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The TUC has accused the government of “turning its back” on working people after ministers failed to include an employment bill in the Queen’s Speech. Commenting on the decision to exclude an employment bill from the 10 May Queen’s Speech, Frances O’Grady said: “No employment bill means vital rights that ministers had promised – like default flexible working, fair tips and protection from pregnancy discrimination – risk being ditched for good. And it means no action on the scourge of insecure work and ending exploitative practices like zero-hours contracts and fire and rehire.” The TUC said the government promise to make employers responsible for preventing sexual harassment risks falling by the wayside without the employment bill, as the policy needs primary legislation to carry it forward. TUC news release
P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite, who was castigated by MPs and the media over his response to the company’s illegal sackings scandal, has been promoted. Ferries union RMT said the ‘disgraced’ boss has been handed another directorship within the beleaguered company, despite overseeing 800 unlawful sackings and ‘countless breaches of safety’ on the P&O fleet. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Gangster capitalists should not be rewarded for their appalling employment practices; they should be punished with the full force of law.” RMT news release
Work overload is adversely affecting the health and welfare of teachers and lecturers, their unions have warned. A meeting of leaders from 10 education unions in the British and Irish Group of Teacher Unions (BIGTU) called on policy makers to prioritise action to tackle the problem. BIGTU said there is ‘mounting concern’ amongst education unions about the impact of overwork on health and wellbeing in the sector, adding the ‘stressful working hours’ are causing a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession. BIGTU is calling for a reduction in the non-teaching administrative workload and for action to end ‘unhelpful’ external audit and inspection processes. EIS news release
Evidence of widespread clinical depression amongst teachers and headteachers has been uncovered by the teaching union NASUWT. Nearly 12,000 teachers took part in the union’s wellbeing survey. The analysis found an average wellbeing score amongst teachers of 38.7 on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. A score below 41 indicates the risk of probable clinical depression. 91 per cent of teachers who responded to the NASUWT survey reported that their job had adversely affected their mental health in the last year. Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “We are reminding employers and the Health and Safety Executive that they have a statutory duty to act in response to this crisis, and to take positive action to protect and safeguard the mental health and welfare of teachers and headteachers.” NASUWT news release
The union Bectu has welcomed a Creative UK and UK Time’s Up’s consultation with creative industries for an Independent Standards Authority (ISA) to strengthen efforts to tackle bullying and harassment and drive greater accountability across the sector. After a year of talks involving UK Time’s Up, BAFTA, BFI and others, the industry is now in final consultation regarding setting up the watchdog, which would have the power to investigate allegations of abuse. The ISA will also offer mediation services, as many survivors do not want a formal investigation, Bectu said, adding it will also be able to identify good practice and gaps in provision. Bectu news release
74 per cent of teaching assistants and learning support staff say pupils are facing more disruption to their education than usual because school employees and children have recently been off sick with Covid, a UNISON survey has found. The union said it believes the government’s decision to end free testing in schools has triggered the recent increase in Covid infections. They warn examinations could be disrupted if action isn’t taken. UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Testing has helped reduce the risk of transmission. Government inaction and recklessness are to blame for schools becoming virus breeding grounds.” UNISON news release
The general secretary of the civil service union PCS has called out Jacob Rees-Mogg on his efforts to force workers back into the office. Mark Serwotka’s letter came after Rees-Mogg last month left notes on civil servants’ desks referring to seeing them “in the office very soon”. In his letter to the government efficiencies minister, Serwotka accused Rees-Mogg of “deliberately prioritising your ideological approach to Covid safety over civil servants’ welfare and the quality of public service they deliver.” The letter added: “Your insistence on a return to the office policy which completely ignores the risks to staff and to the wider community is negligent.” PCS news release
A second boss of an asbestos removal company is now facing jail time for failing to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project in Plymouth. Chelmsford Crown Court heard that in February 2017, concerns were raised by workers at Ensure Asbestos Management Limited who believed they were being put in danger. The firm’s contracts manager Phillip Hopwood pleaded guilty to three criminal safety offences and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and disqualified from being a director for 10 years. Offences included producing fraudulent asbestos clearance certificates. At an earlier hearing, company director Billy Hopwood was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment and disqualified from being a company director for five years. HSE news release
A goat farm has been fined for criminal safety breaches after a farm worker was run over and fatally wounded. Hull Crown Court heard that on 1 August 2018, 53-year-old Janet McDonald, an employee of Yorkshire Dairy Goats, was struck by a reversing telescopic materials handler vehicle, or telehandler, whilst working at St Helen’s Farm in York. She was seriously injured and air-lifted to Hull Royal Infirmary where she died later that day. Yorkshire Dairy Goats pleaded guilty to a criminal safety offence and was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs. HSE news release
Lancashire County Council has been fined £50,000 plus £10,366,78 costs after several employees carrying out work in the highways department developed a debilitating vibration-related occupational disease. Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that, in February 2019, HSE received a RIDDOR report from the council, relating to a worker diagnosed with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs). An improvement notice was served in July 2019 requiring the council to improve their control of HAVs. However, subsequent to this, a further ten cases of vibration-related ill-health, unrelated to the RIDDOR report, were uncovered and reported late. Health surveillance records had not been acted upon promptly to reduce or stop exposures when symptoms were reported. HSE news release
The widow of a firefighter who died from cancer has urged fire services to implement annual health screening. Ken Wood died in 2017 after being diagnosed with colorectal, liver, and lung cancer. His wife Robyn, calling for the introduction of comprehensive health screening and wider access to compensation for more cancers, said: “If we can reduce the risk of firefighter cancer, Ken would be pleased to know that his suffering was not in vain.” The United Firefighters Union of Australia is leading calls for the number of cancers covered by firefighter presumptive legislation to be expanded from 12 to 19. Union president Greg McConville said the seven additional cancers would be thyroid, pancreatic, skin, cervical, ovarian, penile and lung cancer. UFUA news release
Women are being forced to work in workplaces and with safety equipment designed for men, Canadian union USW has said. Rather than letting employers dismiss or ridicule the concerns of women workers, the union intends to support women workers and challenge the problem. USW is urging members to tell their union steward, local executive, health and safety committee or women’s committee about its ‘Raising the Bar’ campaign and the resources available to get started on an action plan at work. Raise the bar campaign
and action guide
The murder of another Mexican journalist has brought this year’s toll to nine media workers, in an unprecedentedly bloody year for the country. Luis Enrique Ramírez, a veteran journalist and columnist at El Debate, was found dead in a black bag on the side of a highway, his employer said. Ramírez had previously been on the receiving end of “aggressions”, said Juan Vazquez of Article 19, a human rights organisation dedicated to press freedom. Violence against the press has skyrocketed in Mexico during president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration, according to an Article 19 report. During his administration, 34 journalists have been killed, according to Article 19’s count, including Ramírez. The Guardian
South Africa’s mining industry is putting profit before people as miners continue to die, the union NUM has said. It was commented after a 7 May tragedy at the Harmony Gold Mine, where four mineworkers lost their lives at the company's Kusasalethu operation near Carletonville. The union said: “If we care about human life, the expenses or cost towards procuring such advanced technology should not matter much.” The NUM added: “It is quite disturbing that the poor mineworkers who are earning peanuts, continue to die like flies in the industry that care less about their sweat and blood.” NUM news release
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