Toggle high contrast
Issue date

Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.

UNION NEWS
Government contempt leads to more working wounded
Stress ‘tsunami’ could engulf working people
GMB shames Boris as figures expose safety cuts and carnage
Unite concern as site injuries go up and prosecutions down
NUJ push to end impunity for crimes against journalists
Assaults on prison staff hit record high
Usdaw slams government inaction on abuse of shopworkers
RMT condemns ‘broken promises’ over excrement on tracks
Grenfell fire inquiry is yet to target the ‘true culprits’
OTHER NEWS  New building safety watchdog will be able to levy big fines
RMT warning on bad oil and gas industry report
University fined after researchers exposed to sensitisation risk
RESOURCES
TUC guide on responding to work-related stress
New diesel exhaust fume risk prevention guide
INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Australia: Bosses could face work suicide ‘manslaughter’ charges
Australia: Mental illness is fastest growing workplace hazard
Australia: Deliveroo workers demand safety after deaths
TWU news release. Delivery Riders Alliance. Malawi: Tobacco farmers challenge multinational abuses
 

UNION NEWS

 

Government contempt leads to more working wounded

The outgoing Conservative government has overseen an increase in work fatalities, injuries and work-related ill-health in Great Britain at the same time convictions and fines for criminal workplace safety offences have plummeted, new official statistics have revealed. The TUC said the new figures for 2018/19 from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) expose a ‘don’t care’ government whose policies have created a growing army of ‘working wounded’, too insecure and low paid to go sick. HSE’s annual report shows there were 147 workplace fatalities reported to the regulator in 2018/19, up from 144 the year before, and that around 581,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries in 2018/2019, an increase from around 550,000 in 2017/18 (Risks 874). HSE reported 1.4 million workers were suffering from work-related ill-health in 2018/19, the same as the previous year but up from 1.3 million in 2016/17 and 1.2 million in 2014/15. At the same time HSE secured 364 convictions for criminal safety offences resulting in fines totalling £54.5 million. This represents a dramatic drop from the 493 convictions and £72.6 million fines in 2017/18, which was itself down on the 555 convictions in 2016/17 (Risks 825) and 660 convictions in 2015/16 (Risks 777). While the number of workers harmed has increased, there has been a marked decline in the number of working days lost to work-related illness and workplace injury, down from 30.7 million working days in 2017/18 to 28.2 million in 2018/19. The TUC said the trends reflect the priorities of a government with a contempt for employment rights and safety rules. TUC head of safety Laurie Heselden said: “Fatalities are up, reported injuries are up, and work-related ill-health remains at 1.4 million affected workers, up from 1.3 million two years ago and 1.2 million four years ago. But while the human price of employer safety negligence has increased, convictions, fines and days lost to workplace injury and ill-health have plummeted. The statistics expose a don’t care government that has stripped HSE of the resources to do its job and left increasing numbers of workers insecure and at risk in the workplace.” He added: “The next government must reverse the HSE funding cuts and end the scourge of job insecurity, which is creating a generation of working wounded.”
HSE news release. Health and safety at work: Summary statistics for Great Britain 2018, 30 October 2019.

Stress ‘tsunami’ could engulf working people

Excessive workloads, low pay and a lack of control over the job are among factors threating to engulf workers in a ‘tsunami’ of work-related stress, the TUC has warned. TUC head of safety Laurie Heselden, commenting as new Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures showed work-related stress, depression and anxiety is at a record high, said: “The new health and safety demon is work-related stress and unions are meeting it head-on.” He said one neglected factor contributing to the increase in stress has been a sharp decline in pay. In a TUC blog posting, he warned that while “it’s clear that by far the major cause of harmful work-related stress and ill-health is excessive workloads”, low pay and a sharp increase in insecure work also help explain why “it’s no surprise that a tsunami in work-related stress has hit working people over the last decade.” He said unions, by negotiating stress-busting solutions in the workplace, can provide a remedy. “Overall, unionised workplaces are more productive, safer and healthier – and workers are better paid on average too,” he noted. “Get smart, defend yourself, protect yourself, respect yourself, and join a union… And if you are in a union already, organise in the workplace to win great jobs for everyone.” HSE’s new work-related stress, anxiety and depression figures represent a new all-time high, up from the previous record of 595,000 affected workers in 2017/18 (Risks 874) to 602,000 in 2018/19, a prevalence of 1,800 cases per 100,000. However, work days lost to the conditions dropped sharply, from 15.4 million days lost to 12.8 million. The TUC has produced a new guide for union safety reps to “responding to harmful work-related stress”, including details of HSE’s improved investigation regime (Risks 918).
TUC blog, and Charter for a new deal for working people. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain 2019, HSE, 2019.
TUC resources: TUC stress webpages, TUC guide to responding to harmful work-related stress; and Tackling workplace stress using the HSE Stress Management Standards, TUC and HSE guidance for health and safety representatives.

GMB shames Boris as figures expose safety cuts and carnage

The GMB has warned that Boris Johnson’s long-held contempt for workplace health and safety is reflected in the Conservative government’s cost-cutting attitude to workers’ lives. The union was speaking out after latest official figures brought to 195 the number of people killed doing construction work since 2013. A further 26,007 have suffered injuries such as fractures, amputations, serious burns and loss of consciousness. By 2020, the union says, the Conservative-led government will have cut funding for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by £100 million a year from the level when it came to power in 2010. GMB national secretary Jude Brimble said: “No one should go to work not knowing if they are going to make it through the day unharmed – or even alive. Construction work is highly skilled and can be dangerous, but these figures are absolutely unacceptable.” Citing a 2009 article by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph newspaper, she said: “Boris Johnson may think health and safety campaigners are the 'Royal Society for the Extremely Stupid' - but these are people’s lives we are talking about.” She said the union’s ‘Building for Britain’ pledge would “tackle these issues and make construction industry and safer, more inclusive place to work.”
GMB news release. HSE 2018/2019 statistics tables. Health and safety fears are making Britain a safe place for extremely stupid people, Boris Johnson, The Telegraph, 6 July 2009 and related 2017 article in the Independent.

Unite concern as site injuries go up and prosecutions down

New figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showing a rise in construction injuries and a fall in prosecutions show bad employers are being allowed to ignore safety law to “boost profits”, the union Unite has warned. The HSE’s figures show that the number of non-fatal injuries per 100,000 workers rose from 359 in 2017/18 to 366 in 2018/19. During the corresponding timeframe there was a 22 per cent decrease in the number of construction prosecutions undertaken by the HSE, which fell from 202 in 2017/18 to just 158 in 2018/19. Unite noted that the rise in injuries and the sharp decrease in prosecutions has only just emerged, while the news that a record low 30 construction workers were killed in 2018/19 was announced separately in July. Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “These figures are deeply worrying. While of course we welcome that the number of deaths has decreased, this has to be tempered with the fact that construction injuries have gone up. The increase in injuries is likely to in part be a result of employers failing to comply with safety laws. Unite firmly believes that a major contributory factor to this is the sharp decline in prosecutions, which clearly indicate that the HSE’s enforcement activities are decreasing. This is a dangerous cocktail and it will likely to result in a greater number of workers being injured and possibly killed unless urgent action is taken to reverse this trend.” He added: “Too many employers in construction remain prepared to ignore safety laws, to boost profits, as they believe that they won’t be caught.” The union leader concluded: “These figures show the importance of having a strong, active and interventionist HSE. The Conservative government’s swingeing cuts to the HSE are now resulting in workers paying for the decrease in enforcement with their health.”
Unite news release. Construction Enquirer.

NUJ push to end impunity for crimes against journalists

The journalists’ union NUJ has contacted ambassadors and other country representatives in the UK to press for an end to crimes against journalists and the impunity of those responsible. The union said it has picked a series of countries to focus on this year as part of the global campaign – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malta, Yemen, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Palestine/Israel, Peru, Philippines and Ukraine. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Most countries around the world are failing to protect journalists,” adding: “Without safety and protection in place for journalists, without justice for all those who have been killed, we cannot have a free society or a free press”. Ahead of the 2 November international day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, global journalists’ union IFJ launched a three week campaign to expose the “staggering” levels of impunity for crimes against journalists and the lack of international action to combat the rising tide of threats and abuse faced worldwide. The IFJ campaign will run until Saturday 23 November, the anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre in the Philippines, in which at least 32 media workers were killed.
NUJ news release and IFJ campaign and toolkit.

Assaults on prison staff hit record high

Experienced prison workers will continue to be driven from their jobs by escalating violence unless the government takes urgent action, prison unions have warned. The unions were speaking out after latest Ministry of Justice figures revealed record numbers of assaults on prison staff. The report, covering England and Wales, shows there were 10,424 assaults on prison staff in the twelve months to June 2019, a 10 per cent increase from the previous twelve months and a record high. Over 1,000 of these were serious assaults on staff – equivalent to 20 assaults every week. Private prisons union Community is urging the government to commit to minimum standards across contracts, alongside better pay and recognition, and training and career development opportunities for staff. National officer for the sector, Adrian Axtell, said: “It is shocking that assaults on staff continue to rise and this demonstrates yet again that insufficient action is being taken by government to tackle this problem, which affects our members on the frontline of public service.” He added: “High levels of violence will continue to lead to prison staff leaving the profession, yet tackling the retention of experienced officers is also key to improving safety in prisons. This vicious circle needs to be broken and we will continue to make the case to all stakeholders for more effective action. Community will keep campaigning for a safer justice, custodial and immigration services sector for our members.” Mark Fairhurst, national chair of the prison union POA, commented: “Our employer has dramatically failed to address violence and self-harm in our prisons. By their own admittance, the under-recording of violence is rife so these statistics are actually much worse.” He added: “The safety of staff is non-negotiable and the POA will use any means necessary to ensure staff are safe in their workplaces.”
Community news release. POA news release. Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales, MoJ, 31 October 2019.

Usdaw slams government inaction on abuse of shopworkers

Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has said it is disappointed by another government refusal to commit to the measures necessary to reduce the abuse of shopworkers. The union comments came in response to a 5 November Westminster Hall debate on prevention of retail crime. In June this year, Usdaw’s response to the government’s ‘call for evidence’ told the Home Office that 80 per cent of shopworkers believe violence and abuse are getting worse and nearly two-thirds have been victims of a physical or verbal attack. Its call for government action has been backed by retailers and trade organisations, who have called jointly for measures including tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers and a full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence in retail. Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said he was “disappointed” at the government claim in the parliamentary debate that is still analysing the evidence received. “This continued delay is extremely concerning for our members; Usdaw has been calling for action for many years. Even in the time since the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ closed, the Association of Convenience Stores has revealed that there has been an estimated 200,000 assaults and threats against retail and wholesale staff.” He said: “We need decisive action to tackle this growing problem and we will be looking for the new government that emerges after the general election to deliver for our members and all shopworkers. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”
Usdaw news release.

RMT condemns ‘broken promises’ over excrement on tracks

Rail union RMT has condemned train companies for reneging on a pledge to eliminate the dumping of excrement on the railway by the end of this year. The union said the failure “shows that profit is more important to them than the rail workers who will continue to have to work in disgusting unsanitary conditions amongst the raw sewage.” In 2017 the Department for Transport said that by the end of 2019 all franchises would compel firms to ensure trains had modern toilets, a claim confirmed in Network Rail’s strategic business plan. However, several train companies have since applied for exemptions. East Midlands Trains have been given permission to continue to dump sewage on the track from fast trains running between London St Pancras to Nottingham and Sheffield. Other companies still understood to be operating trains that dump excrement on tracks include Northern, West Midlands, Scotrail and Transport for Wales. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The pledge to end the practice was hard won by RMT and the fact that it has been reneged on shows the utter contempt that the rail companies have for rail workers.” He added: “The blame for this broken promise, which means the continuation of this disgraceful practice that shames Britain’s railways, lies at the door of the greedy train companies, and their reluctance to retro-fit tanks due to cost, and this government and their appalling attitude to the staff who work in the transport industry.” He said “there will be no let-up in RMT’s campaign to bring the dumping of raw sewage on the tracks to an end as soon as possible.”
RMT news release. The Observer.

Grenfell fire inquiry is yet to target the ‘true culprits’

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) should not take the blame for the “impossible” circumstances that hindered the Grenfell Tower rescue operation, the firefighters’ union FBU has said. The union was commenting on the publication of the report of the first phase of the inquiry into the tragedy, in which 72 residents died. Inquiry judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick wrote that the lack of a plan to evacuate residents was a “major omission” and more lives could have been saved had the “stay-put” policy been rescinded sooner. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Inquiry’s interim report must finally be a turning point for fire safety in the UK. Warning after warning from previous fires were ignored; central government must now take responsibility for ensuring that recommendations are applied nationwide, not just in London; this has never simply been a matter for the London Fire Brigade. That change can only be achieved by establishing a new, credible and accountable body responsible for fire and rescue service policy in the UK.” He stated the inquiry’s priorities had been wrong. “The Inquiry’s structure prioritises scrutiny of firefighters, who did everything that they could to save lives, over investigating the critical issues of public safety that led to the fire and caused it to spread in such a disastrous manner. Before any firefighter arrived that night, Grenfell Tower was a death trap. Firefighters that night acted bravely in impossible circumstances, many of them repeatedly risking their own lives to save others.” The FBU leader concluded: “The true culprits of the fire are those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, who gutted the UK’s fire safety regime, who ignored the warnings from previous fires, and who did not hear the pleas of a community worried for their safety. We will be watching phase two of the Inquiry closely to ensure they are held to account. But we cannot wait for years for the Inquiry to conclude. Change is needed now.” The FBU position was backed by the union Unite, which is representing almost 70 families in the inquiry. Unite said the inquiry’s report was ‘back to front’, adding its priority should have been to focus on the causes of the fire before the evacuation.
Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase One reportFBU news release. Unite news release. GMB news release. Morning Star. BBC News Online. Construction Enquirer. The Independent. Evening Standard.
 

OTHER NEWS

New building safety watchdog will be able to levy big fines

The government has said it intends to create a powerful new Building Safety Regulator. The former chair of the Health and Safety Executive, Judith Hackitt, has been enlisted to steer the development of the new body. Dame Judith previously led the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. The government indicated the new regulator will oversee the design and management of buildings, with a strong focus on policing the new regime for higher risk buildings. It said the regulator will have the power to take quick and effective action, imposing heavy fines, when designers and contractors fail to comply. New building duty holders will be required to demonstrate a building’s safety through a new system of gateway points during design and construction, and through a safety case regime during its occupation. Announcing the plans on 28 October, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I am grateful that Dame Judith has agreed to advise my department on the new Building Safety Regulator. Her expertise will be essential to forming a strong Regulator with teeth to ensure all residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes both now and in the future.”
Government news release. Construction Enquirer.

RMT warning on bad oil and gas industry report

Offshore energy union RMT has reacted with concern to an industry report confirming the ‘unacceptable’ safety record on UK oil and gas installations. Trade association Oil and Gas UK’s just released annual health and safety report for 2018 shows increases in injuries and reportable safety incidents, including hydrocarbon releases, as well as a rising backlog of safety critical maintenance work on installations. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is an extremely worrying set of findings. The Health and Safety Executive’s warning to employers that they need to make progress in preventing hydrocarbon releases [Risks 847] has clearly not been heeded and it is totally unacceptable to see the backlog of safety critical maintenance work creeping up again.” He added: “Tax cuts and RMT members’ hard work are fuelling massive pay increases for oil executives, yet employers cannot even keep workers updated on efforts to improve the safety of helicopter transport.” He said the report didn’t cover the recent spate of safety incidents such as the evacuation of all workers on EnQuest’s Thistle platform on 21 October (Risks 921), but “it underlines the need for rapid improvement. The role of safety reps and wider workforce engagement policies on oil and gas installations in the North Sea must be part of that improvement. RMT will continue the fight to deliver the offshore safety culture of continuous improvement that every offshore worker and their family deserves.”
RMT news release. OGUK Health and Safety report 2019.

University fined after researchers exposed to sensitisation risk

The University of Edinburgh has been fined for failings which led to two animal research workers, who were already sensitised to laboratory animal allergens (LAA), being put at risk of adverse health effects as a result of further exposures. Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how the researchers both began work at the University of Edinburgh in 2003. Both declared that they were already allergic to rodents around the time of taking up their positions. Over the years both continued to work with rats and were exposed to various levels of LAA, a respiratory sensitiser. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the university failed to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the exposure to LAA, particularly when it was known that the research workers were already sensitised. It failed to ensure suitable health surveillance was carried out at intervals not more than 12 months apart and that sufficient information, instruction, supervision and training was provided to the research workers. The University of Edinburgh pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £10,000. HSE inspector Susan Donnelly said: “This was a case of the university completely failing to grasp the importance of risk-based health surveillance. If the university had implemented a system of risk-based health surveillance, it would have ensured that an occupational health management system was in place which would monitor workers’ fitness for work. Such systems can prevent an employee’s health condition becoming severe and life altering.’’
HSE news release.

 

RESOURCES

 

TUC guide on responding to work-related stress

The TUC has issued updated guidance for trade union safety reps on work-related stress. The guide takes into account HSE last month conceding to union demands that it should also investigate cases of harassment and bullying where management’s wider organisational failings are a contributory factor (Risks 918).

Responding to harmful work-related stress, TUC, November 2019.
HSE ‘reporting a concern’ update, advice on How to report a work related stress concern, Tackling stress workbook, stress management standards and other HSE workplace stress resources.


New diesel exhaust fume risk prevention guide

A new resource “to help workers protect themselves from dangerous diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs)” has been launched by IOSH, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. IOSH notes: “DEEEs can cause lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The card advises people working with or around diesel-powered equipment or vehicles to turn off engines if not needed, use tailpipe exhaust extraction systems, use workplace air extraction, wear a mask, and get trained.” The safety professionals’ organisation “also advises people who drive for work, such as couriers, truck or taxi drivers to close the windows in their vehicle.” Resources published last year by the TUC and Hazards magazine also highlight other health risks related to diesel exhaust exposure, including heart disease, eye, nose and throat irritation and brain damage. The TUC resource includes a prevention checklist for union safety reps.
IOSH news release and pocket card for workers on how to prevent exposure to DEEEs.
UNION RESOURCES: Diesel exhaust in the workplace: A TUC guide for trade union activists, October 2018. Fuming feature, Diesel out prevention factsheet and Die diesel die pin-up-at-work poster. Hazards 144, October-December 2018. Unite diesel exhaust register, guide for members and poster.
 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

Australia: Bosses could face work suicide ‘manslaughter’ charges

Negligent bosses in the Australian state of Victoria could face up to 20 years in jail and multi-million dollar fines over the suicide deaths of ‘brutalised’ workers under a proposed workplace manslaughter law. The Victorian state government says the proposed laws will cover deaths caused by mental injuries, including trauma from bullying or other forms of abuse sustained on the job, as well as accidents and illnesses caused by unsafe workplaces. The new legislation will apply to employers in public and private companies whose negligence resulted in a death of an employee, whether by providing a dangerous workplace or failing to provide appropriate mental support. Standing outside the Victorian parliament, Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said an employer could face liability for a suicide where an employee's mental health had been “brutalised” at work, and the employer had rejected the worker's requests for assistance. She said the criminal standard of negligence would have to be met and causation established. “The standard is very high because the penalty is very high,” she said, adding the offence would not be easy to prove. Under the proposed legislation, a suicide found to be a direct result of negligent workplace practices and policies that substantially contribute to the death could constitute workplace manslaughter. Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari acknowledged proving an employer liable for an employee’s suicide would be difficult, adding a specific case would have to be “appalling” for a prosecution to be pursued. Under the proposed new laws, which deliver on an election promise, employers who negligently cause a workplace death will face fines of up to Aus$16.5 million (£8.8m) and individuals will face up to 20 years in jail.
Victorian government news release. The Age. Yahoo 7 News. The Australian.

Australia: Mental illness is fastest growing workplace hazard

Mental illness is the fastest growing workplace hazard in Australia and costs hundreds of billions per year, new research has concluded. A Productivity Commission draft report spells out the immense cost of mental illness. National union federation ACTU welcomed the commission’s recommendations on workers’ compensation, including no-liability treatment for mental health injuries and claims. The union body also expressed approval for the commission’s call for improvements in the role of the workers’ compensation system in rehabilitation and return-to-work for workers suffering a psychological injury. A survey conducted by the ACTU this year found that more than 60 per cent of respondents had experienced mental ill-health because their employer had failed to manage psychosocial hazards in their workplace. The same survey found that almost half of respondents felt their employer was unprepared to support workers experiencing mental health issues in the workplace. ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien commented:  “A huge number of Australians suffer mental health issues every year because of stressors and other hazards they encounter in their workplace, and the evidence indicates that these people rarely receive support or compensation in the way that would be routine for physical injuries. This has to change. Mental health hazards at work should be treated the same as physical hazards. We need strong laws that protect people at work.” Calling on the federal government to “act swiftly” to address the issue, he added: “Ensuring that all instances of workplace-related mental health are captured by the workers’ compensation system would be a huge step towards ensuring that no one in Australia suffering mental illness is without support.”
ACTU news release. Productivity Commission draft report, 31 October 2019. Related Productivity Commission video.

Australia: Deliveroo workers demand safety after deaths

Food delivery riders in Australia have sent letters to Deliveroo demanding that the company comply with workplace health and safety laws. The union members believe this would help address the dangers they face, including collisions with cars, lethal falls from their bikes and heat stress. The 1 November action targeting Deliveroo came after four food delivery riders died while working, including one rider in September and two in January. Under the Work Health and Safety Act, Deliveroo has 14 days to comply with the request, which will allow workers to set up work groups and to elect health and safety representatives, who will have wide-ranging powers to enforce safety obligations including refusing unsafe work. Deliveroo will not be able to deny it is liable since the safety law covers any workers, not just employees, and puts the onus not on a traditional direct employer but anyone “conducting a business or undertaking” related to the work. TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said: “Since arriving in Australia, Deliveroo has stripped workers of their rights: There are no guaranteed hourly rates, delivery distances have increased causing a 30-40 per cent drop in pay, and the company has terminated workers without warning or the chance to appeal. While our industrial laws are facilitating this stripping away of rights the workplace health and safety laws are robust and we expect Deliveroo to be held to account on safety.” TWU said it has worked with delivery riders for two years to expose exploitation in the gig economy, forming a group called the Delivery Riders Alliance. A survey of food delivery riders found almost 50 per cent of riders had either been injured on the job or knew someone who had.

TWU news release. Delivery Riders Alliance.
Malawi: Tobacco farmers challenge multinational abuses

Almost 2,000 tobacco tenant farmers from Malawi, including hundreds of children, are taking legal action against British American Tobacco (BAT) accusing the multinational of forced and child labour. The child farmers carry out much the same work as the adult farmers including building ridges for planting, harvesting tobacco leaves, applications of toxic pesticides and bundling tobacco leaves. This work regularly prevents them from attending school and they often work gruelling 10 to 12 hour days. The tenant farmers are not provided with any protective equipment for the work and many suffer injuries and illness included Green Tobacco Sickness. Many have been threatened with physical violence and financial penalties if they try to leave the farms and they are all heavily dependent on the contract farmers for food, household products and money throughout the season. BAT is the largest publicly traded tobacco company in the world and acquires tobacco from between 20,000 to 35,000 farms in Malawi. Oliver Holland of law firm Leigh Day, the firm representing the tenant farmers, said: “While British American Tobacco amasses huge profits the farmers that do the gruelling and hazardous work of picking the tobacco leaves are paid little to nothing.” He added: “They are trapped into working for the season with no means of removing themselves and their families from their situation having been enticed to the farms with promises of decent wages and pleasant living conditions. This could not be further from the reality. On top of all this the famers are forced to make the heart-breaking decision to put their children to work, just to ensure they can make enough money so that they are not left in debt. It is time that multinational corporations that make money from exploited workers are held to account.” After news of the court challenge came to light, the US government announced on 1 November it had suspended all imports of tobacco from Malawi.
Leigh Day news release. US Customs and Border Protection withhold release order on tobacco from Malawi. The Guardian and related story.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2019

Find the latest courses at www.tuceducation.org.uk/findacourse/

This newsletter is sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.
View our privacy policy