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



TUC survey reveals widespread Covid-Secure failures

The TUC’s latest biennial survey of workplace safety representatives has found widespread workplace Covid failures. The 2020/21 survey of more than 2,100 workplace safety representatives reveals employer failures on risk assessments, social distancing and PPE during the pandemic. More than threequarters of safety representatives (83 per cent) said employees had tested positive for Covid-19 in their workplace, while more than half (57 per cent) said their workplaces had seen a “significant” number of cases. Almost one in ten (9 per cent) said their employer had not carried out a risk assessment, while 17 per cent said they did not know whether a risk assessment had taken place. Of those who said their employers had carried out a risk assessment, more than a fifth (23 per cent) said they felt the risk assessments were inadequate. A quarter (25 per cent) of representatives said their employer did not always implement physical distancing between staff. Just over a fifth (22 per cent) said their employer did not always implement appropriate physical distancing between employees and customers, clients or patients. More than a third (35 per cent) said adequate PPE was not always provided. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady commented: “Britain’s safety representatives are sounding the alarm. Too many workplaces are not Covid-secure. If we want to keep people safe, we must stop infections rising again when workplaces reopen.” She added: “The government must take safety representatives’ warnings seriously. Ministers must tell the Health and Safety Executive to crack down on bad bosses who risk workers’ safety. And they must provide funding to get more inspectors into workplaces to make sure employers follow the rules.” A separate TUC report on Covid-19 safety in the food and drinks sector found 1-in-4 managers in a sector that has had several major Covid outbreaks were unaware of any Covid risk assessment in their workplace. 
TUC news release and TUC safety reps survey 2020/21. The Observer.
Research into Covid-19 workplace safety outcomes in the food and drinks sector, March 2021 [full report].

Johnson criticised for ‘back to the office’ call

Boris Johnson has sparked new controversy over when employees should return to their workplaces by suggesting people have had enough “days off” at home during the pandemic, and should try to go back to their offices. The prime minister’s comments – which followed remarks from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, urging companies to reopen offices when the pandemic eases or risk losing staff – caused alarm among scientists, and were branded by Labour as “irresponsible” and “glaringly inconsistent” with the government’s own route out of lockdown. The prime minister’s comments came ahead of further easing of Covid-19 restrictions in England on 29 March. Johnson and his ministers have not, however, changed official advice which says that people should work from home if possible. The issue is the subject of a government review and no changes are expected in the coming weeks. However, when asked at the Conservative party spring conference on 27 March whether there should be a special bank holiday when the pandemic subsides, Johnson said people should be thinking more about getting back to work than having more time off. “The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office,” he said. Andy McDonald, the shadow employment rights and protections secretary, said the prime minister was “trying appease the libertarian wing of his party on the one hand by talking about getting back to the office, then suggesting he is being cautious. He just throws out comments like this. You can’t ride two horses at once. It is not leadership, it is simply cavalier.” McDonald added that rather than promoting a return to office working as before, the government should be strengthening the right of employees to work from home when possible. “A right to seek flexible and remote working should be matched by a duty on employers to grant such a request so far as is reasonable,” he said. The government has committed to launch a consultation on flexible working which has yet to begin.
BBC News Online and related story.

DVLA staff to strike over Covid safety concerns

Hundreds of staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) are set to take strike action from Tuesday 6 April to Friday 9 April. Those involved will include all operational staff who haven’t been working from home and have been forced to go into workplaces across the DVLA estate. Action short of a strike will also be taken by all staff from Saturday 10 April. PCS said further action is planned if management fails to make the safety improvements the union is demanding. The dispute centres on Covid safety, after the main DVLA site in Swansea reported over 600 positive cases since September. PCS said this is now the largest workplace outbreak in the UK and will be the largest industrial action of its kind since the pandemic began. Despite the outbreak, there are still over 2,000 staff going into the main Swansea sites every day. Staff have also reported that they are continually receiving notifications to isolate from the NHS app, highlighting the failure to make the workplace safe. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “DVLA management need to stop playing fast and loose with the safety of their own workers because the stakes are just too high. That PCS members are prepared to take unprecedented strike action shows just how badly DVLA management have failed in their responsibility to keep staff safe.” He added: “Taking strike action is a last resort but if management continues to so flagrantly disregard workers’ safety, we will be left with no other choice.”
PCS news release.

Unite welcomes halt to remote sign-on for bus drivers

Unite has strongly welcomed a decision by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to order a moratorium on bus operators in the capital introducing remote sign-on procedures. The union, which represents over 20,000 bus workers in London, said remote sign-on would force drivers to meet their bus and begin work at an alternative location such as a bus stop. The union said if a bus is delayed the driver could be left, unpaid and in the open, for considerable lengths of time in all weathers, increasing the risk of dangerous fatigue. It said there are other major safety implications, as it prevents checks to ensure a driver is fit for work. Forcing the driver to travel to a bus stop to begin driving will result in them being at greater risk of exposure to Covid-19, Unite added. Following intense lobbying from the union, and with the growing possibility of London-wide strike action over bus operators being able to move towards a remote sign-on model when bidding for routes, Sadiq Khan instructed the board at Transport for London (TfL) to introduce an immediate moratorium. Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said: “The moratorium on introducing remote sign-on heads off the immediate threat of strike action across London.” He added: “Unite believes that the promised in-depth research that TfL has been mandated to undertake will reveal that remote sign-on is bad news for drivers, detrimental to passengers and risks the safety of all road users.”
Unite news release.

Pub vaccine passports ‘reckless’ warns union

Hospitality union GMB has warned any plan to demand vaccine certificates to enter pubs would be reckless and a fast track to undo the gains of the present lockdown. The union said this type of scheme could lead to false certificates, potential violence for pub workers and even a black market for vaccine doses. The idea of asking pub goers to show a vaccine certificate was raised at last week’s House of Commons Liaison Committee hearing, when Conservative William Wragg asked Boris Johnson if vaccine certificates were “compatible with a free society such as ours.” The prime minister said the concept “should not be totally alien to us” as doctors already have to have hepatitis B jabs. When the Tory MP followed up with a question about vaccine certificates to enable “ordinary citizens going to the pub”, the prime minister replied: “That's the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans.” Dan Shears, GMB national health and safety director, said: “If these reports are true, this will drive demand for vaccination in absolutely the worst way. If a vaccine certificate is the only way to access a pub, then most under 50s are essentially barred until they get their jab. This will lead to pressure on GPs to fast-track younger patients, false certificates, potential violence for pub workers and even a black market for vaccine doses. If the government wants a fast track to undo all of the gains of the present lockdown, this is it.” He added: “Any decision on this approach needs full consultation with both employers and workers and is a finely balanced judgment. This announcement from the PM is reckless, and effectively presents the current consultation on the introduction of certificates as a sham.”
GMB news release. BBC News Online.

Face coverings in schools make staff feel safer

The introduction of face coverings in schools have made school support staff feel safer – and taking them away when infection rates are still high and rising in some areas would be a mistake, UNISON has warned. Seven in ten (71 per cent) teaching, learning and special needs assistants, administrators, lunchtime supervisors and facility staff in England believe face coverings in secondary schools are an important safety measure, the union’s survey found. The union said is research had shown more than six in ten (63 per cent) say face coverings make them feel safer at work. It said these findings are being sent to the UK government to inform its review of face coverings as a safety measure in schools and to highlight the risk of removing them, particularly from classrooms. The survey also found 75 per cent of secondary school staff say their school has introduced face coverings for staff in class. An even higher proportion (84 per cent) said pupils were wearing them in classrooms. UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Face coverings in schools have only been in place for a few weeks. Lifting this measure before the impact on transmission in schools has had time to be assessed would be rash. It could undermine the morale of staff, who see face coverings as an important protection at work.” He added: “Efforts to keep pupils and staff safe will be in vain if safety measures are lifted too soon. Instead, prevention measures should be strengthened to avoid the need for closures, especially of primary schools. Removing the need for masks in schools could see a spike in cases. This is the last thing the country needs. It would be unfair on the staff taking risks every day, unfair on the children who’ve already missed out on months of education and unfair on the communities they serve.”
UNISON news release.


NHS workers need ‘sensitive’ Covid mental health support

Unite has called for “maximum sensitivity” and full consultation with unions to deal with the mental health challenges health workers face as a result of the pandemic. The union, which represents over 100,000 workers in the NHS, made its comments following a report from the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, calling for ‘local leaders’ to ensure staff have ‘decompression time’ to deal with the effects of the pandemic. Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “Unite’s research has revealed that workers across the whole of the NHS including porters, cleaners, paramedics, nurses and doctors are suffering from increased mental health issues including depression, anxiety and in extreme cases post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a result of the pandemic.” She added: “All workers need the appropriate help and support to recover from their experiences and it is essential that employers treat these challenges with the maximum amount of sensitivity. Every worker has been affected differently. The NHS Confederation is recommending that ‘local leaders’ take the initiative on mental health but it is absolutely critical to guarantee workers’ buy in that this is done in full consultation with the relevant NHS unions.”
Unite news release. NHS Confederation news release.

Third driver dies at Covid-hit bus depot

A third First Bus driver has died after a coronavirus outbreak at a Falkirk based depot, one of a number of workplace outbreaks linked last month to an infections spike in the Scottish town (Risks 985). First Bus confirmed Graham Kemp, 68, died in hospital on 22 March after a long battle with the illness. It is understood he had contracted the virus in January when the outbreak first began and had remained in hospital since. Thomas Rooney, 57, was the first bus driver at the depot to die after contracting the virus, succumbing in February. He was described by colleagues as the “heart and soul of Larbert Depot” where he worked, after a 36-year career with the transport company. A fortnight later, it was confirmed that Robert Fraser, another driver based at the depot, had lost his life. Following the latest death, Andrew Jarvis, managing director for First Midland, said: “I can confirm that one of our colleagues, Graham Kemp, has sadly passed away in hospital following a long battle with coronavirus. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his family and friends at this difficult time.” He added: “The safety of our staff and customers is always our number one priority and since the first cases were identified on site, we have worked closely with NHS Forth Valley’s Public Health department to take all necessary steps to minimise the risk of a spread of the infection with the mitigations we have in place.”
Daily Record.



Warning on ‘huge gaps’ in the law over AI at work

The TUC and legal experts have warned that “huge gaps” in British law over the use of artificial intelligence (AI) at work could lead to “widespread” discrimination and unfair treatment at work. A new report - carried out for the TUC by leading employment rights lawyers Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy – says that employment law is failing to keep pace with the rapid expansion of AI at work.  The report says unless urgent new legal protections are put in place, workers will become increasingly vulnerable and powerless to challenge “inhuman” forms of AI performance management. In what it described as an “unprecedented” move, the TUC issued a joint call to tech companies, employers and government to support a new set legal reforms for the ethical use of AI at work. The reforms would include a legal duty on employers to consult trade unions on the use of “high risk” and intrusive forms of AI in the workplace. There should also be a legal right for all workers to have a human review of decisions made by AI systems so they can challenge decisions that are unfair and discriminatory. And there should be a legal right to ‘switch off’ from work so workers can create “communication free” time in their lives. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Every worker must have the right to have AI decisions reviewed by a human manager. And workplace AI must be harnessed for good - not to set punishing targets and rob workers of their dignity.” Report authors Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters said: “There are clear red lines, which must not be crossed if work is not to become dehumanised.”
TUC news release and AI manifesto. Technology managing people – the legal implications, Robin Allen QC and Dee MastersCloisters. A report from the TUC by the AI Law Consultancy, March 2021. Prospect news release. UNISON news release. Computer Weekly. Personnel Today.

Homeworking call centre staff to be monitored by webcam

Thousands of staff at one of the world’s biggest call centre companies face being monitored by webcams to check whether they are eating, looking at their phones or leaving their desks while working from home. Teleperformance – which employs about 380,000 people in 34 countries and counts dozens of major UK companies and government departments among its clients – has told some staff that specialist webcams will be fitted to check for homeworking “infractions”. The Guardian reports that if workers need to leave their desks, for example to have a drink, they will have to click “break mode” in an app to explain why – for example, “getting water” – to avoid being reported for a breach. Eating while on shift is not permitted, staff are told. “If the system detects no keyboard stroke and mouse click, it will show you as idle for that particular duration, and it will be reported to your supervisor. So please avoid hampering your productivity.” The move triggered warnings from unions and MPs about the normalisation of home surveillance by employers as growing numbers of workers move away from being office-based. Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of Unite, said the union would “fight legally and industrially to prevent any push to normalise home surveillance”. Andy McDonald, the shadow employment rights minister, said that particularly when companies were relying on homeworking staff to keep them going, it was wrong to impose “invasive surveillance that will erode their rights to privacy and create a climate of fear and mistrust”. Last month, global commerce union UNI accused Teleperformance of being one of the “pandemic profiteers,” adding its massive profits were made on the back of unsafe work practices (Risks 987).
The Guardian.

Unite campaign for a ‘new deal’ for Amazon workers

A major newspaper and digital advertising campaign to alert Amazon workers to a new Unite confidential whistleblowing hotline has been launched by the union. It says Amazon workers can blow the whistle and expose poor treatment free from reprisals by contacting the hotline freefone or online. The hotline coincides with the launch of the campaign alliance ‘Action on Amazon’ that is demanding a ‘new deal’ for Amazon workers, including a union and a greater share of the firm's enormous profits. The world’s largest retailer increased its permanent workforce by one-third (10,000) in 2020 as well as taking on 20,000 additional seasonal staff. The company almost doubled its profit in 2020 compared to 2019 and Jeff Bezos is now ranked the world’s richest man. But Unite says Amazon stops any attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own. It has failed to join either the United Nations Global Compact or the Ethical Trading Initiative base code – agreements that recognise the right of all workers to a collective voice and that most of the biggest names on the high street have signed up to. Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: “Unite has launched a major ad campaign to alert Amazon workers about a confidential hotline to blow the whistle on poor treatment and working practices. Amazon attacks all attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own. This is why Unite is launching ‘Action on Amazon’ to give Amazon workers a voice, so they don’t have to rely on whistleblowing or calling confidential hotlines.” She added: “Jeff Bezos has become the world’s richest man off the backs of workers who have played a crucial part in so many people’s lives during the pandemic. It is prime time Amazon gave workers the right to be in a union and to do so without interference, bullying and intimidation.”
Action on Amazon Campaign. Call 08000 14 14 61 in the UK or 1800 851 268 for the Republic of Ireland; twitter @ActionOnAmazon and Action on Amazon facebook page. BBC News Online. The Mirror.


Police urged to respect media's right to report at protest

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed concern at the behaviour of some police officers and members of the public towards the media covering recent ‘Kill the Bill’ protests in Bristol. Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said the actions of some police officers marked “an unwelcome departure from the standard of policing which has characterised similar public demonstrations and gatherings in other parts of the UK.” He added: “The NUJ is seeking meetings with the police to discuss the departure from acceptable standards of policing. Accredited media must be free to work without intimidation from any source. We recognise that there has been a tense atmosphere at some gatherings but hostility towards reporters and photographers engaged in public interest journalism cannot be tolerated.” Dooley added: “Media workers have experienced abuse from groups determined to prevent journalists from doing their job. It is vital that those charged with protecting journalists respect the right of the media to record public events. Intimidation is not acceptable from any quarter. The NUJ will be raising our concerns at local and national level. The Avon and Somerset police are obliged to adhere to the same guidelines as colleagues policing public demonstrations throughout the country.”
NUJ news release and guidance on covering protests. NPCC guidance: Working with journalists during Covid-19 outbreak.

Tragedy exposes deadly folly of fire service cuts

There could be further avoidable loss of life unless fire cuts are not reversed, firefighters have warned in a letter to the leader Surrey County Council. The move by firefighters’ union FBU followed a deadly fire on 19 March in which the first fire engine took 14 minutes to arrive. In the letter to councillor Tim Oliver, firefighters said the tragedy and loss of a woman’s life may have been attributable to a series of cuts under the fire service’s Making Surrey Safer Plan. Surrey County Council's own equalities impact assessment for the plan, which accounts for the impact of the changes to frontline service on vulnerable residents, states that the first fire engine should arrive at incidents in Banstead in under 8 minutes. Two fire engines had to be brought in from London to assist the service’s response to the fire, while three frontline firefighters were unable to provide support from Epsom Fire Station as there were not enough firefighters to crew a fire engine, which requires a minimum of four firefighters. Joe Weir, South East FBU regional secretary, said: “The fire at Banstead was a devastating incident and firefighters’ thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of the woman who lost her life. But this tragedy may have been avoidable, had the emergency response been quicker on the night. Sadly, thanks to repeated rounds of cuts, voted through by Surrey councillors and drawn up by the local fire chief, the service is spread too thinly across the county.” He said councillors and fire service managers chose to ignore firefighters’ and residents’ concerns, adding: “Now they must acknowledge that cutting frontline emergency response does not keep people safe, reverse the cuts and properly invest in our fire service to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again.”
FBU news release.

RMT to ballot for action over whisteblower sacking

Transport union RMT will be balloting bus driver members for a strike and other forms of industrial action over the victimisation of its Southampton bus branch secretary. Declan Clune was dismissed for reporting to Network Rail concerns around a bridge being struck by vehicles. The union said alongside the dispute, it will be launching a high-profile media campaign and demonstrations in support of Declan’s reinstatement by the company.  Bluestar, the employer, has denied that it failed to adhere to its own procedure and decided that Declan, in reporting the issue to Network Rail, could have influenced the company’s opportunities for further business. The union said this was “total nonsense.” It added that RMT's national executive committee has “made clear that it considers this matter to be an attack on the foundation of our union structure and on our representatives who come forward to ensure members receive the best possible advice, support and help at work.” General secretary Mick Cash said: “The victimisation and sacking of Declan Clune is a disgrace and Bluestar should reverse this decision.” He added: “Our concerns over the reporting of safety issues will be raised with Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road, Traffic Commissioner, HSE and relevant local authorities. The Southampton District Bus & Coach Branch is supported by the union in the campaign initiatives seeking Declan's reinstatement.”
RMT news release.

Crime survey exposes appalling abuse of shopworkers

Retail trade union Usdaw has again called for legislation to better protect retail staff. The union was speaking out after new figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) revealed that 89 per cent of those working in local shops have experienced some form of abuse, with over 1.2 million incidents recorded over the last year. ACS also found that two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents have seen Covid-related threats to staff around face coverings, social distancing, queueing and age identification. Paddy Lillis, Usdaw’s general secretary, said: “It has been a terrible year, with ACS and Usdaw both finding nearly 90 per cent of shopworkers suffering abuse and Covid safety measures becoming significant flashpoints. Over 104,000 people signed Usdaw’s parliamentary petition on the issue and we are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job.” He added: “The Westminster government has persistently opposed new legislation, offering little more than sympathy and objecting to the Alex Norris protection of shopworkers bill in the House of Commons. However, we had a great result for our members in Scotland, as MSPs voted through groundbreaking legislation to give shopworkers the protection they deserve. We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the Westminster government’s opposition.” The Usdaw leader said: “When retailers and the shopworkers’ trade union jointly call for action, it is time for the police, courts, and crime commissioners and the government to listen and take retail crime seriously.”
Usdaw news release and petition. ACS news release.

DB Cargo fined £200,000 after amputation

DB Cargo has been fined £200,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence that saw a worker lose his arm at the Dollands Moor freight yard in 2018. Terry Currie, then aged 43 and working as a shunter, suffered life changing injuries including the amputation of his right arm, when a freight train collided with his vehicle on a level crossing at the yard on 4 September 2018. The sentence was passed by District Judge Barron at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, following a prosecution by the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). ORR’s prior investigation found DB Cargo had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the movement of people and trains within the yard, and as a result a safe system of work was not implemented to protect workers as they moved around the yard. ORR chief inspector Ian Prosser said: “These were serious failings by DB Cargo to protect its workers and ensure a safe practice of freight train movements. There were clear and obvious risks of serious injury due to the lack of appropriate ways of working.” He added: “Following the accident, DB Cargo has taken action to mitigate risks but had it properly assessed the risk of a collision beforehand, Mr Currie need not have suffered life changing injury.”
ORR news release.


Covid-19 is an occupational disease

Global unions BWI, UNI and PSI have produced a campaign video on the need to classify Covid-19 as an occupational disease. They note: “It's time that we declare Covid-19 an occupational disease. Such a classification will provide workers additional protection against the pandemic and make our workplaces safer and healthier. Workers who contract the virus while at work will be justly compensated and workplaces can implement more preventive measures based on the generation of national statistical analyses from the occupational disease situation of different countries.” The UK continues to lag behind many nations on Covid-19 compensation. The Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) recommended on 25 March against ‘prescription’ of Covid-19 as an occupational disease, so this situation is likely to remain unchanged for some time.
BWI/UNI/PSI Covid video. COVID-19 and occupation: IIAC position paper 48, 25 March 2021.

Is your workplace properly ventilated?

We’re all by now familiar with many of the ways we can help protect ourselves and prevent others from contracting Covid-19 – physical distancing, face masks or coverings, cleaning surfaces, washing hands, getting tested and self-isolating. But safety advocacy group Scottish Hazards says “we now know that an additional and crucial protection is good ventilation: and, by that, we mean taking measures to increase the amount of outside air entering a building.” The group has produced a 7-minute YouTube video. “In this video, we explore means of improving ventilation, and the key questions workers can ask of their employers,” it says.
Scottish Hazards website and video.


Global: ‘Fundamental’ health and safety moves a step closer

A significant step towards making occupational health and safety a fundamental workers’ right has been taken at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Body, an influential committee comprised government, employer and union delegates. On 23 March, governments at the governing body’s meeting overwhelmingly supported a call from worker members to move ahead with the process. It is expected that the decision will be formalised at the ILO Conference in 2022. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “We would like to have seen this year’s ILO conference add health and safety to the list of fundamental rights, but we appreciate the support of governments for it to happen next year. This will mean greater accountability for governments and business for saving lives at work.” She added: “It is all the more important given the terrible toll of the Covid-19 pandemic. Safe workplaces mean greater safety for workers and for the public as well. Clear evidence is emerging around the world that most Covid outbreaks are occurring in workplaces, including schools.” The union-driven move was supported by occupational medicine organisations the Collegium Ramazzini and the Society of Occupational Medicine and leading workplace safety bodies the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH). Unions had success at the ILO Governing Body meeting with another health and safety priority, striking an agreement that a Biological Hazards Convention will follow after occupational health and safety in ILO’s ruling making priorities.
ITUC news release. Collegium Ramazzini statement.

Global: US to seize PPE over labour and safety abuses

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has ordered the seizure of disposable gloves made by Malaysia's Top Glove company. The order said CBP had sufficient information to believe that Top Glove uses forced labour in the production of disposable gloves. Top Glove is the world's largest producer of latex gloves, and exports to 195 countries, including the UK (Risks 978). The US had already banned products from two of Top Glove's subsidiaries in July, but the new ban extends to all disposable gloves from Top Glove factories in Malaysia. Although Top Glove makes personal protective equipment, it was forced to shut more than half of its 28 factories in November 2020 after almost 2,500 employees tested positive for coronavirus. Top Glove had its strongest ever sales, with revenue of $1.3bn in its most recent quarterly results. UNISON, the UK public service union, highlighted the forced labour and safety abuses earlier this year, and called for a new law to prevent UK businesses and public services from sourcing from companies that violate workers’ human rights (Risks 982).
BBC News Online.

Germany: Firms to face justice for safety violations abroad

Germany could force companies to take responsibility for any labour or environmental abuses in their global supply chains. The law, which still needs approval from the country’s parliament, was spurred by a deadly fire in a textile factory in Pakistan and a devastating dam collapse at a Brazilian iron ore mine, both of which had links to German companies. In a bid to prevent repeats of such workplace disasters, Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed on the new rule which provides for companies with annual revenues of 400 million euros (£340m) or more to be fined up to two per cent of that amount if their contractors abroad are found to breach human rights or environmental rules. Companies could also be excluded from public procurement processes in case of violations, the cabinet agreed. “This law protects workers from exploitation across sprawling supply chains and protects human rights across the world,” said German finance minister Olaf Scholz. “In future, it will be clear that 'Made in Germany' also means respect for human rights.” The Lieferkettengesetz - meaning ‘supply chain law’ - obliges companies to track workers’ rights and environmental standards, not just in their own structures but also at their subcontractors or suppliers at home and abroad. Companies will have to verify possible standards violations in their supply chain and take corrective measures. If approved by the parliament later this year, the law will at first apply only to Germany's largest companies with over 3,000 employees, before being expanded to include those with 1,000 employees from 2024. A similar French law covering the country’s largest companies was adopted in 2017.
The Local Germany. India Times.

USA: Proof Amazon knows drivers forced to pee in bottles

A denial by Amazon that its delivery workers have been forced to pee in bottles or poop in bags was shot down last week when a leaked internal memo revealed the company has been aware of the problem for at least several months. Documents provided by employees at Amazon to the Intercept showed that an email sent in May 2020 admonished workers for urinating in bottles and defaecating in bags while on the job. “This evening, an associate discovered human faeces in an Amazon bag that was returned to station by a driver,” the email read. “This is the 3rd occasion in the last 2 months when bags have been returned to station with poop inside. We understand that DA’s [driver associates] may have emergencies while on-road, and especially during Covid, DAs have struggled to find bathrooms while delivering. Regardless, DAs cannot, MUST NOT, return bags to station with poop inside.” The email went on to say: “We’ve noticed an uptick recently of all kinds of unsanitary garbage being left inside bags: used masks, gloves, bottles of urine.” Workers told the Intercept the issue was commonly referred to in internal discussions, with one former Amazon employee telling the publication that drivers are “implicitly forced to do so, otherwise we will end up losing our jobs for too many ‘undelivered packages.’” The bathroom controversy marks the latest blowback surrounding how Amazon treats employees – and its delivery drivers in particular. Last week, Vice reported drivers were being forced to sign “biometric consent” forms to continue working for the retailing giant. Cameras being introduced to vehicles across the US would use artificial intelligence to access drivers' location, movement, and biometric data. 
The Intercept. The Guardian. Vice.



TUC Hazards at Work 6th Edition

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