Employees across the UK worked a record amount of unpaid overtime last year, with over 5.4 million workers putting in around £640m worth for free every week, according to the TUC. The TUC analysis of official figures was published on Work Your Proper Hours Day, 28 February. It shows that the number of people regularly doing unpaid hours at work increased by 331,000 last year to 5.42m – the biggest annual rise since comparable records began in 1998. The proportion of people doing unpaid overtime is at its highest-ever level - 21.2 per cent of the UK workforce - while the average amount of unpaid overtime has also reached a record high of 7 hours 48 minutes a week. Employees across the UK are now putting in around £33bn worth of unpaid hours a year. The TUC believes that while the rise in the amount of unpaid overtime is partly due to there being more people in work – the number of employees rose by 351,000 over the last year – the likelihood of someone having to work extra hours for free is also increasing. Work Your Proper Hours Day marks the first day of the year that those doing unpaid hours effectively start to get paid for the work they do over the course of the year. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The British workforce is often unfairly portrayed as a nation of skivers and shirkers. But the reality is exactly the opposite. Staff across Britain work among the longest hours in Europe – and are not even paid for much of the extra time they put in.” She added: “If there really is much too much work to go round, employers might want to consider taking on new staff. There are 2.3 million unemployed people across the UK who would be glad of the chance.”
The hours worked by teachers have soared under the current government, a Department for Education (DfE) study has found. The embarrassing for ministers findings of the Teachers' Workload Diary Survey 2013, smuggled out on a Friday evening without the usual news release, have led to calls from teaching unions for an urgent reduction in the demands on staff. The DfE survey concluded the average primary teacher is now working nearly 60 hours per week, secondary heads are putting in 63 hours and the average secondary teacher is working nearly 56 hours a week. Christine Blower, general secretary of NUT, said: “This survey shows an astonishing increase in the hours that teachers are working on Michael Gove’s watch. No one enters the profession expecting a 9-5 job, but working in excess of 55 hours a week and during holidays is entirely unacceptable.” She added: “Publication of the DfE findings is timely, coming as it does before talks open between the government and teacher unions. The NUT will be pressing in those talks for serious government action to address this unsustainable workload.” Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, said: “These figures vindicate why the NASUWT lodged a trade dispute on workload with the coalition government in 2011. On this government’s watch, today’s Workload Diary Survey demonstrates a dramatic overall increase in working hours since 2010.” Martin Freedman, director of economic strategy at the union ATL, said: “Under this government, teachers now work longer hours than ever before, which includes the equivalent of one day a week working in the evenings and at weekends. These figures expose Michael Gove's claim that this country's educational achievements would be improved if only teachers worked longer as utter rubbish.”
Ÿ Teachers' Workload Diary Survey, DfE, 28 February 2014.
Ÿ Daily Mirror.
Firefighters have accused the Mayor of London of having “blood on his hands” after a Woolwich pensioner lost his life following a house fire less than two months after his local fire station closed. Maurice Cunliffe, 83, died in the early hours of Thursday 27 February, four days after being pulled semi-conscious from a fire in his flat. Paul Embery, the FBU’s regional secretary for London, said: “Boris Johnson’s closure of ten of London’s vital fire stations has claimed a first victim, and the Mayor now has blood on his hands.” He added: “Firefighters who attended the scene performed magnificently, but when someone is trapped in a fire seconds count, and it’s reasonable to believe the extra time it took to travel a longer distance to reach Mr Cunliffe is likely to have been the difference between life and death. Firefighters have always said these cuts were reckless and would cost lives, but we take no satisfaction in being proved correct within seven weeks of the closures, and even at this stage we would urge Boris Johnson to re-open the stations for the benefit of the communities who desperately need them.” Firefighters says that when they found Mr Cunliffe he was suffering from smoke inhalation but was still semi-conscious, meaning his chances of being saved would have increased had he been pulled from the fire two or three minutes earlier. Woolwich fire station closed along with nine others in the capital on 9 January.
Rail unions have vowed to “go to war” over plans to introduce driverless trains on the London Underground. Transport for London (TfL) has begun a tendering process for what it calls the New Tube for London. The 250 fully automated trains would be for the Piccadilly, Central, Bakerloo and Waterloo & City lines. The plan will form part of a £10 billion upgrade over the next 20 years. London mayor Boris Johnson said: “Much like our Victorian forebears, we will make what was once thought impossible possible when 250 brand new, air-cooled, walk-through trains are introduced to the network. This is a hugely important step in the continued evolution of our world-famous Tube and one that will see an iconic new fleet of trains to keep London and its economy moving.” But Bob Crow, general secretary of rail union RMT, said: “The RMT will not allow Tube safety to be sacrificed on the altar of driverless operation and we are geared up and ready to go to war on this one.” He said comparisons with other driverless train systems, including the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), were not valid. “These are brand new lines” and easier to evacuate compared to the aging Tube network, he said, adding “it’s not going to happen because it’s a Victorian network” (Risks 643). Mick Whelan, leader of the train drivers’ union ASLEF, said introducing driverless Tube trains would lead to “all-out war.”
Public sector union UNISON has attacked the government's ‘obsession’ with sickness rates, after figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that days lost due to sickness absence fell from 178 million in 1993 to 131 million in 2013 (Risks 644). The figures also showed that the differences in absence rates between the public and private sectors have narrowed, and that where you live and work is a far more likely cause of poor health and high absence rates than the sector you work in. UNISON said it is concerned that the more recent falls in sickness absence are being driven by workers' fears of losing their jobs, rather than any improvements in health and safety. The union's head of health and safety Tracey Harding said: “These figures show the folly of this government's obsession with absence rates, rather than focusing on the underlying work-related health and safety issues.” She added: “UNISON supports any initiatives that reduce sickness absence by improving the health of the workers. But if the government really wanted to make a difference it would reverse its policies of attacking the basic principles of good health and safety management on the one hand, and cutting back on public services and jobs on the other.”
A Unite petition signed by thousands of workers was submitted to the Scottish parliament last week, urging MSPs to help restore ‘shattered confidence’ in offshore helicopter safety. The move coincided with a 27 February Scottish parliamentary debate led by MSP Richard Baker, in support of Unite’s ‘Back Home Safe’ campaign. The petition calls for practical improvements to offshore helicopter design, survival contingencies and training and for the implementation of all previous recommendations made by authorities to improve worker safety. Over 3,000 offshore workers have backed the campaign which was launched after four died when their Super Puma AS 332-type helicopter returning from the Borgsten Dolphin platform ditched off the Shetland coast on 23 August. It was the fifth such incident since 2009, together claiming 20 lives. Unite says there is growing recognition among industry stakeholders over the need for urgent intervention, reflected in last month’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report which introduced new measures for flight safety and laid-out a series of recommendations for helicopter operators and the industry to better protect its workers (Risks 644). Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The views of over 3,000 offshore workers cannot be ignored and their collective voice is loud and clear: They want safer helicopter transfers to and from installations in the UK Continental Shelf.” He said: “Five ditchings and 20 deaths since 2009 is an unacceptable failing of health and safety and collectively we have an obligation to ensure we tackle this serious problem, taking every step possible to help offshore workers get back home safe in the future.”
An ‘overdue’ review of asbestos management in schools has been welcomed by UNISON. The Department for Education (DfE) launched the policy review after it was confirmed that children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of asbestos. The consultation, which closes at the end of March, followed extensive lobbying by the Joint Union Asbestos Campaign and the Asbestos in Schools Group - two groups in which UNISON plays a central role. The union says a recent survey of asbestos management in schools conducted jointly by seven trade unions representing teaching and school support staff, found only 8 per cent of respondents had received training or information on how to avoid disturbing asbestos in their school. It said the situation had worsened considerably since a 2010 survey. The DfE call for evidence covers teachers, support staff, asbestos surveyors, consultants, solicitors and people directly affected by asbestos in schools.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has welcomed new guidelines to help protect the retail sector's three million employees from violence, launched this week by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Usdaw general secretary John Hannett also welcomed “the BRC's continued backing for our Freedom from Fear campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.” But he said the union also had to act. “Usdaw wants to see a greater commitment from the government to preventing violence against shopworkers. All too often we see violent criminals getting away with lenient sentences, let off with a caution and worst of all, in too many cases, not even being charged.” He added: “We have particular concerns around the sale of alcohol and the legal obligations placed on shopworkers to police the law. Whether it is ensuring alcohol is not served to minors or refusing to serve those who have already had too much, shopworkers are on the frontline of enforcing licensing laws. All too often that can lead to violence, threats and abuse. Parliament passes these laws, which we support, and expects shopworkers to police them. So we are looking for parliament and the government to provide the necessary protections.”
On 28 February, Amazon’s UK headquarter received an unwelcome delivery of its own. Campaigners handed over a 56,000-strong petition calling on the firm to pay its workers a living wage. Petition organiser Emily Kenway of the Amazon Anonymous campaign explained there were a host of other reasons the global online retailer must change its ways, citing evidence from those who have worked for the company. “Amazon’s 3-points-and-you’re-out disciplinary system comes under fire in many of these testimonies, with points doled out for work-related injuries and traffic accidents,” Kenway notes. She said the “delivery of human misery is calculated with drone-like precision,” with the union averse company “siting warehouses in areas of high unemployment to ensure a steady stream of workers desperate to earn and ready to put up with regular body frisks, constant cajoling to work faster, and monitored toilet breaks.” She said the company plans to double its number of UK warehouses in the next 3 years. “So it’s time for coordinated civil society action. Only by working together, between community groups, grassroots activists, consumer campaigns and trade unions can we force this predatory behemoth to change course.” Last week, US national union federation AFL-CIO published a list of ‘20 Reasons Why Amazon.com Warehouses Are Terrible Places.’ Health and safety abuses dominate the list.
The government’s plan to exempt most self-employed from coverage by safety laws is unjustified and ‘dangerous’, safety professionals’ organisation IOSH has said. The safety body was commenting on clause 1 of the government’s Deregulation Bill, which seeks to remove ‘burdens’ on most self-employed workers by exempting them from health and safety law. IOSH public affairs adviser Andrew Baldwin said the self-employed “aren’t required to notify their premises to the health and safety enforcer; those with fewer than five employees aren’t required to have written policies or written risk assessments; and the self-employed are exempt from the requirements of the Display Screen Equipment Regulations. So where is the burden?” He said: “HSE’s impact assessment failed to identify any such burden, and IOSH has argued since before the Bill was even in draft form, that there’s no burden here. So why put it in?” He said the plan to exempt everyone who’s not on a list of dangerous activities drawn up by the government “is dangerous, because it leaves open the possibility that some self-employed workers will be exempt from the law even though their work activity may pose a risk of harm to others.” The TUC last week said the plan was “frightening” and means those exempted “will have no responsibilities for the health and safety for others and will not be able to be prosecuted, regardless of how dangerous their actions are” (Risks 644).
Ÿ IOSH blog.
An oil worker has died after falling into the water from a North Sea platform. George Bartlett, from Shotts in Lanarkshire, fell from the Taqa’s Harding platform, which is about 200 miles north east of Aberdeen, during “maintenance activity” on 27 February. He was recovered from the sea and flown to Shetland but could not be saved. A Taqa spokesperson said the company was trying to establish the cause of the incident, which happened shortly after 2:15am. Taqa said Harding had 108 people on board, and all other personnel had been accounted for and were safe. Production was being shut down and the number of platform staff was being reduced to 35, it added. “Taqa took the decision to downman out of consideration for the welfare of our people following this tragic incident,” the company said. The 27 February statement added: “Taqa can confirm that a team from the company, along with investigators from Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive, has arrived on the Harding platform following the death of a Taqa employee early this morning.” It said that Taqa will conduct its own inquiry and is co-operating fully with all external investigations.
A major London firm has been ordered to pay more than £250,000 in fines and costs for criminal safety failings after a worker was killed by a large concrete beam during a dangerous lifting operation in strong winds at a hospital construction site. Guilherme de Oliveira, 44, from Portugal, sustained fatal crush injuries in the incident at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford on 10 November 2008. He was working for Bouygues UK Ltd, the principal contractor, as an agency-supplied banksman on an extension project at the hospital. Chelmsford Crown Court heard he was fixing beams across supporting towers to form part of the concrete structure for a new building. The beams were lifted from ground level to the work area by a tower crane. Mr de Oliveira and another banksman climbed the support towers to unhook the lifting chains from the concrete beam, which was some seven metres in length and was due to sit almost three metres off the ground. The beam was lifted into position, but the weather on the day was worsening with increasing wind speeds. Before Mr de Oliviera was able to disconnect the chains on the beam at his side, the wind gusted at such a speed that it exceeded the safe working parameters of the tower crane. As a result, the slew brakes slipped and the crane moved with the wind. The sudden movement caused the crane to swing round with the beam, which caught Mr de Oliveira and crushed him between the beam and an adjacent tower. The wind speed at that time was in excess of 72km/h. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that four tower cranes were in operation at the site, each one fitted with a sensor that measured wind speed and provided warnings at pre-set values: an amber warning at 50 km/h or more and a red warning at 72km/h or more. The system was not being monitored at the time of the incident. Bouygues UK Ltd was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in costs after pleading guilty a criminal breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.
A welder was seriously burned when an open bowl of acetone at a Didcot manufacturing firm ignited. The 38 year-old employee from Oxford, who does not want to be named, was in hospital for a week and needed skin grafts after seriously burning his left leg in the incident at Thames Cryogenics Ltd on 23 January 2012. The firm is a specialist manufacturer of vessels and pipework designed to carry liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen. The open bowl of acetone ignited as he used it to quench a hot work piece, spilling onto and through his trousers as he attempted to move the container outside. An investigation identified that the acetone had been used for this purpose before – despite its highly flammable properties. Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard the acetone was intended for use as a degreasing agent, but that welders also cooled items in the open bowl. The company admitted the bowl had been in place since 1986. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that Thames Cryogenics did not consider the use of large quantities of acetone – some seven litres – in an open container to be an issue, and that 600 litres of acetone were on the premises at the time of the incident. The court was told that inspectors identified numerous issues with the company’s safety management system, which resulted in three improvement notices being served. Thames Cryogenics Ltd was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £4,500 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.
The boss of a County Durham window cleaning firm has been fined for failing to prove he held the legally-required insurance that enables employees to claim compensation should they be injured at work. Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard that Jason Mawson owned and operated a window cleaning business and traded as We-aredale Cleaning. As an employer he was required to insure against liability for injury or disease sustained by his employees resulting from their work. An inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) invited Mr Mawson to voluntarily produce his insurance certificate on a number of occasions but he failed to do so. He also failed to respond to a formal Notice to Produce on 3 September 2013. The window cleaning boss was fined £100 and ordered to pay £755.05 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. After the hearing, HSE inspector Victoria Wise said: “As well as being a legal requirement, Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance offers important protection for employers and employees alike. Without it, if a worker becomes ill or is injured at work, they will not be able to claim compensation from the employer. For employers, insurance covers the cost of legal fees and compensation payouts in the event of a claim by a worker.” She added: “Mr Mawson failed to produce a certificate of insurance and that in itself is a criminal offence. The failure of employers to insure is seen as a serious matter and HSE will continue to take legal action where appropriate.”
One of Europe’s senior trade union health and safety official has said workers should not be taken in by ‘false sentiments’ on Workers’ Memorial Day, as official bodies have no intention of ‘walking the talk’ the rest of the year. Laurent Vogel, senior researcher of the European TUC’s health and safety unit, said: “Death by work is an ongoing reality determined by the pursuit of profit, flexibility, a lack of democracy in the workplace… Deregulation policies are deepening these inequalities.” The Brussels-based safety specialist added: “On 28 April, national and European institutions will wax emotional with solemn pledges to improve working conditions. The other 364 days of the year, they will not be walking the talk. EU health and safety at work policy has been at a virtual ten-year standstill under the two Commissions headed by President Barroso. New legislation has been snarled up in reams of red tape, having to clear impact study hurdles which show that workers’ lives and health are a profitable commodity, that they are not a ‘burden’ on employers.” Casualties included planned directives on work-related cancers and strain injuries, he said, concluding: “Trade union action must turn every day into a 28 April by making working conditions and social equality central to the policy debate. And let us remember the battle cry issued a century ago by the American union activist Mother Jones: ‘Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living’.”
Over 70 labour rights groups and trade unions have signed up to a joint statement calling on global clothing brands that source from Bangladesh to pay into the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund. They say the money will ensure the survivors and families of victims of the devastating collapse receive the much needed support they need. Over 30 Bangladeshi organisations, the Clean Clothes Campaign, 21 Canadian groups and global trade union federations IndustriALL and UNI as well as organisations from across Asia, Europe and the USA put their name to the statement. The first anniversary of the collapse of Rana Plaza which killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured over 2,000 comes on 24 April. The campaigners say US$40 million (£24m) is needed to ensure all those affected receive the support for loss of income and medical expenses they require. To date, seven brands have publicly committed funds to the Donor Trust Fund - El Corte Ingles, Mascot, Mango, Inditex, Loblaw, Bonmarche and Camaieu. The campaigners says the estimated brands linked to Rana Plaza and Bangladesh should pay into the Donor Trust Fund immediately to ensure that much needed payments can be made.
Union members won't be working on 40 new asbestos containing KiwiRail trains until all the deadly material has been removed, rail workers’ union RMTU has said. Some KiwiRail freight services were cancelled after asbestos was found in a paint sample on the China-made trains. KiwiRail said the substance was in the soundproofing compound used in the 40 locomotives, which have been grounded while testing is carried out. RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson said union members wouldn't be operating those trains until all asbestos has been removed. “It's a death sentence,” he said. “The simple fact that we've got a locomotive, brand spanking new, made this century, is actually appalling to have this substance in it.” KiwiRail said the use of asbestos was a breach of contractual specifications for the design and manufacture of the locomotives, which were built by Chinese company Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. KiwiRail said in 2013 it sought and received assurances from the manufacturer that no asbestos was used in the locomotives, following reports of asbestos in Chinese-manufactured locomotives in Australia.
Ÿ MSN NZ.
Ÿ Radio NZ.
Workers injured in a gas leak and a separate deadly gas explosion at a local restaurant in Doha should be given a ‘kafala amnesty’ and the option to change employers or leave the country with their end of service benefits, a global union body has said. The kafala system used in Qatar strips migrant workers of their right to change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has written to the Qatar labour minister requesting the amnesty and the full support of the Qatar government with any compensation claims. Dozens of people were taken to hospital in Doha after a 27 February gas leak at a chemical plant in the industrial area of the city, home to thousands of migrant workers. In a separate incident that day, at least 11 people were killed and 35 wounded in a gas explosion at a city centre restaurant. Workers from Nepal, India, the Philippines and South Asian countries are reported to have been injured in both incidents. “Qatar has been rocked by two tragedies in one day,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of ITUC. “Migrant workers are trapped in Qatar under the strict kafala system. To be injured and trapped in Qatar is even worse. Injured workers face being stuck there without being able to work, without pay, in a country where your employer owns you, sharing a room with 10 grown men recuperating from injuries.” She added: “We are appealing to the Qatari government to grant a kafala amnesty to injured workers giving them the choice to change employers, or to leave the country with their end of service benefit. Workers should be given the full support of the government to pursue compensation claims through the courts for workplace accidents, with fees for translation and court processes waived.”
Workers’ Memorial Day, the biggest event on the union safety calendar, is fast approaching. So, have you sorted your action kit for 28 April? The Hazards Campaign is providing everything from the poster you stick on the wall to the t-shirt you stick on your back. You can: Get hold of your free 28 April posters; get ready to stick your stickers; splash out on a car sticker and forget-me-knot purple ribbons; and slip into a high quality ‘We didn’t vote to die’ or ‘Stop it you’re killing us’ t-shirt. Make sure your event is really something to see!
Posters: free (A3 and A4 available). Stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100, with bigger discounts for bigger orders. Lapel stickers: £1 for a single sticker, £0.50 each for 2-10, and £0.25 each for 11-100. Car stickers: £1 each, £30 per 100. Purple ribbons: £0.30 each, £30 per 100. T-shirts: in s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl. £6. Order from the Hazards Campaign, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD. Tel: 0161 636 7557. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ÿ For news, resources and updates on UK Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 activities, see the TUC 28 April webpages.
The TUC webpages for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2014 are now up, ready and waiting to list your planned activities. This year the theme for the annual event is 'Protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights.' The TUC 28 April webpage notes: “The TUC believes that we should use the day to highlight the need for strong regulation at national, European and global level. We need to stop companies in the UK from benefiting from the lack of health and safety standards that lead to disasters such as the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over 1,100 workers.” It adds: “We also need a strong strategy on health and safety from the European Commission which will raise standards throughout Europe, while in the UK we need an end to the cuts in enforcement and regulation and instead action to tackle the huge number of occupational diseases and injuries.” Among other activities, the TUC will be urging people to contact candidates in the European elections scheduled for Thursday 22 May 2014 to press the case for better workplace health and safety standards.
COURSES FOR January to March 2014
The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is Hugh Robertson
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