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



PCS backs call for Covid safety pledge

Independent SAGE is calling on employers to sign up to a Covid safety pledge to ensure safe work spaces for their employees, customers and other users. The civil service union PCS, which is backing the initiative, said “that while the UK government has decreed that the Covid crisis is over,” the facts on the ground show otherwise. “We are now formally writing to the Cabinet Office and Government Property Agency, which is responsible for the management of government property, to enter into talks to obtain a national civil service-wide agreement adopting the employer pledge and setting out national standards on its application,” PCS said, covering ventilation, paid sick leave and other issues.
PCS news release. Independent SAGE Covid-19 pledge to promote the creation of safe spaces at work.

Rees-Mogg slammed for empty desk notes

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised for leaving a note for civil servants, saying “sorry you were out when I visited.” The note, printed on government paper with Mr Rees-Mogg's title, was left at empty desks and read “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.” The government efficiencies minister has said all civil servants must stop working from home. Dave Penman, general secretary of the top civil servants’ union FDA, said workers were planning to leave because of the renewed drive to have them working from Whitehall. “These notes from JRM are not only condescending, crass and insulting, they completely undermine the leadership of the service,” he said.
FDA news release. BBC News Online. The Guardian.

Dropping pregnant women’s protection is ‘reckless’

Trade unions and organisations representing hundreds of thousands of pregnant women have blasted a “reckless” decision by Tory ministers to suddenly withdraw Covid-19 advice that protects them in the workplace. In a joint letter to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the TUC, Maternity Action and health unions RCM, Unite, UNISON and SoR warn that the move could expose expectant mothers to harm at work. The letter stresses that “clear, accessible guidance” must be available for all employers to ensure compliance with their legal duty to protect health and safety. TUC head Frances O’Grady said this included being “clear about the need to carry out individual risk assessments for pregnant workers,” she added.
RCM news release. Morning Star.

Government chose to abuse health workers

The pandemic efforts of health staff are being undermined by political choices, UNISON has said. The union said most worked extra hours and took on more intense workloads. Addressing UNISON’s annual health conference, general secretary Christina McAnea said “both the prime minister and the chancellor are guilty of taking health workers for granted. Over the last two years, health staff have lost colleagues, patients, family members and friends to the virus, and worked under an unbelievable amount of pressure.” She added: “It’s a political choice that keeps pay down and pushes workloads up. It’s also a political choice to increase national insurance contributions for working people, and to decide not to give health and other essential employees a decent pay rise.”
UNISON news release.



MPs back TUC’s calls for asbestos removal

A TUC call for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings has been backed by MPs. The report of a Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into asbestos management cites TUC calls for an explicit asbestos removal plan. The 21 April report from MPs cites concerns that the likely dramatic increase in retrofitting of buildings in response to net zero ambitions means that more asbestos-containing material will be disturbed. It calls for a 40-year deadline to remove all asbestos from public and commercial buildings. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the recognition, but added “a 40-year deadline isn’t ambitious enough: hundreds of thousands of workers risk dangerous exposure in that time. Ministers must commit to removing all asbestos to keep future generations safe.”
TUC news release. House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee news release, report summary and full report. CWU branch briefing. NAHT news release. HSE asbestos disease statistics.

UNISON hope for getting asbestos out of schools

UNISON has welcomed the call from a cross-party committee of MPs for the safe removal of all asbestos in public buildings. The House of Commons work and pensions committee report also calls on the UK government to develop a central, digital asbestos register, containing information on asbestos in schools and hospitals as well as other public buildings. UNISON submitted written evidence to the committee as a member of the joint unions asbestos committee (JUAC), which called for the removal of asbestos in schools to be prioritised. UNISON national officer for health and safety Kim Sunley said: “Many of our members are living with the legacy of previous asbestos exposures and the devastation a diagnosis of mesothelioma can bring. The government must act now with a strategy to protect workers and future generations from this preventable cancer.”
UNISON news release.

GMB to take 'callous' Yodel to tribunal

Parcel delivery firm Yodel is to face an employment tribunal over its “callous” move to sack a disabled worker. The union GMB said Tony White, 56, who has several conditions including a spinal issue, was fired after 19 years of service on “capability grounds.” Bosses at the courier company, owned by billionaire property, media and retail magnate Frederick Hugh Barclay, had allegedly told Mr White, who sorted parcels at a site in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, that he could have a different role on his return from a sickness-related absence. But the firm then reneged on the commitment, GMB said. GMB organiser Steve Garelick said: “A man with a disability appears to have been kicked aside. This is a new low for Yodel. GMB will now take this matter to tribunal.”
Morning Star.

P&O shows protection needed from unscrupulous firms

Unscrupulous employers will launch more attacks on workers unless P&O Ferries bosses are forced to reinstate 800 mariners they unlawfully sacked, TUC leaders have warned.  Speaking at the TUC’s Yorkshire & the Humber regional conference in Hull, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the government “should become the operator of last resort. If P&O can get away with it, no worker is safe.” TUC regional secretary Bill Adams said: “If anybody thinks it is not going to happen to them, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.”
TUC Yorkshire and Humber conference. ITF news release. Nautilus news release. Morning Star.

Port of Dover refuses P&O welfare checks

Officials at the Port of Dover improperly refused access last week to safety inspectors from the global union ITF. The ITF inspectors were investigating welfare issues raised by replacement crew members on board P&O Ferries’ vessels at the port. ITF said its inspectors have ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security code) clearance, which enables them to enter all UK ports and board unannounced all vessels in UK waters where seafarers request assistance. But port officials instead phoned P&O Ferries. ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said “it’s staggering that the Port of Dover would prevent access to ITF inspectors who are simply there to check on crew welfare and the safety of the ships.” He added: “We call on the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to find answers as to why our inspectors were blocked, and give a commitment that it won’t happen again.”
ITF news release.

Ambulance workers exhausted by unprecedented demand

A damning snapshot of the ambulance service released ahead of the UNISON health conference in Liverpool shows that staff are so overwhelmed by months of unprecedented demand they are suffering emotional breakdowns, chronic anxiety and stress, with many on anti-depressants. The union said staff shortages, lack of capacity in hospitals due to Covid and long-term underfunding have all contributed to “major problems” over the past few months. Over half of those surveyed said they felt “overwhelmed” by work and a similar proportion were struggling to cope with the demands of their jobs. UNISON’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “Ministers can’t sit idly by as demand on 999 services spirals, ambulance queues outside hospitals lengthen, burnout runs rife and staff at their wits’ end decide that enough’s enough.”
UNISON news release. Morning Star.

Safer workplaces key to radiographer retention

Radiographers’ union SoR is running a safety rep recruitment campaign in the face of rising safety concerns and a staff retention crisis. The initiative comes after an SoR workplace survey found only just over one in five (22 per cent) said their department was very safe while a quarter said it was either somewhat or very unsafe. Almost 1 in 4 (24 per cent) said they lacked any confidence their employer would do anything at all after an accident to a staff member. SoR executive director Dean Rogers said: “These figures are fuelling why people leave the NHS and it’s a false economy. Furthermore, members know where the safe places to work are so if Trusts are competing with each other for staff those that put in the effort will win the recruitment battle. Supporting their local SoR industrial relations and health and safety reps is a good investment, as our survey findings show.”
SoR news release.

Securitas workers protected by domestic abuse charter

Securitas has signed up to GMB’s Work to Stop Domestic Abuse charter, following a campaign by GMB London members. The deal gives the security giant’s 9,000 workers the right to 10 days paid leave when facing domestic violence or abusive behaviours.  The GMB charter calls on employers to support employees experiencing domestic abuse to ensure they will not be disadvantaged at work, will be supported with access to services and information and train staff to be able to appropriately and confidently support affected workers. Estimates from the most recent Crime Survey for England and Wales year ending March 2020 show 5.5 per cent of adults aged 16 to 74 years, or 2.3 million people, experienced domestic abuse in the preceding 12 months. 
GMB news release.

Transport Scotland undermining railway safety

Rail union RMT has uncovered new evidence that Transport Scotland directly requested that track operator Network Rail cut the funding for vital railway operations and maintenance across Scotland. The FOI response obtained by RMT shows Transport Scotland requested that Network Rail reduce its baseline budget by £65 million in both 2022/23 and 2023/24. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said it showed the Scottish government was “playing fast and loose with passenger and railway worker safety.” He added he was “renewing our calls on the Scottish and UK governments to put an immediate halt to these planned cuts and wider plans by Network Rail to cut thousands of safety critical maintenance jobs and instead guarantee that the necessary investment in the rail infrastructure and modern communication systems to keep the railways safe will take place.”
RMT news release.

Shopworkers want action on mental health at work

Delegates from the retail trade union Usdaw to this week’s Scottish Trades Unions Congress (STUC) conference have called for action to address the link between bad jobs and mental health problems. Tracy Gilbert, Usdaw regional secretary for Scotland, said: “Low-paid, insecure work and poor working practices increase the risk of mental health problems. These factors, combined with the experience of workers throughout the pandemic, have widened mental health inequalities and led to a steep increase in individuals seeking support from their union, their employer and mental health services.” She added: “Strong collective bargaining rights are crucial to better terms and conditions and better support for mental health at work. Trade unions and union reps are vital in negotiating and promoting good policy, tackling stigma, enforcing rights at work and transforming workplace culture.”
Usdaw news release and ‘It’s good to talk’ campaign.


International Workers’ Memorial Day is this week!

Thursday this week is International Workers’ Memorial Day. It is already clear that 28 April this year will see a record numbers of unions and safety activists take part, confirming it as the world’s biggest safety event ever. By the start of this week a dedicated global unions 28 April events map already featured thousands of events in 50 countries involving tens of thousands of workers. Make sure you join them and ‘remember the dead and fight like hell for the living’.
Find out what is happening worldwide to mark 28 April.
TUC 28 April resources and events webpages. Get your 28 April event on the TUC map!
STUC listing of 28 April events in Scotland.
Check out the damning new analysis from Hazards of soaring work-related ill-health and collapsing enforcement in the UK.
Global union ITUC has published a package of ready-to-use Twitter and Facebook images and infographic resources for 28 April – available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.


Global: Tragedy led to global safety accord

Nine years ago, one of the biggest industrial homicides in the history of garment production happened in Bangladesh, says global union IndustriALL. On 23 April 2013,  5,000 workers were forced to go to work in the Rana Plaza factory that had clear warning signs of an early collapse; 1,132 workers died and more than 2,500 were injured when it did. Commented ahead of the anniversary, IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie said it led his global union and another, UNI, creating an International Accord which has already signed up 160 brands to binding core safety commitments. He added “our work needs to continue. We need to engage more brands to join the Accord, especially in North America, to gain the leverage we need to make this a truly global Accord.”
IndustriALL news release. UNI news release. CLC news release. Daily Star. New Age.
International Accord.

Canada: Firms ignoring safety of new recruits

Almost 20 per cent of Canadian businesses do not offer the safety and orientation programmes that are legally required for new workers in much of the country, a survey has found. The research, commissioned by Threads of Life, a group that advocates for workplace safety, questioned hiring managers at 545 companies. Of these, 102 said their companies offer no orientation, onboarding, safety, emergency, hazard or illness and injury protocol training. Eric Tucker, a labour law professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, said for companies to admit openly that they don't offer training that's mandated by legislation shows there is “widespread lawbreaking” taking place.
CBC News.

USA: Staff and residents safer in unionised nursing homes

The substantial union safety effect has been confirmed in a study of Covid-19 infections in US nursing homes. The research, published in Health Affairs, examined whether unions for nursing home staff were associated with lower resident Covid-19 mortality rates and worker Covid-19 infection rates compared with rates in non-union nursing homes. A research team led by Adam Dean of George Washington University “found that unions were associated with 10.8 per cent lower resident Covid-19 mortality rates, as well as 6.8 per cent lower worker Covid-19 infection rates.”  They conclude: “With more than 75,000 Covid-19 deaths among residents in non-unionised nursing homes during our study period, our results suggest that industry-wide unionisation would have been associated with approximately 8,000 fewer resident deaths.”
Adam Dean, Jamie McCallum, Simeon D. Kimmel, and Atheendar S. Venkataramani.  Resident Mortality And Worker Infection Rates From COVID-19 Lower In Union Than Nonunion US Nursing Homes, 2020–21, Health Affairs, Published online ahead of print, 20 April 2022. Jacobin magazine. More on the union safety effect.


TUC Hazards at Work 6th Edition

Stock Code: HS111
Price £22 RRP £52
Also now available as an eBook
This is the Sixth edition of the TUC's best-selling guide to health and safety at work.
Used by reps, officers, employers, professionals in the field and even enforcement officers. This incredibly popular book is now even more informative at over 400 pages, an invaluable resource, which incorporates common hazards and cause of ill health at work, and how to assess and prevent them.
The book also contains HSE and other guidance, extensive checklists, case studies and web resources.
Order your copy
There are discounts on bulk orders, over 5 copies, please contact us for details.
Those on TUC approved courses can receive discount, please call for details 0207 467 1294. Or email at;


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