The TUC has today (Monday) condemned the government’s appointment of a former employer and business leader to a seat on the board of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that is reserved for a representative of workers’ interests.
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires the Secretary of State to appoint three members of the HSE after consulting organisations representing employees, and three members after consulting employers’ representatives.
However, the government announced today that one of the employee representative seats is to be is to be filled by an employer representative, who has no background representing workers and was not nominated or supported by any bodies who represent workers. This appointment upsets the statutory balance of representation between workers and employers on the HSE board.
In a further failure to accord with the requirements of the Act, only two of the three employee representative appointments made today were advertised, and the government failed to consult with organisations representing workers on any of the three appointments.
The TUC is concerned that the move is the latest in a series of government actions to silence the voices of working people on health and safety at work. Many of the joint industry groups that gave advice to the HSE have been disbanded. And the right of trade unions to nominate members to the board of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority was recently abolished.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government cannot appoint an employer to represent workers. It’s a blatant abuse of rules that are there to ensure a fair balance between workers and bosses.
“The HSE works best when employers and unions work together as equal partners, as intended by the Health and Safety at Work Act. By rejecting the consensus approach, the government is sending out a dangerous signal to bad bosses who put staff at risk by cutting corners.
“Along with the Trade Union Act, it’s a further attack on the ability of trade unions to protect the health and safety of working people.
“Despite this, trade unions will continue to work for the welfare and safety of their members. The best way for people to stay safe and well at work is to join a trade union so that there is a trained health and safety representative on hand when you need it.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Today’s announcement from the Department for Work and Pensions is available at www.gov.uk/government/news/announcement-of-health-and-safety-executive-appointments
- Section 2(3)(b) in Schedule 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 specifies the requirements for the composition of the Health and Safety Executive. It states that “The Secretary of State shall appoint three members after consulting such organisations representing employees as he considers appropriate”. The relevant section of the Act can be found here: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37/schedule/2
- The former employer and business leader who the government has appointed to one of the employee representative positions on the HSE board is Susan Johnson. Ms Johnson retired last year as Chief Executive of the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service. She is also the former Chief Executive of Northern Business Forum, and a former director of the food company Greggs.
- Kevin Rowan, who has also been appointed today to the HSE board, is the TUC’s Head of Organisation and Services. While the TUC welcomes his appointment, it does not detract from the government’s failure to accord with important legislative requirements for balance on the HSE board, and consultation with workers’ representative bodies.
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