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



TUC action call on long Covid  

Long Covid must be recognised as a disability and Covid-19 as an occupational disease to give workers access to legal protections and compensation, the TUC has said. The call came as the union body published an in-depth report on workers’ experiences of long Covid during the pandemic. More than 3,500 workers responded to a TUC survey on the impact of long Covid on people’s daily working lives. The survey found nearly 3 in 10 (29 per cent) have experienced symptoms lasting longer than a year and more than 9 in 10 (95 per cent) have been left with ongoing symptoms. A clear majority had experienced side effects including brain fog (72 per cent), shortness of breath (70 per cent), difficulty concentrating (62 per cent) and memory problems (54 per cent). Over half (52 per cent) had experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage due to their condition. Over threequarters (79 per cent) of those who responded to the TUC’s survey identify themselves as key workers, with the majority working in either education or health and social care. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents were women. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Long Covid must be recognised as a disability. That would mean workers are protected by the Equality Act, and would have a right to get reasonable adjustments at work. And Covid-19 should be designated as an occupational disease. That would allow workers who contracted Covid-19 at work and are living with the consequences to claim the compensation they are due.” The TUC leader added: “Employers must also act. They should make sure they make reasonable adjustments for workers with long Covid, and complete specific risk assessments to make sure workers with long Covid are safe at work.” 
TUC news release and report, Workers’ experiences of long Covid: A TUC report, June 2021 and summary. NUJ news release. NASUWT news release. Morning Star.
Long Covid and the workplace, TUC webinar, Wednesday 30 June, 7:30pm – 8:30pm. Register on Zoom.

Outrage at HSE defence of not ‘serious’ Covid ranking

The Labour Party has condemned the “outrageous decision” not to re-classify Covid-19 as a “serious workplace risk” following a review by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) bosses. After top management at HSE reconsidered the classification in April, the government work safety regulator announced on 16 June that it would not change, despite reports that giving this coronavirus a “significant risk” consequence descriptor — less severe than “serious” — meant HSE inspectors did not have the power to halt dangerous working. It comes after the Office for National Statistics identified 15,263 deaths of working-age people with coronavirus between April 2020 and last month. Official statistics also show there were 3,872 workplace outbreaks in the same period, yet not a single employer has faced prosecution for breaching safety regulations over Covid-19. Shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections Andy McDonald said the “decision shows that the government is putting working people and the wider public at risk. With rising case numbers of the Delta variant [first detected in India], this decision is deeply irresponsible and shows that the government is failing to keep working people safe.” HSE denied the ‘significant’ ranking had affected its enforcement decisions. “The classification does not, and has never had, any impact on the range of enforcement actions HSE inspectors can take, and we remain determined to help employers keep their workplaces Covid-secure,” a spokesperson said. An evidence review by Hazards magazine is strongly critical of HSE’s defence of its ‘significant’ consequence descriptor for work-related Covid-19. It concludes: “There are genuine grounds for concern that HSE concocted arguments of convenience to define a pandemic in the workplace as something less than ‘serious’, to fit a narrative decided elsewhere by government. In doing so workers were sacrificed. HSE wasn’t keeping Britain safe. It was keeping Britain working.” None of substantive criticisms raised by Hazards are rebutted in the HSE’s review.
Review of enforcement during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, HSE, 16 June 2021. Labour Party news release. Morning Star.
Rubbed out, Hazards magazine, number 153, 2021. An evidence review into the deadly failures of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) throughout the pandemic, Hazards magazine, 10 April 2021.

TUC slams ‘failing’ self-isolation scheme

The majority of applications to the UK government’s self-isolation payments scheme are still being turned down, despite increased government funding for the scheme, new research for the TUC has found. This new analysis is based on freedom of information (FOI) data collected by the TUC from 94 councils across England. The FOIs shows that since the government announced additional funding for the scheme at the end of February, 64 per cent of applications have been rejected, while just 36 per cent of applicants received the one-off £500 grant to help them self-isolate. The union body warns the combination of new variants, reopened indoor hospitality and increasing numbers returning to their workplaces could once again “brutally expose the failing self-isolation payments scheme and measly statutory sick pay.” New TUC polling, conducted by Britain Thinks, revealed that just 1 in 5 (21 per cent) working people are aware of the self-isolation payment scheme. The TUC branded it a “failing scheme that few people have heard of”.  TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The self-isolation payment scheme is failing. And it has been crystal clear since the start of the pandemic that the UK’s measly statutory sick pay isn't enough to live on.” She added: “The combination of new variants, reopened indoor hospitality and increasing numbers returning to their workplace could once again brutally expose the lack of financial support available for those needing to self-isolate. Enough is enough. Ministers must urgently raise statutory sick pay to at least the real Living Wage. And they must ensure that everyone has access to it."
TUC news release. Statutory Sick Pay: Options for reform, The Fabian Society, June 2021. The Guardian.

Ventilation and masks needed to protect workers

Ministers have been urged to scrap perspex screens between desks over fears they actually increase Covid transmission by restricting airflow. Experts from SAGE, the UK government’s science advisory group, warned ministers that working from home will likely need to remain an option beyond the 19 July date for unlocking restrictions in England if the government wants to curb the spread of the new Delta variant. The government has also been advised to roll out major changes in the workplace for those returning to the office, including mandatory ventilation systems and face mask requirements. The papers commissioned as part of the government’s social distancing review showed ministers have been urged to scrap perspex screens between desks over concerns they increase Covid transmission by restricting airflow. The SAGE review found social distancing provisions and masks were effective measures, but expressed scepticism at the effectiveness of cleaning programmes and sanitisers, which were considered less effective than handwashing to suppressing the virus. The SAGE review notes: “Existing health and safety regulations and enforcement processes can be harnessed to achieve better infection control in all workplace settings. This would involve using personal and workplace risk assessments to evaluate infection risks to everyone in the workplace and then identify, implement and monitor appropriate methods of reducing these (eg. better provision of PPE; staggered shifts/alternating work days to avoid overcrowding at work and when travelling to work).” It adds: “This strategy can be implemented through employers and reinforced by helplines to enable employees to report inadequate implementation.”
Social distancing review, SAGE advice. i-News.

Government must learn pandemic lessons

The government must bring forward the start of the Covid public inquiry, ditch plans to compel care workers to be jabbed and invest in the public services that have kept the UK running during the pandemic, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea has said. Addressing the UNISON annual conference, she said the pandemic has had “a disproportionate impact on black people, women, disabled people and those on low incomes. This isn’t a coincidence, or bad luck, and it certainly isn’t down to life choices. It’s because they’re more likely to be in jobs that can’t be done from home. Whether it’s cleaners and catering staff, bus and delivery drivers, care and health workers, or those who empty our bins and bury the dead.” She added: “These people and many others still had to go to work throughout each lockdown, however bad things were. Time and again though, key workers were needlessly exposed to danger because they weren’t given the protective equipment so desperately needed. Workers wearing PPE made from bin bags and masks from old bits of clothing. Care staff were given disposable face coverings and told to make them last a week. This must never happen again.” McAnea concluded: “Lessons must be learned from this crisis, so we’re better prepared for the next one. There’s no hiding from the fact the UK has one of the worst Covid death rates in the world. The UK wasn’t prepared. Much of that’s down to ten years of Westminster cuts, austerity and underinvestment in public services. That’s why there must be an urgent public inquiry without delay.”
UNISON news release and full text of Christina McAnea’s speech.

Staff at 49 prisons strike in Covid safety dispute

Around 600 staff at 49 prisons across England have taken strike action in a long running health and safety dispute with employer Novus. The 23 June strike is the fourth time the staff members, represented by UCU, have walked out in the past two months. The union says the dispute is over the failure to address health and safety concerns raised by prison educators, a failure to meaningfully engage with UCU on the part of Novus, and repeated attempts by management to intimidate staff who had raised health and safety issues (Risks 990). Novus is the biggest prison education employer in the UK and is owned by parent company LTE Group. Novus employee and union safety representative Brian Hamilton said: “Continuous industrial action on this scale by prison educators is unprecedented and reflects the anger staff feel about the lack of care Novus has for our safety.” UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “For Novus to end this dispute all it needs to do is take staff safety concerns seriously and withdraw the unfair and spurious investigations it has launched against our health and safety representatives. Our members are hugely passionate about educating those inside prisons, but both the learner and the educator must be kept safe. Every other employer has been able to engage with the safety requests of staff, it's time Novus did too.”
UCU news release.

Wales ‘must lead fight’ against law-breaking bosses

Wales TUC is calling for urgent action by the Welsh government to address widespread workplace Covid safety breaches and other employment abuses. The union body urged the administration to take on a co-ordinating role in enforcing workers’ rights and to begin work on meeting its manifesto commitment by campaigning for control of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be devolved to Wales. The call comes on the back of new Wales TUC research showing the extent to which employers in Wales have ignored Covid regulations. Only 25 per cent of workers in Wales say that their employer has followed Covid safety rules. Further research from the TUC shows that nearly half of workers (46 per cent) say their employer has not taken measures to improve airflow at their workplaces and 1 in 4 workers are working from the office or other workplaces despite being able to work from home. Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj said: “All too often Welsh employers ignore workers’ rights because they think there’ll be no consequences for breaking the law. And, depressingly, they’re usually right. Even during the Covid crisis when the stakes couldn’t have been higher – when it was literally life or death – our research has shown that most employers disregarded the Welsh government’s Covid guidance.” She said: “The UK’s approach to enforcing rights at work is laughably weak by international standards and capacity has been ripped away by years of budget cuts,” concluding: “This is why unions are becoming more focused on which aspects of employment rights can be controlled in Wales. If the UK government is going to continue to ignore this problem, the Welsh government should be prepared to step up.” Workers in Northern Ireland are not covered by the UK HSE, but by a separate HSENI.
Wales TUC news release.

Schools in Wales must learn safety lessons

The Welsh government must take swift action to improve health and safety for teachers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the NASUWT Cymru conference has heard. The teaching union has said it will lobby the administration to strengthen health and safety operational guidance in schools and to ensure that enforcement agencies are appropriately deployed. It also wants an increased investment in public services “to better support all necessary health and safety measures.” The union’s research shows over half (53 per cent) of teachers in Wales believe wellbeing was not viewed as important at their school. Over a third (35 per cent) said their school’s building and teaching spaces were not fit to teach in. Neil Butler, NASUWT national official for Wales, said: “The previous education minister promised that health and safety would be a priority during the pandemic but we found that was not the case. The operational guidance for schools was weak and ambiguous.” He added: “We hope and trust that the new education minister will listen to teachers and take seriously their health and safety concerns. The government, local authorities and schools need to make sure that robust risk assessments are put in place and that they are regularly updated. Where members inform us that health and safety legislation is not being followed, the NASUWT will not hesitate to take action to support them.”
NASUWT news release.


Amazon worker injury spikes linked to shopping events

Injuries to Amazon workers spike in the build-up to key sales dates like Prime Day, GMB research has shown. The union’s analysis of ambulance call outs to Amazon warehouses reveals an increase before Prime Day, Black Friday and Christmas. To coincide with Prime Day on 21 June, GMB launched a digital hub for its hundreds of Amazon members to report incidents and safety concerns. Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: “We know Amazon fulfilment centres are dangerous, stressful places to work at the best of times. In the run up to key sales events like Prime Day the inhumanity of working conditions at Amazon warehouses goes into overdrive. Workers are expected to operate like robots gone haywire, picking and packing at a furious rate to meet completely unrealistic targets.” He added: “It’s time for the richest company in the world to invest in safety, sit down with GMB and make sure staff work in a safe environment.” Commenting on Prime Day, global union UNI said: “Trade unionists have been saying it all along. With its unrealistic and body-breaking productivity goals, and intrusive employee surveillance, Amazon treats workers as disposable items. Now we know that Amazon’s staggeringly high worker turnover is not a flaw of the system - it’s the system.” UNI added: “The richest man in the world has built a corporate empire on the backs of workers he thinks ‘are inherently lazy.’ The Amazon system is, by design, chewing workers in and spitting them out at a pace unparalleled in modern history.”
GMB news release. UNI news release. New York Times.

Public support for union protection at Amazon

A new Unite poll of 2,000 UK residents conducted found more than threequarters of respondents (76 per cent) believe Amazon workers should be able to join a trade union if they choose without interference from the company. The survey by Survation for the union found that for workers indirectly employed in the “gig economy” by Amazon, 74 per cent of the public believe Amazon also has a responsibility to provide them with fair working conditions. Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: “Unite is calling on Jeff Bezos to back a declaration which guarantees that Amazon workers have the freedom to talk with and form a union without fear. Our union is campaigning up and down the country. We are determined to win trade union rights for Amazon workers.” Unite says its confidential whistleblowing hotline lets Amazon workers “blow the whistle and expose poor treatment free from reprisals.”
Unite news release, Action on Amazon facebook page and hotline. Morning Star.

‘Emerging class divide’ in who gets flexible working

There is an emerging class divide as some workers opt to keep working from home whereas those who can’t work from home have little access to any forms of flexible working, new TUC polling has found. The number of workers who work from home has been transformed by the pandemic, when the practice was recommended to reduce Covid risks. But the TUC research has exposed a significant divide in access to homeworking between higher paid and working class occupations. The poll found that people in higher paid occupations are much more likely to have worked from home during the pandemic (60 per cent) than those in working class jobs (23 per cent). The TUC’s research also shows that those who cannot work from home are significantly more likely to be denied flexible working options by employers after the pandemic. One-in-six (16 per cent) of employers surveyed say that after the pandemic, they will not offer flexible working opportunities to staff who could not work from home during the pandemic. This compares to 1-in-16 (6 per cent) saying they will not offer flexible working opportunities to those who did work from home in the pandemic. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Government must bring in a new right to flexible working for every worker, in every job. Otherwise people in working class jobs will miss out – while those who can work from home get the benefits of flexible working.” She added: “This emerging class divide in access to flexible working is no way to thank those workers who carried on doing their job in workplaces throughout the pandemic. Ministers should seize the moment and make Britain a world leader in flexible working rights.”
TUC news release. The future of flexible work, TUC, June 2021.

Labour says give workers the right to disconnect

Workers should be given the “right to switch off” when they have left for the day to ensure homes don't become “24/7 offices”, Labour has said. The party also wants employees to have the right to flexible practices such as working from home. Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said “as restrictions lift and we adjust to a 'new normal’, we need a new deal for working people.” She said Labour's plans would “enable more people to enjoy the benefits of flexible working, from a better work-life balance to spending less time commuting and more time with their family. We cannot have a drawn-out consultation process that simply kicks this urgent issue into the long grass, leaving workers in a vulnerable position and allowing employers to dictate terms to their staff.” The Labour plan calls for new rights to flexible working and measures to protect workers from remote surveillance. The party also wants to ensure “proper” sick pay and support for self-isolating workers is available. Welcoming the Labour plan for flexible working, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “Prospect polling shows nearly two-thirds of workers back a right to disconnect, because too many have found it hard to be able to switch off from work. The challenge as we exit the pandemic is to make sure we build on the flexibility workers want and reset the boundaries between home and work life.”
Prospect news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian.

Tory MP called out on Grenfell safety snub

A union rep for the firefighters’ union FBU who was one of the first on the scene of the Grenfell Tower disaster has challenged a Conservative MP over a visit to the local fire station. Kensington MP Felicity Buchan voted against implementing recommendations of the Grenfell inquiry despite representing the community affected by the tragedy. The station in question, North Kensington, is in the immediate locality of Grenfell and crews from the station were the first to attend the fire. FBU representative Dave Badillo tweeted her after his shift to say that “your vote on amendments to fire safety bill is a betrayal of our community. #GrenfellUnited #EndOurCladdingScandal.” He added “your continued stance puts the lives of residents and firefighters at further risk.” The inquiry recommendations included urgent inspections of fire doors and development of national guidelines for partial or total evacuations of high rise towers. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack commented: “Felicity Buchan is the MP for the Grenfell community, yet she has voted against implementing recommendations from the inquiry that would make homes across the UK safe. It is shameful.” He added: “Instead of hunting for photo opportunities with firefighters who selflessly put themselves at risk on the night of the fire, she should focus on holding the government to account over their failure to get to grips with our building safety crisis.”
FBU news release. Dave Badillo’s tweet.

‘Totally inadequate’ death factory boss escapes jail

A “totally inadequate managing director” of a wood mill where four people died in a blast has been given a suspended prison sentence. George Boden, 65, was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and fined £12,000. Dorothy Bailey, Derek William Barks, Derek Moore and Jason Shingler died in the blast in Bosley, Cheshire, in 2015. The Wood Treatment Ltd (WTL) boss had originally been charged with gross negligence manslaughter, but was acquitted in April. He pleaded guilty to being the director of a company that committed a criminal safety offence. The company admitted a criminal safety offence last year and was fined £75,000. WTL had been charged with corporate manslaughter but those charges were also dropped halfway through the trial. At Chester Crown Court, judge Mrs Justice May described Boden as a “totally inadequate managing director” and said the task had been beyond him. She added the firm was “woefully wanting” in the discharge of its basic obligations. The exact cause of the fatal blast, in July 2015, is not known, but it was thought to have involved an explosion of wood dust, the trial heard. Ms Bailey, 62, was a cleaner at the site; Mr Barks, 51, was a maintenance fitter; Mr Moore, 62, was a maintenance fitter, and Mr Shingler, 38, whose body was never recovered, a charge hand. Others were said in an earlier court hearing to have suffered “horrendous injuries”. Simon Antrobus QC, defending Boden, said his client was dyslexic so struggled with paperwork. The sentencing was the culmination of a three month trial involving the company, director George Boden, operations manager Phillip Smith, 58, and mill manager Peter Shingler, 56. In April, Justice May ordered the charges of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence be discontinued and directed the jury to find Phillip Smith and Peter Shingler not guilty of any charges.
BBC News Online. Stoke Sentinel. Manchester Evening News.

Private security firm sentenced after employee attacked

Private security company G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd has been fined £250,000 after an employee suffered life-changing injuries when he was assaulted at a young offenders training facility in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes Magistrate’s Court heard how on 15 March 2017, the secure care officer (SCO) was working alone with a group of six trainees, who were taking part in a scheduled activity on the outdoor fenced football pitch at the Oakhill Secure Training Centre. The SCO had only worked for the company for around three or four months. During the activity one of the individuals attempted to climb the fence. The incident escalated but when the SCO attempted to deal with it alone, he was attacked by four of the trainees. The SCO sustained multiple injuries to his head and body and was taken to hospital by ambulance where he was put in an induced coma for three weeks. He suffered brain damage and had a plate fitted in his skull. He spent a further two months in a specialist brain injury rehabilitation centre. He said: “I have a scar and an indentation on my head, this means people always ask me about what happened. I do not like talking about this to people. Even now I struggle to form relationships with people as I find it difficult to trust people. I struggle to read and understand things, I have been referred to a neuropsychologist.” An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd failed to ensure robust procedures were put in place, to ensure that inexperienced staff were not working alone with groups of young people who presented a high risk of violence. The firm pleaded guilty to two criminal safety offences and was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,787. Thames Valley Police carried out separate criminal investigations against the four individuals involved in the assault.
HSE news release.

Oil firm fined over serious gas leak on offshore platform

Oil giant Apache has been fined £400,000 over criminal safety failings that led to a major gas leak on one of its North Sea platforms. Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard the firm admitted fault over the high pressure gas release on the Beryl Alpha rig on 2 June 2014. The firm failed to take appropriate measures to prevent fire and explosion and failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for how it handled the depressurisation of gas lift wells on the rig, the court heard. Depute fiscal Jemma Eadie said depressurisation of well 86A was carried out as “it was not performing to its peak”. However, she said the operator did so without following the correct sequence, meaning that the well’s emergency shut down function was deactivated and a large quantity of hydrocarbon gas was released “uncontrollably”. She said the worker undertaking the task heard a “rush of gas” before going to investigate the noise. As soon as he opened the door the water deluge system was activated, meaning gas was present and “water gushed” down. The Crown said the 100-plus members of staff on the platform exposed to a risk of serious injury or death should the flammable gas have ignited. Fining Apache £400,000, Sheriff Philip Mann said: “This was a serious breach of health and safety responsibilities which had the risk of serious injury, but fortunately that risk was low.” Apache Beryl’s latest accounts, up to 2019, showed an annual turnover of £400 million.
HSE news release. Evening Express.


Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, 1 July

A meeting hosted by Hazards Campaign will discuss how best to respond to the victimisation of union safety reps raising concerns over Covid. The one-hour event, starting at 6.30pm on 1 July, comes after reports of “union reps threatened with, or put through, disciplinary proceedings, in what is often a clear-cut case of management union busting,” says the campaign. “We want to discuss what union and safety activists can do to better support ourselves and each other as we act in the interests of workplace health and safety.”
Defend union safety reps! Online meeting, Thursday 1 July, 6:30pm - 7:30pm. Register on Zoom.


Australia: Mine fire report fingers contract work hazards

An inquiry into a “terrifying” accident last year in which five mineworkers sustained serious burns has found that labour hire and contract work is “entrenched” in the Queensland coal mining industry and has recommended that employers and labour suppliers bear joint responsibility for safety compliance.  The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry's final report into an incident at Anglo American's Grosvenor coal mine in May last year concludes that “there is a perception among coal mine workers that a labour hire worker or contractor who raises safety concerns at a mine might jeopardise their ongoing employment.” It recommends imposing an occupational health and safety (OHS) obligation on labour hire agencies that employ coal mineworkers, which would make coal mine operators and labour hire companies mutually responsible for the safety and health of labour hire workers and add a “layer of oversight of safe practices.” The report, tabled in Queensland's state parliament, says there is also scope to improve the channels for workers to raise OHS issues, such as the safety committees found elsewhere in the mining industry. The report notes: “Coal mine workers were repeatedly subject to an unacceptable level of risk... through mining operations being conducted in a manner that exceeded the capacity of its gas drainage, a critical control for the management of methane.” The inquiry found the employment obligations for the workers in the Grosvenor mine largely rested with the labour hire provider, One Key, while the safety obligations rested with Anglo. The inquiry found the “perception that a labour hire worker or contractor might jeopardise their employment by raising safety concerns at a mine creates a risk that safety concerns will not always be raised. Production and safety bonuses largely based on lag safety performance indicators are not a reliable means of improving safety outcomes and may in fact lead to under-reporting of safety incidents and injuries.”
Report Part 2, Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry, Terry Martin SC and Andrew Clough, May 2021. Workplace Express. National Resources Review. Mirage News.

Global: Governments back ‘urgent’ workplace safety action

A resolution on ‘a human-centred recovery from the Covid-19 crisis’ adopted unanimously by governments at the International Labour Conference (ILC) this month includes wide-ranging calls for action to improve occupational health and safety. The resolution recognises “safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work”. The ILC resolution is supportive of efforts to improve ratification of and adherence to relevant international instruments, including existing International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental rights at work, which cover child labour, forced labour, freedom from discrimination, and the right to organise and to collective bargaining. Unions are campaigning for occupational health and safety to be added to the list of fundamental ILO rights at next year’s ILC. This year’s ILC resolution includes explicit references to the need to address long working hours and excessive workloads, the ‘negative health impacts’ of Covid on ‘frontline’ workers, and the need for urgent action, including access to the Covid vaccine and protections at work. The resolution broadens its scope beyond Covid to include “measures to prevent new outbreaks or other occupational risks” and stresses the role of collective bargaining and social dialogue. It also notes the problems caused by informal labour and highlights “the urgent need to support effective action to achieve the transition to formality and decent work.” The resolution also stresses the “urgent need” to address gender inequality at work, including gender-based violence and harassment. Owen Tudor, deputy general secretary of the global union confederation ITUC, said the resolution is “shot through” with occupational health and safety. Commenting on twitter, he added “Next step will be formal recognition at next year's ILO Conference that occupational health and safety is a fundamental right at work: an idea endorsed by two successive ILO Conferences which now just needs to be put into practice.”
Resolution concerning a global call to action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient, Record of proceedings, Record No. 5A, International Labour Conference –109th Session, 16 June 2021 [see 11B, page 5]. ILO news release.  ITUC news release. ITUC deputy general secretary Owen Tudor on twitter. ITUC/Hazards Fundamental safety factfile.

USA: Smithfield Foods is sued over ‘false’ safety claims

Smithfield Foods was one of the first companies to warn that the US was in danger of running out of meat as coronavirus infections ripped through processing plants in April 2020 and health officials pressured the industry to halt some production to protect workers. Now, a lawsuit filed by Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, accuses the giant pork producer of falsely stoking consumer fears. The suit says the nation was never in danger of running out of meat. Filed in Superior Court in Washington DC, the suit notes: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Smithfield has misled and continues to mislead consumers in the District of Columbia about the state of the national meat supply chain and the company’s workplace safety practices.” In its lawsuit, Food and Water Watch states: “This fear mongering creates a revenue-generating feedback loop,” adding: “It stokes and exploits consumer panic — juicing demand and sales — and in turn, provides the company with a false justification to keep its slaughterhouses operating at full tilt, subjecting its workers to unsafe workplace health and safety conditions that have caused thousands of Smithfield workers to contract the virus.” The company denies the charges. The meatpacking industry was a flash point during the pandemic as thousands of workers fell ill, with many dying. Smithfield and other companies mounted an aggressive advertising campaign to highlight their worker safety efforts and to emphasise the industry’s important role in feeding the nation. Despite these assertions, Food and Water Watch, which is represented in its lawsuit by legal advocacy group Public Justice, points out that Smithfield was cited by regulators for failing to adequately protect workers at its plants in California and South Dakota.
Public Justice Food Project news release. Food and Water Watch versus Smithfield Food, Inc., Superior Court of the District of Columbia, 16 June 2021. New York Times.


TUC Hazards at Work 6th Edition

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