÿ  Blacklist blog. Hazards Campaign website and 28 April resources: Posters: free (A3 and A4 available). Stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100, with bigger discounts for bigger orders. Lapel stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100. Car stickers: £1 each, £30 per 100. Purple ribbons: £0.30 each, £30 per 100. T-shirts: in s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl. £6. Order from the Hazards Campaign, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD.  Tel: 0161 636 7557. Email: [email protected].

Ÿ  TUC workers’ Memorial Day 2014 webpages. ITUC/Hazards 28 April global webpages and facebook page.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Bangladesh: Fearful Rana Plaza survivors return to factories

Less than year on from Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which claimed over 1,100 lives, most of the survivors of the tragedy have had no choice but to return to industry despite ill-health and dread of another collapse. The Guardian reports that despite the 24 April 2013 disaster, the industry is thriving. Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told the paper: “The government projects apparel export volume to rise to about $24bn [£14bn] this year. I think we can achieve this… The Rana Plaza has been a turning point for us. It was a wake-up call for everybody.”  So far 1,133 people have been confirmed dead in the world's worst industrial disaster for a generation. The owner of the building, Sohel Rana, remains in prison. An illegal extension forming the eighth story of the Rana Plaza building led to the structure's collapse, engineers have concluded. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of survivors of the disaster have returned to working in garment factories despite ongoing fears. Many complain of panic attacks, headaches and nightmares. But most of the workers in Rana Plaza were young women from rural backgrounds with no possibility of finding work, or sometimes even enough food, near their home villages. The Guardian reports that soaring rents, basic food prices and school fees mean there is little alternative to a return to the only work most workers have ever known. The garment factories are also recruiting. In the first seven months of the financial year beginning 1 July, Bangladesh's garments exports rose by almost 18 per cent.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

China: Clamour grows for dust disease action

Pressure for official action to stem China’s epidemic of work-related dust diseases has reached the highest levels of government.  China Labour Bulletin (CLB) reports that several delegates at last week’s annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), called on the government to do more for the estimated six million workers in China with pneumoconioses, lung diseases caused by dust. Proposals including creation of a compensation fund to provide medical care for affected migrant workers. According to CLB, CPPCC delegate and All-China Federation of Trade Unions vice-chair Li Shiming suggested “extending basic medical insurance to include workers with pneumoconiosis and increasing the ridiculously low minimum subsistence allowance provided by local governments by between 30 and 50 per cent.” Vice-chair of the Sichuan Federation of Trade Unions, Luo Maoxiang, called for the stricter enforcement of existing regulations that allowed for the advance payment of compensation from the work-related injury insurance fund when employers without insurance refused to pay up. But CLB warned that while it is encouraging to see some legislators backing its call for a national fund for workers with pneumoconiosis, “there is little sign so far that the Chinese government is taking steps to actually implement such a scheme. In the meantime, workers who contracted pneumoconiosis years ago are still dying in poverty and new victims are being created all the time by appalling working conditions and lax government supervision.” The deputy director of Hubei’s Department of Justice, Li Renzhen, called for better supervision of high dust enterprises and for the authorities to hold business owners with large numbers of employees suffering from pneumoconiosis criminally responsible for endangering their health.

Ÿ  China Labour Bulletin.

Qatar: ITUC exposes ‘squalid’ World Cup conditions

A new report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) exposes how far Qatar will go to deny workers their rights. ‘The case against Qatar’ was published ahead of a critical executive committee meeting of FIFA, football’s global governing body, on 20 March. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said Qatar is a government which takes no responsibility for workers, and its response to criticism is focused on public relations. During a site visit to Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar, selected by FIFA to host the 2022 World Cup, she found 38 workers from India, Nepal and Thailand living in squalor with mattresses on the floor in makeshift rooms underneath the bleachers or stadium seats. The global union body estimates 4,000 of these migrant workers could die before a ball is kicked. Sharan Burrow said: “Qatar must change. FIFA can make a difference by making the abolition of kafala [the official denial of basis rights to migrant workers, making them virtual captives of their employer] and respect for international labour rights a condition of Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022. If FIFA demands that Qatar abolish kafala and respect fundamental international rights, it will happen.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, responding to the ITUC report, said: “Working conditions are so bad in Qatar that on average one construction worker is dying out there every day. FIFA should no longer be listening to the assurances of the authorities that all is well with the World Cup workforce in Qatar. Its executives need to look at the evidence in the ITUC report and they will see that ill-treatment and squalor is widespread.” She added: “If the organisers of the 2022 World Cup show no sign of acting to improve the lot of its thousands of migrant workers, then FIFA must consider a re-run of the vote and moving the tournament elsewhere in the world.”

Ÿ  ITUC news release and report, The case against Qatar.

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  Equal Times.

Ÿ  TUC Touchstone blog.

Ÿ  ITUC Re-run the vote campaign.

USA: Deadly industry attack on NY scaffolding law

Construction industry lobbyists are attempting to gut a New York scaffolding safety law, a measure that for more than a century has added an extra layer of accountability for firms. Online publication In These Times reports that the lobbyists claim the law cuts into the industry’s bottom line. The Scaffold Law, a state law on the books since 1885, states that worksites above the ground “shall be constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.” The law holds owners and contractors liable for injuries that result as a violation of those standards, and allows employees to sue for damages if they can demonstrate that such a violation occurred and caused an injury. Advocates say that the law promotes safety standards such as provision of appropriate training and protective equipment, as well as checks to ensure that worksites are structurally sound. And the law works. Illinois’ occupational safety record worsened after the state repealed a similar law in 1995. According to one analysis by a trial lawyers' group: “In 2004, the incidence rate of falls from scaffolding/staging in the construction industry in Illinois was more than triple the national rate.” The firms and business groups mobilising against the New York law say it puts undue emphasis on the employer rather than the “personal responsibility” of the worker. In The Times notes: “Proposed changes to the law would explicitly direct juries to consider the degree to which the worker caused the accident. The idea is to create more legal wriggle room to limit the company's legal and financial liability toward victims.”

Ÿ  In These Times.


Events and Courses

Are you geared up for 28 April?

Workers’ Memorial Day, the biggest event on the union safety calendar, is fast approaching. So, have you sorted your action kit for 28 April? The Hazards Campaign is providing everything from the poster you stick on the wall to the t-shirt you stick on your back. You can: Get hold of your free 28 April posters; get ready to stick your stickers; splash out on a car sticker and forget-me-knot purple ribbons; and slip into a high quality ‘We didn’t vote to die’ or ‘Stop it you’re killing us’ t-shirt. Make sure your event is really something to see!

Posters: free (A3 and A4 available). Stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100, with bigger discounts for bigger orders. Lapel stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100. Car stickers: £1 each, £30 per 100. Purple ribbons: £0.30 each, £30 per 100. T-shirts: in s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl. £6. Order from the Hazards Campaign, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD.  Tel: 0161 636 7557. Email: [email protected]

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

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.

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
E: [email protected]