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



Many UK workplaces still not ‘Covid-Secure’ – TUC

Many workplaces are still not taking adequate measures to protect employees from coronavirus, the TUC has said. The warning came as the union body’s new polling revealed that fewer than half of employees (46 per cent) say their workplaces have introduced safe social distancing. The survey – carried out for the TUC by BritainThinks – also reveals that under two-fifths (38 per cent) of workers say they know their employers have carried out Covid-Secure risk assessments. It is a legal requirement to carry out a risk assessment and share with staff. Just four in 10 (42 per cent) report being given adequate PPE. Last week health secretary Matt Hancock urged the nation to go back to work, telling people the “vast majority” of workplaces are Covid-Secure. But the TUC says its findings cast huge doubt on that claim. The survey found over 1 in 4 (27 per cent) low-income workers – those earning less than £15,000 per year – reported that no action has been taken by employers to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections. Over two-thirds (38 per cent) of those on insecure contracts said no measures had been taken. The TUC poll shows that threequarters of workers have at least one concern about returning to work outside the home. The findings come as the Health and Safety Executive is in the process of appointing private outsourcing companies to carry out workplace ‘spot checks’. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rather than trying to bully people back into offices, ministers should change the law to require all employers to publish their risk assessments, and make sure workplaces are safe.” Criticising the privatisation of HSE inspections, she added: “Big outsourcing companies have failed the UK on test and trace – and now this government is going to give them more money to fail again, on workplace safety. This is a risky strategy that could undermine the respect employers and unions have for trained HSE inspectors.” She said the government should reverse funding cuts to HSE “so they can recruit and train proper workplace inspectors, inspect more workplaces, and prosecute bad bosses who don’t keep their workers safe.”
TUC news release and crowdsourced database of companies that have published their Covid-secure risk assessment, in compliance with government guidelines. You can view the risk assessments identified so far at

BME workers shouldered more risk during pandemic

Black and minority ethnic (BME) workers have been asked to “shoulder more risk” during the pandemic, often working in insecure jobs with fewer rights at work, the TUC has revealed. The union body said BME people are far more likely to be in precarious work and in jobs with higher coronavirus mortality rates than white people. The TUC’s analysis of official figures shows that 1 in 6 (16 per cent) BME workers are employed on insecure terms and conditions, compared to 1 in 10 (10 per cent) white workers. The TUC says this has put BME staff at higher risk of both Covid-19 exposure and job loss. Nearly 3 in 10 (28 per cent) male BME workers are employed in jobs with a higher male mortality rate, compared to fewer than 1 in 5 (18 per cent) white male workers, the TUC research concluded. This makes male BME workers 57 per cent more likely to be working in one of these higher risk occupations than white male workers. A fifth (20 per cent) of female BME workers are employed in a specific occupation with a higher female mortality rate, compared to 1 in 7 (14 per cent) white female workers. This makes female BME workers 48 per cent more likely than female white workers to be employed in an occupation with a higher female mortality rate. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Coronavirus has exposed the huge inequalities BME women and men face at work – with many forced to shoulder greater risk during this crisis.” She added: During the pandemic many BME people have paid for these poor working conditions with their lives.” Chair of the TUC’s new antiracism taskforce and NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “The taskforce will be taking forward a wide-ranging programme of action to tackle racial discrimination and ensure fairness and decent treatment at work.”  These measures include banning zero hours contracts and strengthening the rights of insecure workers in the employment bill this autumn. Other measures include mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and making employers publish action plans to ensure the inequality BME face workers in the workplace is tackled, and investment in better jobs for the future in green industries, social care and across the public sector.
TUC news release and analysis of BME people working in professions with higher mortality rates. NASUWT news release.

Weak labour law linked to high Covid death rates

The “lamentable” state of workplace rights in Britain is directly responsible for the devastating impact of Covid-19, a TUC Congress fringe meeting has heard. Professor Keith Ewing told the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) meeting: “It is no coincidence that we have one of the worst health outcomes in the developed world and one of the most highly deregulated labour law systems.”  He said that coronavirus had exposed the failure of government to guarantee secure incomes, safe working or even the inspection and enforcement of the rights that do exist. Shadow employment rights secretary Andy McDonald said we should question Britain’s economic model, and whether the usual marks by which its success is judged really indicate “an economic structure that delivers good jobs, good homes, good lives for everyone?” TUC senior policy officer Janet Williamson pointed to the super-exploitation of the “key workers” who kept the country running at the height of lockdown. She noted that “80 per cent of key workers are paid less than £10 an hour, two-thirds are women. Black workers are literally dying on the job with significantly higher mortality - in part due to poor working conditions.” CWU general secretary Dave Ward said the record of trade unions in defending workers’ safety and jobs this year showed they “don’t have to wait for legislation” to act. “If we can organise in sectors of the economy where unions are strong, working together we can build that into a mass mobilisation of workers,” he said.
IER comment. Morning Star.

Safety reps are key to a safe economy

The statutory right of union health and safety representatives to paid work time to perform their functions is essential and must be protected, teaching union NASUWT has told TUC Congress. An NASUWT motion adopted at the national union event highlights the importance of trained health and safety representatives in reviewing Covid-19 risk assessments and ensuring workplace safety. Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Workers, especially frontline workers, the lower paid and agency staff have borne the brunt of the coronavirus crisis. They have been exposed to weakened protections and exploitative employer practices, and to a lack of effective regulation. Instead of obstacles and derision, governments need to recognise and take seriously that workplace safety is central to the provision of high quality services and to keeping the economy going throughout this crisis and beyond.” He added: “The public has already recognised the importance of trade unions in ensuring safer services and workplaces for their loved ones. A stronger voice for the Health and Safety Executive is also essential, coupled with action to ensure that trade union health and safety representatives are able to undertake the everyday vital work they do to ensure that safety standards are in place and being implemented.”
NASUWT news release.

Unions must work together to keep society safe

Civil service union PCS has said it will work with other unions to help keep everyone in society safe and to hold government to account. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the TUC Congress the handling of the coronavirus crisis by Boris Johnson’s government had contributed to thousands of deaths. The PCS leader said: “We have been successful in keeping the overwhelming bulk of our members safe and able to deliver essential services. Contrast that to the actions of this government that have contributed to thousands of deaths that could have been avoided. There must be a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. We must never forget what the government has done and its awful political decisions.” Serwotka expressed concern that the government was now prioritising care for the economy over care for its own workers by demanding 80 per cent off staff in the civil service return to workplaces by the end of the month, when the union has warned it is clearly unsafe to do so in many cases (Risks 964). “It is irresponsible to force people back to work when it is not safe, when the R rate is rising and incidents of local lockdown are increasing,” he said.
PCS news release.

NHS staff forced off work due to testing shortages

A lack of coronavirus tests for NHS staff is leading to staff absences and services being put at risk, hospital bosses have warned. NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said staff are having to self-isolate rather than work because they cannot get tests for themselves or family members. The organisation was speaking out after widespread reports of people struggling to get tested. The government's testing system - part of its test, track and trace operation which prime minister Boris Johnson promised would be "world-beating" - has faced criticism in recent weeks. An increase in demand for coronavirus tests has led to local shortages - with some people being directed to test sites hundreds of miles from their homes. NHS Providers said hospitals in London, Bristol and Leeds had raised concerns over the weekend about staff absences because of a lack of testing. “It's clear that there are current capacity problems with the testing regime,” said Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief executive. “It's not just access for tests for staff members themselves, it's also access for their family members as NHS workers have to self-isolate if their family members are unable to confirm if they have Covid-19 or not. The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark - they don't know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.” Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said its members “are concerned that their staff are having to self-isolate unnecessarily due to delays and difficulties in access to tests for themselves and their families – and that some are having to wait longer than expected for the results – which is putting a strain on the services they can provide.”
NHS Providers news release. NHS Confederation news release. BBC News Online.

Key workers need a fit-for-purpose testing system now

An effective system of testing is crucial to ensure workers aren’t isolating unnecessarily and can do their jobs, public service union UNISON has said. Commenting on shortages of coronavirus tests for key workers, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The country has been promised so much on testing. But six months into the pandemic, the government has failed woefully to get to grips with the problems. School support staff, health employees and other key public sector workers can’t get tests to find out whether it’s safe to go to work. So, they and their families must stop at home.” He added: “With infection rates rising, people need to feel confident there’s a proper, functioning system in place. This frankly feels a long way off. A squeeze on capacity when schools reopened was entirely predictable, but the government still wasn’t ready. It beggars belief that ministers aren’t even able to prepare for the expected.” Plans to put the NHS top of the list for coronavirus tests will be published in the coming days, the justice secretary said on 16 September. People in care homes would also be a priority, while schools could be considered, Robert Buckland said. Resolving delays with testing was “the number one issue,” he added.
UNISON news release. BBC News Online.

Union slams PM’s failure to address school safety

The government must address school safety concerns after a sharp rise in Covid cases in in England in recent days, teaching union NEU has said. The union comments came after Office of National Statistics released on 11 September revealed Covid-19 cases had risen by 60 per cent in a week. In response, NEU joint general secretaries, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, have written to the prime minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson reiterating the measures that must be carried out as a matter of urgency to ensure education continues for all pupils. The joint general secretaries, commenting on the reasons behind their letter, said: “Boris Johnson has had three months to get a grip on the practical realities of getting schools and colleges open and keeping them safe. He has failed staff, parents and young people. His wilful disregard for advice offered to him, matched with his regular displays of blind optimism, are an insult to everyone in the community.” The NEU leaders added: “School and college leaders, teachers and other staff are worried about access to tests, with many being advised to travel hundreds of miles to obtain one. This is not a sustainable way of coping with outbreaks. Schools and colleges must have quick access to trace, track and test, and not be continually confronted with obstacles that should have been resolved months ago.”
NEU news release and letter to the prime minister.

Only half of school staff given Covid training

Less than half of school support staff have received Covid-19 health and safety training, a GMB back to school survey has found. In the poll of more than 2,600 teaching assistants, caretakers, admin and catering staff from across England, 51 per cent answered no to the question ‘have you had training on Covid-19 health and safety measures and working practices including infection control and correct use of PPE?’ The survey also found more than 66 per cent are anxious about the return to school, many reporting stress-related health problems. GMB national officer Stuart Fegan said: “The experiences of our members show schools are being used as a political football and have been reopened before they are truly safe. Basic health and safety training around Covid-19 should be a minimum for all school staff, it’s a shocking that less than only half have been provided with it.” He added: “It’s no wonder our members are anxious about the return to school. School staff love their jobs, provide excellent care for children and are doing everything that has been asked of them. But government guidance is muddled, they don’t have enough PPE or training and the testing and tracking system is a complete mess – which is leaving our members exposed.”
GMB news release.

Wiltshire school sends home all 284 pupils

Nearly 300 pupils at a Wiltshire school have been sent home after one of them tested positive for coronavirus. The 284 year nine students at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy have been asked to self-isolate and take classes remotely for 14 days. Headteacher Anita Ellis said: "The safety of everyone within our school community is our top priority." The school said all precautionary and “bubble” measures had been followed and the decision had been made to minimise any risk to others. The school said it had been working with Public Health England and Wiltshire Council to ensure high standards of hygiene and social distancing were maintained. Kate Blackburn, director of public health for Wiltshire, said the decision was necessary to keep the risk of transmission as low as possible. Hundreds of other pupils and education staff are currently self-isolating in Wiltshire. Pupils have also been sent home from St Augustine's College in Trowbridge, Brook Field Primary and Lainesmead Primary in Swindon, St Margaret's Prep School and Kingsbury Green Academy in Calne, Bulford St Leonard's Primary School and Trinity Primary in Devizes.
Wiltshire Council news releases. BBC News Online.

Unions must lead on second wave prevention

A second Covid wave is preventable if ministers follow the science and unions organise to make them act on it, UCU general secretary Jo Grady has told the TUC Congress. The lecturers’ union leader said unions are the only organisations with the power to keep workplaces and the wider population safe. She said the government has no answers that do not rely on rebooting the economy ‘by asking us to pay with our health’. Calling for as much university education to go online as possible, she told TUC delegates: “We are the ones calling for caution and planning. The government and sector leaders are ploughing ahead because they've constructed a market for education that needs its ultimate consumers - students - to pay fees and rent. Unions are the only organisations with the power to keep workplaces and the wider population safe in situations like these. But we need to be clear and realistic about where that power comes from.” She concluded: “Now is the time to talk to everyone you know. Organise with them. Join together, because it is the only way working people have ever defended themselves, protected their communities, and advanced their collective interests. Unions are a vehicle for this and it is very important everybody joins one, but ultimately it is workers that make unions. People who show up and say 'enough'.” UCU has said it will “name and shame” colleges or universities that were not doing enough to keep staff, students and the wider community safe.
UCU news release and naming and shaming initiative.

Wetherspoons claims ‘no risk’ as 66 staff test positive

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has said that 66 of its workers have tested positive for the coronavirus but maintains that visiting pubs is safe. The company, which employs more than 41,000 people, said had been one or more cases among staff at 50 of its 861 open pubs. Forty of its pubs have reported one worker testing positive for the coronavirus and six have disclosed two. In addition, two pubs reported three staff testing positive and another two said four workers had. A spokesperson for the company said the workers, as well as those who worked in close proximity to them, self-isolated for 14 days and were paid in full. Company boss Tim Martin argued that pubs and shops were safer than homes. “Tt is much easier to inadvertently pass on the virus in someone's house, where people are more relaxed and less vigilant,” he said. “If pubs are closed, or restricted so much that they become unprofitable, a great deal of the strenuous effort of the hospitality industry's 3.2 million employees, currently engaged on upholding hygiene and social distancing standards, will be lost.”
Wetherspoon update. BBC News Online.

Seven Covid cases linked to police training college

Seven people with links to the driving school at the Police Scotland training college in Tulliallan have tested positive for coronavirus. NHS Fife said the seven people included household contacts and all were experiencing mild symptoms. The health board said there was no evidence of transmission within the wider facility. Contact tracing is being carried out and contacts are being asked to self-isolate pending further tests. Dr Lorna Watson, a public health consultant at NHS Fife, said: "We appreciate that students and staff attending the Police Scotland college at Tulliallan may be concerned, however, there is no indication of further transmission of Covid-19 at the facility and we believe the risk of contracting coronavirus remains low.” The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which represents rank and file officers, said the news was concerning but not a surprise.  SPF chair David Hamilton said: "We have been warning of the dangers of complacency within Police Scotland for a number of weeks now - particularly in relation to basic protective measures such as mask wearing.” The NHS Fife coronavirus news pages list a succession of work-related Covid-19 outbreaks in the area so far this month, including in a bar, a family centre, at least two schools and at the University of St Andrews.
SPF news release. NHS Fife news release and coronavirus news webpages. BBC News Online.

Unions welcome face coverings rule for shops in Wales

Retail trade union Usdaw has welcomed an announcement requiring the wearing of face coverings in shops in Wales. The Welsh government move comes after repeat calls from the union, and on the heels of a demand from Wales TUC for masks to be made compulsory in shops and secondary schools (Risks 964). Usdaw divisional officer Nick Ireland welcomed the announcement, adding: “We have been lobbying for this for some time as a way of helping to limit the spread of Covid-19 and protect retail staff. We encourage customers to support shop workers by remembering to wear a face covering, unless they are covered by an exemption. We expect employers to display signage to remind customers about the rules. It needs to be made clear that shop workers are not responsible for enforcing the law. We are concerned that it may be another flashpoint for abuse of staff, which has doubled during the pandemic.” The Usdaw officer added: “Face coverings are not a replacement for existing social distancing measures, such as screens at tills, distance markers, hygiene measures and limits on the number of customers in stores. We expect employers to keep these in place and support our members in making sure that customers follow the rules.” Welcoming the move to make masks mandatory in shops, Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj said: “The Welsh government should now also extend the mandatory use of face masks to secondary schools – in line with practice across the rest of the UK.”
Usdaw news release. Wales TUC news release.


Prospect blasts ‘outdated’ attitudes to work safety

Outdated attitudes that saw health and safety regulation as a burden on business must be banished if we are to adjust to the impact of the global pandemic, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy has said. Addressing the TUC’s Congress 2020 this week, Clancy highlighted the damage that the approach of some ministers to health and safety has had, including former prime minister David Cameron’s remarks that health and safety regulation was a ‘monster’. These ‘attitudes of the past’, Clancy argued, were damaging us in the here and now with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) understaffed and under resourced to perform the functions expected of it. He praised the work of Prospect members working for the HSE who have been trying to keep the public safe as they return to workplaces, but argued that the agency haa been performing ‘regulatory gymnastics’, with the number of inspectors now lower than the number of MPs. He said the prime minister’s promised HSE ‘spot inspections’ were a ‘figment of his imagination’ and that the organisation lacks the capacity to carry out random physical inspections, despite this being the clear preference of workers and businesses. Prospect is campaigning for the government to change its approach, work with unions, provide a consistent public information campaign around workplace safety, and properly fund the agency.
Prospect news release and campaign for a fully funded HSE.

London bus drivers in strike ballot over remote sign on

London bus drivers employed by Singapore-owned Metroline will be balloted next week for industrial action in a dispute over the company’s proposals to introduce a controversial and ‘reckless’ remote sign on system. Metroline operates in North and West London and around 16 per cent of all bus drivers in the capital work for the company. Remote sign on means drivers do not report to a depot to start work but meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop. Remote sign on forces drivers to start work away from the depot, reducing costs and boosting the company's profits. Unite says the workforce see Metroline’s plans to introduce the new procedure as a ‘massive slap in the face’ for a group of workers who kept London moving during the height of the pandemic, despite the death of 29 London bus drivers and many others suffering serious illness after contracting the virus. Unite adds the workers are also concerned about the lack of air conditioning in bus cabs, problems over the sealing of cabs and other health and safety worries. Unite regional officer Mary Summers said: “Metroline is more interested in profits than passenger or driver safety. The company are experimenting with the safety of London’s transport network during a pandemic which is reckless in the extreme.” She added: “If strike action does occur it will inevitably cause severe disruption for London commuters but this dispute is driven by Metroline’s desire to turbo-charge profits. Metroline need to see reason and drop these ill-thought out and dangerous proposals.” The union said the move would also create problems with driver health assessments, access to welfare facilities, and fatigue, as travelling times increase.
Unite news release.

RSPCA workers at risk from violent pet owners

RSPCA lone workers visiting violent animal owners face a risk of attack, as a ‘failure of management’ crisis continues to dog the 196-year-old charity, Unite has warned. The union said long-serving employees of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) could lose their ‘homes for life’, as the charity plans to sack nearly 300 workers to plug a £47 million funding gap, as well closing four animal centres. Unite said there is no reason for these swingeing cuts as the RSPCA could dip into its £60 million reserves to tide it over the crisis caused by the pandemic. The union also highlights that the charity is expected to give four of its departing top bosses handsome pay-offs, which seriously undermines its ‘lack of cash’ argument. The violence threat to RSPCA officers, who have been lone working for many years, is now made worse by the job cuts resulting in officers having to travel to areas beyond their local knowledge. Unite says this effect has been compounded by a new incident handling system which means frontline staff can no longer access the database of violent animal owners. Unite national officer for the not-for-profit sector Siobhan Endean said: “The fact RSPCA officers may now have to face possibly violent members of the public when responding to reports of animal cruelty, without access to the database detailing the past conduct of such individuals, is a scandal and potentially unlawful. The litany of managerial ineptitude and unpleasantness again comes to the fore with the risk that workers who, in their employment contracts have ‘homes for life’, now face being turfed out onto the street and made homeless.” She added: “We will be conducting a public facing campaign during the autumn to make donors in particular and the public generally aware of what is happening at one of the country’s best loved and well-supported national institutions.”
Unite news release.

Usdaw calls for better protection of shop workers

Retail trade union Usdaw has repeated its call for a change in the law to better protect shop workers. During the opening debate of this year’s TUC Congress, Dave McCrossen, Usdaw’s deputy general secretary, said: “Safe working conditions have always been a fundamentally important issue for the trade union movement. If we did not know already, coronavirus has clearly shown why health and safety in the workplace is so vitally important.” But he added: “Sadly, we were shocked to see Covid-safe measures, that were introduced to keep staff and shoppers safe, becoming flashpoints for abuse from some customers. The vast majority of customers recognised and fully supported the efforts being made by staff in shops, but even at the height of the pandemic, a significant minority of customers were abusing and threatening shopworkers.” McCrossen told delegates to the TUC Congress: “Key workers on the frontline, encouraging people to follow basic safety measures deserve better. That’s why Usdaw has launched a petition calling on the government to make it a specific offence to abuse, threaten or assault a shopworker. So far, over 60,000 people have signed the online petition. At 100,000 signatures, the government have to formally consider it for debate in parliament. So I urge everyone to sign it today, and to encourage your family and friends to do so too. During this crisis, shopworkers were finally recognised as key workers. Now the time has come for all of our key workers to get the protections they deserve.” The government rejected the union’s call in a 15 September response to the petition, the day after Usdaw’s TUC address. It noted: “The government is not persuaded that a specific offence is needed as a wide range of offences already exist which cover assaults against any worker, including shop workers.”
Usdaw news release. Sign the parliamentary petition calling for protection of retail staff from violence, threats and abuse. Government response to the petition.

Jail terms for attacking emergency workers to be doubled

The maximum penalty for assaulting police officers, nurses or any other emergency workers is to be doubled from one to two years, the government has announced. It follows a consultation this summer on raising punishments and comes amid a series of reforms to sentencing being announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). A law will be introduced raising the maximum sentence to two years in jail. The change will, the MoJ said, offer greater protection to emergency workers, including police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and frontline health workers. The justice secretary, Robert Buckland QC, said: “The debt of gratitude we owe to our emergency workers has never been greater. Every day they risk their lives to protect ours – they should never face being punched, kicked or spat at. Anyone looking to harm prison officers, police, fire personnel or health workers should be under no illusion – your disgraceful behaviour is unacceptable and you will feel the full force of the law.” In 2018, the government changed the law, introducing the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, so that anyone who attacked an emergency worker could face a maximum 12-month prison sentence. The move followed a lengthy union campaign. Judges also have to give longer sentences for more serious offences, such as GBH or sexual assault, if the victim was an emergency worker. An assault may include pushing, shoving or spitting.
The Guardian.

UNISON in homecare worker travel time pay victory

The government must end the practice of employers denying care staff wages for time spent travelling between visits to the sick and elderly, UNISON has said. The call from the public sector union follows a significant legal victory by a group of homecare workers over illegal pay, in a case brought by UNISON. The claimants – the majority of whom are women – will now receive an average settlement of around £10,000 each after an employment tribunal ruling. The tribunal found that contractors commissioned by Haringey Council in North London breached wage rules by paying some care staff less than half the minimum wage. The decision involving these ten workers has implications for thousands more care staff across the UK who look after vulnerable people by visiting them in their own homes. Those denied their full wages could now bring cases against their care employers to reclaim what they are owed, according to UNISON. Commenting on the case and the need for wider reform of the care sector, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is a major victory for these dedicated workers who dared take on their employers. Their long struggle is nothing short of heroic. It’s time the skills and experience of care staff were respected instead of them being underpaid and undervalued. The pandemic has proven just how vital they are in looking after the most vulnerable in society and keeping the care system running.” He added: “These are the very same care staff who were applauded during the lockdown. They shouldn’t have to work in a system that breeds such awful treatment. This ruling sends a message to other care bosses that it’s completely unacceptable to pay staff illegal poverty wages. The government too must get tougher with employers so there’s an end to these law-breaking practices.”
UNISON news release. The Guardian. More on the hazards of low pay.


Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped? Webinar, 24 September

‘Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers and our communities, when the government is still waging a class war?’, the national Hazards Campaign is asking. The latest in the campaign’s highly successful series of Thursday webinars, to start at 6pm on 24 September, will discuss ‘how we prioritise workers’ health and safety in an unfair society.’
Where are the sirens? Can the tsunami of work clusters be stopped?, Hazards Campaign webinar, Thursday 24 September 2020, 6.00pm-7.30pm. Free. Register.


Get your essential TUC guide to Hazards at Work

The 6th edition of TUC’s best-selling Hazards at Work guide is the best single source on health and safety, union style. The revised new edition is packed with advice on health and safety laws and good practice at work. It covers all the classic hazards and has new Covid-19 related advice and reworked chapters on mental health, bullying, harassment, and all the other modern workplace causes of illness and injury. It also has extensive checklists, case studies and links to online resources.
Reps, unions, employers can order online from the TUC shop. Single copies, £22. For large orders, email the TUC.


Help build a database of coronavirus risk assessments

The TUC is collating the risk assessments published by employers as they start to open again after lockdown. The TUC says its aim is to support a safe return by increasing transparency about how safety is being addressed in each sector and to pressure non-compliant employers to conduct the proper risk assessments and publish them online. “You can help by checking out your own employer or others in your sector, and entering them into the database at”, the TUC said.
COVID Secure Check portal.


DR Congo: At least 50 killed DRC gold mine collapse

At least 50 people are thought to have died when an artisanal gold mine collapsed near Kamituga in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local mining NGO said. The cave-in occurred on the Detroit mine site at around 3pm local time on 11 September following heavy rains, said Emiliane Itongwa, president of the Initiative of Support and Social Supervision of Women. “Several miners were in the shaft, which was covered and no one could get out. We are talking about 50 young people,” Itongwa said. Photos on social media showed hundreds of people gathered on a hillside around the mine-shaft entrance. The mine was not located on the Kamituga gold concession owned by Canadian miner Banro Corporation, the company’s chief executive said. Mining accidents are common in unregulated artisanal mines in Congo, with dozens of deaths every year in mines where often ill-equipped miners burrow deep underground in search for ore. A landslide at a disused gold mine killed 16 in October last year, while 43 clandestine miners died in another landslide at a copper and cobalt mine in June 2019. In 2016, Amnesty International warned that children as young as seven were working in perilous conditions in the DRC to mine the cobalt that ends up in smartphones, cars and computers sold by big name brands (Risks 735).
Aljazeera. The Guardian.

USA: Under Trump, worker safety has been abandoned

An editorial board statement in the New York Times has expressed dismay at the lack of protection afforded US workers by the Trump administration. “Even as the dangers and virulence of the coronavirus have become more glaring, infecting 6.5 million Americans and killing nearly 200,000, the nation’s top worker protection arm has been asleep at the wheel,” the editorial board noted. “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued only guidelines, rather than establish enforceable rules, for businesses that rushed to reopen when they were deemed essential early in the pandemic, putting hundreds of thousands of employees in workplaces where the virus could easily spread. Now, after six months of near silence on the issue, OSHA has begun issuing fines for the meatpacking industry, which is responsible for some of the nation’s largest coronavirus outbreaks. But if the agency’s first major actions are meant to chasten corporate America, executives aren’t likely to get the message.” It said last week “OSHA slapped the wrist of Smithfield Foods, which in April was forced to close its Sioux Falls, S.D., plant to help contain an outbreak that ultimately killed four workers and infected about 1,300… The fine? A mere US$13,494. Last year, Smithfield took in US$13.2 billion in sales.” The company plans to contest even this inconsequential penalty. The problem stems from the Trump administration’s determination to protect commerce, not workers, the NYT editorial board indicated. “Amid a growing number of reports of coronavirus outbreaks at meat processors, Mr Trump in April ordered the plants to remain open,” it noted. On 12 September, OHSA fined another multibillion dollar company, JBS Foods, US$15,615 for Covid-19 infections at its plant in Greeley, Colorado that led to eight worker deaths and over 200 infections. Marc Perrone, president of the US foodworkers’ union UFCW, commented: “The failure of the federal government to protect American workers and our nation’s food supply has reached new lows. With this latest ‘so-called fine,’ OSHA and the Department of Labor prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do not care about holding irresponsible corporations accountable for the lives lost or worker safety.” JBS said it would contest the fine.
New York Times. OSHA news release. UFCW news release on the Smithfield Foods and JBS fines.


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