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



Government must stand up to Amazon

The government must use its purchasing power to stand up to Amazon on workers’ rights, unions have said. The call came joint TUC and GMB union research revealed Amazon was awarded national and local government contracts with a lifetime value of up to £630 million between 2015 and 2020, including contracts related to test and trace valued at £8.3 million. The union organisations were speaking out ahead of the 13 October Amazon ‘Prime Day’. They say this is one of the most dangerous days for Amazon workers as they are pushed to meet relentless demand caused by heavy discounts. Reports of employment practices at Amazon describe gruelling conditions, unrealistic productivity targets, surveillance, bogus self-employment and a refusal to recognise or engage with unions unless forced. The TUC says the UK government should use the ‘long-awaited’ employment bill to clamp down on the poor working practices rife in workplaces like Amazon, and to strengthen trade unions and collective bargaining. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Public contracts should not reward bad working practices. The government must use its purchasing power to ensure people are given dignity at work and a wage they can live on. And the government must get on with introducing its long-awaited employment bill. This is a golden opportunity to boost rights and pay.” GMB national officer Mick Rix said it was “beyond parody” that Amazon is “trousering” hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ cash through public sector contracts, while workers in Amazon warehouses “are being taken away in ambulances, forced to go to the toilet using bins and bottles and are now contracting Covid while packed into warehouses like sardines.” He added: “This report is a warning to the public sector that it can no longer turn a blind eye to Amazon's exploitative practices and appalling health and safety record. It's time for UK government and safety regulators to either tell Amazon's management to put their house in order or send them packing.”
TUC news release and TUC/GMB Challenging Amazon report. The Guardian.

Unite action pledge as second wave kills bus driver

Unite has vowed to escalate its campaign to introduce stricter safety measures for London buses after news that Unite member and bus driver Kofi Opoku died last week from Covid-19. The 55-year-old, who worked for Metrobus, had been based at its Croydon garage. The union said the issue of bus driver safety is particularly sensitive “as during the height of the pandemic earlier this year, male London bus drivers were the profession at greatest risk of dying from Covid-19, with at least 29 succumbing to the disease.” Unite’s key demands to protect bus workers include; ensuring all screens and seals are properly installed, health and safety reps are stood down from normal duties to monitor safety in garages, and a full review and enhancement of cleaning regimes. It says it also wants bus workers to have guaranteed access to toilets and hand washing facilities and is demanding full sick pay from day one for workers needing to self-isolate. The union also says there must be a moratorium on remote sign-on and proper enforcement of face coverings and maximum loading by Transport for London (TfL), the police and marshals. Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said: “The death of Kofi Opoku is a terrible reminder of the horrible human cost of Covid-19. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.” He added: “Significant safety procedures have been already introduced, but action needs to be taken to reinforce those measures. It is distressing that some bus operators seem to be more concerned about the financial cost of some of these vital measures. Exactly what value are they placing on a human life?” The Unite officer warned: “We simply do not have time on our side. We need these measures to be introduced immediately to reduce the risk of infections and to save lives.” Elsewhere in the country, bus drivers have died of Covid-19 in the north-west, Nottingham and Bristol. 
Unite news release. The Mirror. Daily Mail.

Union slams ‘reckless’ shared post van plan

Post workers’ union CWU has criticised a “reckless” Royal Mail decision to bring back shared delivery vans, saying that the union’s first priority is to “protect postal workers’ lives”. Speaking to around 20,000 CWU members on a Facebook session, deputy general secretary for the postal sector Terry Pullinger accused Royal Mail management of basing workplace health and safety decisions on economic worries in the build-up to Christmas, saying that the decision had “operational overtones”. He added that the company is “going against everything they supported at the start of this pandemic,” and criticised the timing of the decision, saying: “In the last couple of weeks, the landscape has drastically changed. It’s getting worse, with areas of this country getting shut down. To now make the move to put two people back in the van is reckless.” Commenting on the shared vans policy, he said the company was “asking us to put their name on it. We will not do that. Our priority is to protect postal workers’ lives. We want to keep you safe, your workplace safe and your family safe. Every single person should be at high alert to make sure this virus does not spread to postal workers.” He asked union reps to share the “no to shared vans” message throughout Royal Mail workplaces.
CWU news release.

Most with positive tests in England have no symptoms

Over threequarters of people in England testing positive for the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 – SARS-CoV-2 - had no symptoms on the day of the test, with another 10 per cent having none of the core symptoms, a study has found. The researchers said the findings were important because asymptomatic individuals can be “silent” transmitters. Irene Petersen and Andrew Phillips from University College London (UCL) used data from the Office for National Statistics Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot study. “In total, there were 36,061 individuals with a SARS-CoV-2 test between 26 April and 27 June 2020. Of these, 625 (1.7 per cent) reported symptoms on the day of the test. There were 115 (0.32 per cent) with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. Of the 115, there were 27 (23.5 per cent) who were symptomatic and 88 (76.5 per cent) who were asymptomatic on the day of the test.” The paper added “99 (86.1 per cent) did not report specific symptoms on the day of the test.” The authors conclude “Covid-19 symptoms are poor markers of SARS-CoV-2. Thus, 76.5 per cent of this random sample who tested positive reported no symptoms, and 86.1 per cent reported none of those specific to Covid-19.” They concluded: “A more widespread testing programme is necessary to capture ‘silent’ transmission and potentially prevent and reduce future outbreaks.”
Petersen I, Phillips A. Threequarters of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are Asymptomatic: Analysis of English Household Survey Data, Clinical Epidemiology, volume 12, pages 1039-1043, 2020. The Guardian.

Airborne virus a ‘major’ transmission risk

There is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that inhalation of the coronavirus represents a major transmission route for Covid-19, scientists have warned. The warning from experts from six US universities contradicts a position promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has played down airborne risks and said transmission by larger droplets is the predominant mode of transmission (Risks 962). However the letter published in Science magazine, notes “aerosols containing infectious virus can also travel more than 2m and accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air, leading to superspreading events.” The letters adds: “Individuals with Covid-19, many of whom have no symptoms, release thousands of virus-laden aerosols and far fewer droplets when breathing and talking. Thus, one is far more likely to inhale aerosols than be sprayed by a droplet, and so the balance of attention must be shifted to protecting against airborne transmission. In addition to existing mandates of mask-wearing, social distancing, and hygiene efforts, we urge public health officials to add clear guidance about the importance of moving activities outdoors, improving indoor air using ventilation and filtration, and improving protection for high risk workers.” Late last month Public Health England departed from the WHO line, with revised guidance noting: “Airborne transmission may also occur in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, particularly if individuals are in the same room together for an extended period of time” (Risks 968). Airborne transmission helps explain the high number of outbreaks in non-health and social care workplaces, and high death rates in a wide range of jobs.
Kimberly A. Prather, Linsey C Marr, Robert T Schooley and others. Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, Science, 5 October 2020. DOI: 10.1126/science.abf0521
COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features, PHE guidance, updated 30 September 2020.

Virus harms mental health of two-thirds of workers

Two-thirds of workers said their mental health has been harmed by the coronavirus crisis, a new survey by GMB has found. In the poll of 13,500 public and private sector workers – thought to be the biggest of its kind during the pandemic – 66 per cent of respondents said that their work during the outbreak has had a serious negative impact on their mental health. The research also discovered 61 per cent of workers say their job is causing them stress or is otherwise impacting on their mental health. Fear of taking the coronavirus home was the frequently cited cause of stress at work (by 36 per cent of respondents), followed by workers’ fear for their own safety (by 30 per cent). Frontline workers report being 70 per cent more anxious on average than official estimates for the whole population before the pandemic struck, the union research found. GMB said it is campaigning for a ‘Mental Health at Work Act’ specifying the approach and methods expected of all employers in managing mental health in the workplace. Nell Andrew, GMB national equality and inclusion officer, said: “Much more needs to be done to prevent poor mental health in the workplace, during the pandemic and beyond. We urgently need full mental health risk assessments to become the norm, because protecting workers’ mental health is just as vital as protecting physical health.” He added: “As we face a second wave and widespread redundancies, we desperately need to protect at-risk industries and fully fund the public services that defend the mental health and wellbeing of the heroic workers who have keep the economy and society together.”
GMB news release.

Covid-19 crisis hurting most retail workers

A major survey by the retail union Usdaw has exposed the damaging impact of the coronavirus crisis on the mental health of shopworkers. Usdaw’s ‘Impact of Coronavirus’ survey of 7,357 members, primarily essential workers, found that 70 per cent are experiencing anxiety and raised concerns with their employer. Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, commented: “At some point or another everyone has felt confused, frightened and worried by the coronavirus and our survey demonstrates the extent of that. I have never known a single issue cause nearly threequarters of our members to raise concerns with their employer in such a short space of time.” The union leader added: “Usdaw recognises that the coronavirus crisis poses a risk not only to our physical health and wellbeing, but to our mental health too. In the current crisis our members are under pressure like never before. Anxiety about exposure to the virus and social distancing in workplaces, increased customer abuse, isolation from friends and family, stress and worry about the future, about job security and family income. Our members are coping with these concerns on a daily basis.” He concluded: “Usdaw reps are raising awareness to tackle the stigma that surrounds mental health. Stigma gets in the way of members talking to the union at an early stage and this can lead to them getting caught up in disciplinary procedures that could and should have been avoided.”
 Usdaw news release, Impact of Coronavirus report and mental health campaign.

Women bear the brunt of Covid work stress

Women are being disproportionately affected by a rise in mental health problems caused by increasing workloads, as people do their jobs from home amid the pandemic. ‘Burnout Britain’, a report by the 4 Day Week campaign and thinktanks Compass and Autonomy, notes that women are 43 per cent more likely to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week than men, and for those with children, this was even more clearly associated with mental health problems. The report says 86 per cent of women who are carrying out a standard working week alongside childcare experienced problems in April this year. It warns that “as well as an impending recession and mass unemployment, we are heading into an unprecedented mental health crisis.” The report calls for a four-day working week for the public sector and the formation of a working time commission by the UK government to explore the best policymaking opportunities for using shorter working time to share work more equally across the economy. Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4 Day Week campaign, said: “It’s extremely concerning that overall the shift to working remotely has resulted in workers doing more hours and not less. This country desperately needs a four-day working week to rebalance the economy, boost mental health and give people more time to spend doing the things they love.”
Burnout Britain: Overwork in an age of unemployment, 4 Day Week Campaign, Compass and Autonomy, October 2020. The Guardian. The Independent.

Union concerns on Covid cases in Scottish pupils

Teaching union NASUWT has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ at a significant increase in the percentage of secondary age children testing positive for coronavirus in September. The union was commenting on figures in the Covid-19 Statistical Report released by Public Health Scotland on 7 October. The union said the rise is of great concern, particularly among the 12-17 age group, and could potentially increase the risk to teachers, education staff and the wider community unless further measures are introduced in schools to protect them. It added that since the end of September there is also evidence of an increase in positive tests in primary school age group. NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach called on Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney to review the situation urgently and identify what further measures can be taken to mitigate the risks posed by the increases. He said “it is clear the spike in the Covid-19 transmission rate in certain secondary school children age groups, and also primary school age groups, coupled with the rise in transmission in the community, could potentially increase the risk to teachers and other education staff unless further measures are introduced in schools to protect them.” Dr Roach added: “At a time of significantly increased risk of virus transmission within the wider population, the data on the number of cases and testing among children strongly indicates a deeply concerning trend within the secondary school age population. The sharp upward trend in the data is a major concern for our members and secondary schools increasingly appear to be high risk environments for coronavirus. This situation urgently requires attention by the government and further mitigating measures need to be identified and implemented.”
NASUWT news release. COVID-19 Statistical Report, Public Health Scotland, 7 October 2020.

Government ignored advice calling for online uni classes

Ministers ignored a series of measures recommended by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which included moving all university and college teaching online unless in-person teaching was absolutely essential, it has emerged. Lecturers’ union UCU called for university teaching to be moved online in August. UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Ministers were given clear recommendations on how to stem the spread of the virus before term started at the vast majority of universities. They could have taken swift and decisive action then and instructed universities to move their teaching online to mitigate against tens of thousands of students moving across the country.” She added: “The chaos we see on campus and in halls of residence now is a direct result of ministers’ decision to ignore that advice and choose to put the health of university staff, students and local communities at risk. To stop more areas being forced into harsher restrictions, we need a nationally coordinated response from government that belatedly moves working online at universities. Students must be allowed to return home if they wish, provided it is safe to do so.”
UCU news release. ITV News.

Sheffield University pauses face to face teaching

Unite has welcomed the University of Sheffield’s decision to pause face to face teaching after the union raised concerns about the spread of Covid-19 amongst staff, students and in the wider community. The union said it had warned the university it was opening up too quickly while “responding too slowly when Unite health and safety representatives pointed out potential hazard points.” The university vice chancellor, Professor Koen Lamberts, wrote to the staff last week to announce the temporary suspension of face-to-face teaching would run from 9 October to 18 October, with face-to-face teaching scheduled to resume from 19 October. Unite is calling for the university to work with the joint campus unions to develop proper risk assessments and safe working practices and to resolve the hazard points raised by the union's health and safety reps. Unite regional officer, Harriet Eisner said: “The university has now given itself some space and we hope management will use this time to work with union health and safety representatives to develop proper risk assessments and safe working practices.” She added: “Unite’s primary concern is for the safety of the university’s staff, its students and the wider community. Unite would encourage all employees on campus who are not yet in a union to join us, this way we can continue to have a strong independent voice on campus.” The city’s other university, Sheffield Hallam University, moved more teaching online last week after it was revealed 370 students and four members of staff had tested positive for Covid-19 since the beginning of the new academic year. The University of Manchester has also suspended face-to-face training and all three Liverpool universities have now gone online.
Unite news release. UCU news release. Sheffield Star. The Guardian.

Northumbria University goes online after action threat

Lecturers’ union UCU has welcomed the decision by Northumbria University to move learning online after its members threatened to ballot for industrial action over Covid health and safety failings. However, the union said the decision should have been taken earlier, and urged other universities to move their work online. Both Northumbria University and the University of Newcastle moved teaching online last week for a minimum of three weeks. UCU regional official Iain Owens said: “It was the right decision for Newcastle's universities to move learning online. But it should not have taken the threat of industrial action for Northumbria University to put the health and safety of its staff and students first.” He added the city’s universities “need to fully consult with unions before any return to in-person teaching, and not rush to get staff and students back onto campus. We now desperately need a nationally coordinated response from government that moves working online across all universities to help lower the rate of transmission and stem this crisis.”
UCU news release. BBC News Online.

Rise in homeworking requires negotiation

Employers should reach homeworking agreements with unions to avoid an ‘industrial minefield’ when turning workers' homes into a place of work, Unite has said. It said the explosion in home-working caused by Covid-19, means trade unions will have an increasingly important role to play in minimising the dangers and maximising the advantages of working from home. Unite has produced a new framework homeworking agreement to assist its workplace representatives in their negotiations with employers. Unite executive officer Sharon Graham commented: “It is important to remember that homeworking done badly can lead to more work for the same pay. It can also lead to stress and depression, as well as health and safety risks from working in an unsuitable environment. It is vital that employers now recognise that homeworking is an issue for negotiation not imposition and that we will be demanding adequate protection for our members.”
Unite news release and framework homeworking agreement.


Domestic abuse is a workplace safety issue

The TUC has said health and safety law requires employers to act to protect workers from domestic violence and has called for more to be done at work to protect victims. In a TUC response to a government call for evidence, the union body notes: “For the TUC and our affiliated unions domestic abuse is a key workplace issue.” Among wide-ranging recommendations, the TUC calls on the government to: “Ensure the Health and Safety Executive has sufficient additional resources to prioritise compliance and enforcement of existing health and safety legislation in relation to preventing and tackling domestic abuse in the workplace.” The TUC response to the business department (BEIS) consultation adds: “Preventing and tackling domestic abuse is a key part of an employers’ duty of care towards their employees and their legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure a safe working environment.” It continues: “We are unable to include the full figures of women killed or injured at work as a result of domestic abuse because there is currently no requirement to record or report these in the same way that there is for other serious injuries or deaths at work. The fact that domestic abuse often leads to and is linked to workplace violence is not the only reason employers need to take this issue seriously. Even where all the abuse happens outside of the workplace, domestic abuse can have a huge impact on an individual’s working life and on their colleagues, resulting in unexplained absences, lateness and negatively impacting performance. This puts survivors’ jobs and incomes at risk. No one should lose their job or income as a result of experiencing domestic abuse.”
Support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse: TUC response to BEIS call for evidence, 5 October 2020. Full TUC response.

Working drivers need Brexit lorry bottleneck guarantees

Lorry drivers need “cast iron guarantees” they won’t end up stranded without access to decent food and welfare facilities in Brexit bottlenecks, their union Unite has said. Commenting on the government's confirmation of 10 Brexit lorry park locations and the introduction of the Kent Access Permit scheme for HGV drivers, Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “As the government scrambles to get these 10 confirmed lorry parks up and running, our members are deeply concerned that their needs will be overlooked in the rush. Unite will be seeking cast iron guarantees that drivers will not be left twiddling their thumbs for days in concrete expanses where the only facilities are a few mucky portable toilets and an old burger van.” He added: “Even if the new computerised customs system is ready by 31 December – and given the government’s abysmal record on software delivery there’s a good chance it won’t be – lengthy delays are still very likely. That means drivers must be provided with enough clean toilets, sinks and showers and access to decent warm food and a place to rest away from their cabs.” The Unite officer said the union was also concerned HGV drivers could be fined under the Kent Access Permit scheme because of software glitches or because of paperwork errors by their employers.  
Unite news release. The Mirror.

Second Sleeper safety strike goes ahead

A second ‘rock solid’ 48-hour safety strike by rail workers has taken place on the Caledonian Sleeper. The action by RMT members on the SERCO-operated service, angry at exhausting rosters, took place on 8-9 September. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the company’s ‘stonewalling’ on negotiations with the union “confirms our suspicion that the company have deliberately provoked this dispute and have never had any intention of entering into serious negotiations with the union.” He added: "We now have independent evidence from SERCO's own advisers that the fatigue issue at the heart of this dispute is deadly serious. Instead of working with the union on a solution to the very real issues being raised by our members SERCO have instead chosen to declare war on their staff. That is a scandalous dereliction of their basic duty of care.” The RMT leader criticised the Scottish government for failing to intervene. “Staff and public alike are rightly asking why the political leadership in Scotland have not lifted a finger to help us settle this dispute. They should get off their backsides and haul SERCO into line. Their lack of action is grossly irresponsible,” he said. “Our members on the Caledonian Sleeper, demanding nothing more than a safe working environment, deserve better than this shocking treatment. We are grateful for the huge level of support that has flooded in and its now down to the company to get serious and negotiate a settlement.”
RMT news release. The Herald. The Scotsman.

XPO accused of safety crimes and causing deaths

Workers employed by the global logistics firm XPO have died of Covid-19 and as a result of other safety violations, a report has found. The report, ‘XPO - Delivering Injusticel’ by the global transport union federation ITF looks at practices at global firm. As well as fatalities, it describes pregnant women miscarrying after being denied lighter shifts and drivers having to live in their lorries for months on end. XPO provides logistics and delivery services for firms including Amazon, ASOS, Coca-Cola, IKEA, Nestle and Starbucks. The report says in the UK, workers were “terrified” after 64 workers contracted Covid-19 at an XPO facility in Swindon in July and the company refused to quarantine the work site. At an XPO/ASOS facility in Barnsley with 4,000 employees, 98 per cent of respondents to a survey said they felt unsafe at work. It took nine workers testing positive for Covid-19 in May for the company to close down the workplace for  deep cleaning. One worker said they felt bosses where playing ‘Russian roulette’ with their lives. Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: “These findings are a disgrace. On the basis of the report’s analysis of working conditions, XPO workers across the world – from Barnsley to Barcelona - are being treated like dirt while bosses make a fortune.” He added the report showed XPO’s “business model is based on exploitation, illegal underpayments, and a callous approach to safety. They should not be allowed to get away with this. GMB and unions across the world are ready to meet with XPO and help keep workers safe and keep the company on the right side of the law.”
GMB news release. ITF news release.


Asbestos, real and present danger, conference, 27 November

A free online half-day conference for trade unions and others concerned about asbestos risks is to examine how the greatest industrial killer still poses a real danger today. The event, organised by asbestos support groups in Yorkshire and Humberside, Derbyshire and the Midlands, will take place on Friday 27 November. Speakers include occupational disease advocates and medical experts, and a fair trade expert looking at the implications of Brexit and trade deals on asbestos policies and practices.
Register for the Asbestos, real and present danger conference, Friday 27 November 2020, 09:30am–12:30pm.

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.


Europe: Unions back ‘lighten the load’ campaign

Europe’s lead trade union body has backed a new EU-wide campaign addressing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) at work. The initiative, run by the EC-backed European safety agency EU-OSHA, comes after to the 2019 European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) found the most frequently identified workplace risk factor in the EU is repetitive hand or arm movements (reported by 65 per cent of establishments). Other MSD-related risks include prolonged sitting (61 per cent), lifting or moving people or heavy loads (52 per cent), time pressure (45 per cent), and tiring or painful positions (31 per cent). A declaration from ETUC welcoming the campaign noted: “The health and safety of workers and the protection of jobs and rights have been the priority of the European trade union movement throughout the Covid-19 pandemic… The issue of occupational safety and health needs to be a fundamental part of the EU strategy for limiting the spread of the virus and for maintaining economic activity.” The ETUC statement said the approach should be “gender sensitive, and added: “The European trade union movement believes that a more comprehensive EU legislation on MSDs is needed, and the member states should include MSDs in their national strategies. There is also a need for training and awareness-raising on MSDs of workers as well as a key role of health and safety representatives in this regard… The ETUC supports the EU-OSHA Campaign 2020-22 Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load.”
EU-OSHA news release and Lighten the load campaign website. ETUC declaration.

Europe: Major coalition aims to stop cancer at work

A Stop Cancer at Work Campaign has been launched by coalition of professional organisations, trades unions and patient groups. The groups say their objective is to ensure that the current fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) includes groups of carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous drugs, which cause cancer, and that have not been included by the European Commission in proposals published on 22 September 2020. They say cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU, with over 120,000 work-related cancer cases recorded each year. A statement from the coalition notes: “In its proposal, the European Commission introduced binding occupational exposure limit values for three carcinogens, which we welcome, but the Commission also left out reprotoxins as well as carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous drugs. There is a wide range of reproductive health problems caused by workplace exposure to reprotoxins including: reduced fertility or infertility, erectile dysfunction, menstrual cycle and ovulatory disorders, miscarriage, stillbirth, babies born too soon or too small, birth defects, child developmental disorders.” The campaign will run for most of 2020 and 2021 and is urging those supporting its objectives to sign an online petition calling for the EU institutions “to take action and accept the necessary legislative changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive.”
Stop Cancer at Work campaign news release, website and petition.

Global: Health and safety at work is ‘fundamental’

The global union body ITUC has condemned employer representatives and employer-aligned governments for blocking moves to get health and safety at work recognised formally as a “fundamental right.” Despite a pledge in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Centenary Declaration adopted last year that all workers should have adequate health and safety protection, the industry lobby and compliant governments are blocking discussion of the issue at the ILO’s Governing Body meeting in November. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said: “The right to protection from deadly work processes, noxious chemicals and other hazards must be recognised as a fundamental right, along with freedom of association and collective bargaining and protection from discrimination, forced labour and child labour. These are all cornerstones of the new social contract the world so desperately needs to build resilience and recovery in the Covid-19 era.” She said occupational health and safety is fundamental to preventing catastrophes like Covid-19. But she said: “Business interests are stalling the agenda at the ILO, but they are mistaken if they think they can make it go away. We call on governments not to give in to the corporate agenda at the ILO, which puts profits ahead of lives, and to join us in protecting workers from death and disease.” A day after the ITUC made its criticism, an International Organisation of Employers (IOE) statement said the business lobby group recognised the “core importance of occupational safety and health (OSH) at work,” adding it is asking ILO to “strengthen its efforts to build on the consensus achieved in the ILO Centenary Declaration through a process of productive social dialogue.” However the statement made made no mention of its opposition to progressing recognition of the issue as an ILO fundamental right.
ITUC news release. IOE statement.

Korea: Overwork concern as another delivery worker dies

Unions in Korea are demanding rigorous safety measures to protect deliver workers after another death they say is linked to overwork. A 48-year-old delivery worker, associated with CJ Logistics Corp, was sent to hospital after reporting breathing difficulty last week and subsequently died, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said. The worker, who was a 20-year veteran, had delivered around 400 parcels on average each day, working from 6:30am to around 9 to 10pm, the union organisation said. Saying he had no preexisting health conditions, KCTU attributed his death to overwork. It said the government and industry had not honoured recent promises to hire more workers to help with sorting at logistics centres. “Of the eight delivery workers who died from overworking, five of them worked for CJ Logistics,” the union said. “The government and the logistics industry should come up with measures to prevent more deaths.” Three weeks ago unions threatened work stoppages as logistics workers struggled to cope with soaring workloads as much retail trade went online.
Korea Herald. Yonhap News.

USA: Trump administration accused of Covid ‘forced labour’

Trade unions in the US have filed a complaint with the United Nations' International Labour Organisation (ILO), making the case that under the Trump administration, the US has violated a catalogue of labour laws during the coronavirus pandemic. National union federation AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed the complaint with ILO, detailing how the White House has undermined the quality and enforcement of labour laws and occupational health and safety measures. The union complaint accused the US of labour rights violations “in the realm of potential wrongdoing typically occupied by less-developed and less-democratic countries.” It said these forced workers to risk infection or lose their jobs and potentially unemployment benefits, this amounting to a system of “forced labour.” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumpka told the Washington Post: “Covid has laid bare what we already knew. It has demonstrated that not only is the US violating workers' rights, but those violations are resulting in people dying. It became so outrageous that we wanted to file a complaint.” The paper reported that the complaint characterised Trump's executive action as giving “a green light for employers to force workers to report for work and risk their lives or lose their jobs” which “is tantamount to forced labour.” The US has ratified an ILO convention prohibiting forced labour. The report also argues that when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in March suspended union elections and notified employers that they “could avoid bargaining about proposed layoffs because of the pandemic” this was to the serious detriment of workers’ rights.
Common Dreams. Mass Device.


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