Issue date
24 Mar 2015
TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
Number 696 - 28 March 2015
 
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]
 
 

Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

 

UNION NEWS

Unions make a difference on mental health at work

The prevalence of mental health problems among Britain’s workers is as bad as ever, and is being exacerbated by reductions in the funding of mental health services, the TUC has warned. It added that official statistics “confirm a clear link with conditions such as stress generated at work that lead to mental ill health, just as other surveys have reported a rise in the incidence of stress at work.” Writing in the Touchstone blog, TUC’s Peter Purton noted: “Evidently, just having a job – as politicians tell us – is not necessarily good for mental health: it’s necessary to be able to add the ‘good’ in front of the ‘job’ to achieve that outcome.” But he said there is some good news, and that comes in the form of trade union initiatives to prevent work-related mental health problems or to support affected workers in their jobs. The TUC equal rights policy officer wrote: “A seminar the TUC held in February 2015 heard six case studies from unions working in various sectors where successful projects had been negotiated with employers who had been convinced of the value of creating mentally healthy workplaces, or at least to have established policies and procedures that meant that someone with a mental health problem was not automatically driven into the arms of an increasingly oppressive benefits regime where other research confirms that people with mental health issues are the most likely to lose benefits through sanctioning (for actions directly related to their health condition).”  He pointed out that ‘Good practice in workplace mental health’, a TUC report that came out of the seminar, “provides examples of approaches that have been shown to work and that unions can build on and adapt to their own workplaces, preferably persuading the employer of the benefits to everyone of adopting a mentally healthy workplace approach.”

Ÿ  TUC Touchstone blog and report, Good practice in workplace mental health, TUC, March 2015.

Bus driver proved innocent after failed drug test

A Bristol-based bus driver has received compensation from First Bus after proving he didn't take drugs, despite failing a workplace drugs test. Unite member Alan Bailes, who had been employed as a bus driver for more than 22 years, was wrongly dismissed from First Bristol Limited for “gross misconduct” after testing positive for cocaine in a drug test at work. The 55-year-old had another plausible explanation for the result, but his employer wouldn’t listen in what an employment tribunal ultimately condemned as “a flawed investigation”. A Unite-backed legal action secured ‘substantial’ unfair dismissal compensation for Mr Bailes. On the day of the workplace drug test, the veteran bus driver had handled several hundred pounds of cash, which research shows is commonly contaminated with cocaine. In the UK it is estimated that upwards of 88 per cent of bank notes carry detectable traces of the drug. First Bristol Ltd uses saliva tests on its employees to identify whether they have consumed illegal substances. Mr Bailes was not invited to wash his hands before the drug test and had to handle the swabs used to collect his saliva sample both before and after. The fact that he had eaten his sandwiches just before the test increased the chance of hand to mouth contamination. At his own expense, Mr Bailes undertook a hair specimen test proving he had not taken cocaine in the three previous months. However, despite this new independent evidence, First Bristol Limited refused to reinstate Mr Bailes, who had no previous disciplinary record. Mr Bailes said that he and his family had faced a long drawn out struggle and had suffered severe financial hardship. He said: "We've been left feeling stressed, incredibly worried and upset - all for something I didn't do. I'm sure First Bus don't like the fact that the little man took them on and beat them and that they've been shown up at a tribunal. But I was accused of doing something I knew I hadn't done and, with the backing of the union I was determined to fight back. I've learned first-hand the true value of being a union member.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release. Bath Chronicle.

Union issues prison safety ultimatum

The government has been given four weeks to review the failing prison safety system before the prison officers’ union POA takes ‘appropriate steps’ to ensure the safety of prison staff and inmates. The 18 March statement from the union came after the Commons justice select committee found “it is not possible to avoid the conclusion” that changes in policy, including efficiency savings and staffing shortages, “have made a significant contribution to the deterioration in safety”. The MPs’ year-long inquiry into prisons was particularly scathing about the 28 per cent reduction in the number of prison officers in publicly run prisons since 2010, saying it has resulted in severely restricted regimes in the most acute cases, and in turn affected safety. Their report says all the current indicators show there has been a rapid deterioration in standards of safety. “Most concerning to us is that, since 2012, there has been a 38 per cent rise in self-inflicted deaths, a 9 per cent rise in self-harm, a 7 per cent rise in assaults and a 100 per cent rise in incidents of concerted indiscipline,” the committee report noted. In a statement following publication of the justice committee’s findings, POA said it expects “a complete review of health and safety risk assessments and safe systems of work.” It added that if this ‘legal requirement’ is not met, “POA will take appropriate steps to advise all POA members what measures they should personally take to prevent or reduce risks to the health and safety of themselves, other prison staff and prisoners.” The statement continued: “The POA fully endorse the Justice Committee report and believe it is a damning indictment against the Prisons Board for their handling of a failing and dangerous service that places both staff and prisoners’ health and safety in danger.”

Ÿ  POA news release.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Call for tougher sentences for dog offences

Stronger penalties are needed to tackle dangerous dog offences, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has said. The union was speaking at the start of a Sentencing Council consultation on sentencing guidelines for dangerous dogs offences in England and Wales. CWU warned that the risk of dog attacks on postal workers is growing as more parcels and signed-for items lead to front doors being opened. Dave Joyce, CWU health and safety officer, said: “Through the CWU's Bite Back campaign we suggested that penalties for dangerous dogs offences be toughened and brought in line with those for dangerous driving. We're pleased to see these in the proposed sentencing guidelines. These are far more appropriate for the serious nature of these crimes. We also need to see greater consistency in sentencing as there are stark differences across the country which new guidelines will hopefully help level out.” Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, added: “Dog attacks remain a serious occupational hazard for our members and more needs to be done to raise awareness and tackle irresponsible dog owners. The government mustn't take its eyes off this danger area. It's important that consistent, tougher penalties and guidelines are introduced and enforced countrywide.” The Sentencing Council drafted the new guidance for courts after maximum sentences were increased last year. The maximum sentence for anyone whose dog kills a person will increase from two to 14 years. The consultation closes on 9 June 2015.

Ÿ  CWU news release.

Ÿ  Sentencing Council news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Questions remain after firefighter death fine

The firefighters’ union FBU has welcomed the conclusion of a six year fight for justice after the death of member Ewan Williamson, but has warned that the underlying problems that led to the tragedy remain unaddressed. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was fined £54,000 last week after earlier admitting criminal health and safety breaches that contributed to the 35-year-old firefighter’s death (Risks 692). Imposing the fine, Lord Uist said: “I wish to acknowledge and record the courage, dedication and professionalism of Mr Williamson who lost his life in tragic circumstances while serving the public in the course of his duties as a firefighter.” The judge said that, in fixing the financial penalty, he took into account that he was dealing with a public body whose daily business was the prevention of injury and death and preservation of property. In a statement released through their lawyers, the family of Mr Williamson said in the week before he died he had raised concerns with them about the lack of safety training given to firefighters.  Mr Williamson believed this was due to budget cuts, the family statement said. The Crown Office said it would make a decision on whether or not to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry “as soon as possible and following ongoing discussions with Mr Williamson's family.” Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, commented: “Ewan Williamson died in the line of duty, serving his local community. It is unacceptable that this process has taken this long. We need much quicker systems so that the fire service can implement changes immediately to improve firefighter safety.” Roddy Robertson, of the FBU in Scotland, said: “For six years we have been frustrated in raising any of the failings due to the criminal proceedings but we will now take the opportunity to discuss with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service meaningful and lasting ways to change the service to try and prevent such tragic events happening in the future.”

Ÿ  FBU news release.

Ÿ  HSE statement.

Ÿ  COPFS news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

RMT steps up scrutiny of rail crowding dangers

Transport union RMT has said it will step up its monitoring of crowding and safety on both rail and Tube services after a three-year-old fell last week between a train and the platform at Baker Street. The union said the latest incident “raises serious questions about the safety of passengers while top transport bosses repeatedly ignore union warnings” (Risks 695). RMT said will obtain and release internal reports, pictures and video as it increases the pressure for more capacity and an end to job cuts. Commenting on the 17 March incident, which saw the bruised child taken to hospital for a check-up, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said “once again RMT warned that there were dangerous gaps between the platforms and the trains with this rolling stock. This appalling sequence of events exposes the lethal nonsense of cutting station staff on the underground network. The voices and the warnings of staff on both rail and Tube are being ignored by senior managers who we believe are engaged in an orchestrated and politically motivated cover up of the risks and the facts in pursuit of a cuts agenda. That dangerous ignorance has to stop before we have a major disaster on our hands.” The union leader added: “We have seen too often what happens when officials, politicians and authorities conspire to ignore whistleblowers and cover up the truth. RMT will fight to stop that scenario developing any further in our transport services and will step up the pressure through our own independent monitoring.”

Ÿ  RMT news release.

Ÿ  London Evening Standard.

Work injury cost chef her job

A chef who is no longer able to work after suffering serious injuries in a fall at work has secured a £16,250 compensation payout. UNISON member Yvonne Rupp, 62, was working for Avalon Nursing Home in Poole when she tripped on loose flooring in the kitchen and fell heavily on her knee. She cut her hands, injured her back, tore the meniscus in her knee and exacerbated an existing hip injury. The loose flooring had been reported to her employer on a number of occasions before the incident, but managers made no attempt to fix the hazard. Following the fall, Yvonne suffered severe pain in her knee and couldn’t put weight on her left leg. She went on to have extensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy but her injury didn’t heal, and even after surgery to repair the damage to her knee she still hasn’t made a full recovery. She now suffers from chronic pain and restricted mobility, and though she briefly returned to work, she has since been forced to retire because of her injury. Yvonne said: “This was an accident waiting to happen. My employers ignored a reported hazard – health and safety problems don’t just resolve themselves and now I’m permanently injured. On bad days my hip and knee are very painful. My mobility is much worse, and what upsets me even more is that I’ve had to give up my job.” Joanne Kaye, UNISON regional secretary in the south-west, said: “It would have been easy for Yvonne’s employers to address her complaints about the loose flooring in the kitchen. If Avalon Nursing Home had taken basic steps to ensure a safe place of work for Yvonne, the accident would simply never have happened.”

Ÿ  Thompsons Solicitors news release.

OTHER NEWS

Blacklisted agency worker failed by the courts

Building firms that ran a secret and illegal blacklist of workers who were union safety activists have received a Court of Appeal let-off. The test case was brought by engineer Dave Smith, who found it almost impossible to get work after raising safety fears on construction sites. The safety rep for building union UCATT was one of more than 3,000 workers blacklisted for, in his case, warning about issues ranging from asbestos to blocked toilets. The building giant Mowlem, later bought out by Carillion, had admitted in court that Dave was on the blacklist compiled by the industry-run Consulting Association, and so refused him work. But Carillion will not have to pay any compensation because technically Dave worked for an employment agency. “This might be the law but it is not justice,” Dave said after the judgment was given. The 18 March ruling stated that Mowlem “had provided information about the appellant to the Consulting Association between 1997 and 1999; that it was for the purpose of penalising him for taking part in the activities of an independent trade union and acting as a safety representative; and that the provision of this information caused him a detriment”. It added “the evidence against the company was very powerful”. Despite this, the court ruled that Dave was not protected by UK employment law. The judgment also ruled that the Human Rights Act could not be used to support his case. “What is the point of employment law or the Human Rights Act?” Dave said. “Even with mountains of documentary evidence and an admission from the company that they blacklisted me because I was a trade union member who had raised safety concerns, I still cannot win.” He said the case showed “it is time for parliament to change the law.”

Ÿ  Court of Appeal ruling, 18 March 2015.

Ÿ  Daily Mirror.

Ÿ  Blacklist Support Group facebook page.

Blacklisters get off, blacklisted get arrested

Blacklisted workers have vowed to bring an “even bigger crowd” to protest against anti-union practices in the construction industry after a high profile campaigner was arrested during a peaceful demonstration addressed by blacklisted workers and union officials. Blacklist Support Group (BSG) secretary Dave Smith was arrested at the 18 March protest outside the Construction News Specialists Awards dinner at the Hilton Hotel in London’s Park Lane, where they called for the reinstatement a union activist who complained about unsafe conditions on the Crossrail project. Attendees at the black tie event included representatives of Crossrail contractors Skanska and Costain, who recently fired a worker who had raised safety concerns, including the absence of railings on a construction site walkway. Mr Smith, the co-author of new book ‘Blacklisted’, which presents evidence of collaboration between police and construction firms in cracking down on union activity, was the only protester arrested. Labour MP John McDonnell, who is the main sponsor of an early day motion on the covert surveillance of trade unions by the police (Risks 695), tweeted: “Police refusing to tell me where they're holding @DaveBlacklist. His phone is off. Suspicious he was only one arrested at Blacklist demo.” Dave Smith commented: “When multinational construction firms sack our safety reps and collude with the police to blacklist union members, they get away scot free. But if we protest about it, we get arrested.” He was released after being detained for five hours at Paddington Green police station. The BSG secretary was charged with obstructing the highway and his case will come to Westminster magistrates’ court on 27 March.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  Reel News video coverage of the arrest.

Ÿ  John McDonnell MP on twitter.

Ÿ  USi Live.

Ÿ  ‘Blacklisted’ book. Early Day Motion 899, Covert surveillance of trade unions.

Survey probes construction card fraud

Fraud in the construction skills card system is to be investigated by industry bodies. The action comes in the wake of this year’s National Crime Agency prosecution of an organised gang dealing in false identity documentation, including construction and security industry certification cards (Risks 687). The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has now joined forces with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) to conduct an industry-wide survey aimed at assessing the extent of card scheme fraud and card checking procedures on UK construction sites. All workers on construction sites must hold the correct qualifications and training for the type of work they carry out, and have the card to prove it. Braden Connolly, head of product management at CITB, said: “It is essential that steps are taken to stamp out the fraudsters. CITB continues to share intelligence and work with the authorities wherever the evidence suggests criminal activity is taking place.” He added: “The survey will help us better understand the scale of the problem and assist us in tackling it. We hope it will also raise awareness of card fraud and encourage industry to carry out thorough card checks and to report suspect cards to CITB.” CSCS chief executive Graham Wren said: “Unless people use consistent and accurate methods of checking cards to certificate workers’ training and qualifications, the schemes cannot fulfil the roles they were designed for. The smart technology within CSCS cards is a simple and cost-effective way to do this, and we are keen to find out more about how it is being utilised on sites across the UK.”

Ÿ  CITB news release.

Ÿ  UCATT news release.

Union concern at security guard licence fraud

The union GMB has said it is seriously concerned by revelations that thousands of licensed security guards could be working in the UK fraudulently after buying qualifications for cash. A BBC investigation has found some colleges were happy to sit or forge exams for untrained students for a fee. Prospective security guards must sit mandatory exams to get a Security Industry Authority (SIA) card. But an undercover BBC researcher without relevant experience obtained an official SIA licence through the fraudulent process, having been provided answers to the exam and “fast tracked” through the system. GMB, which represents workers in the security industry, said it was “shocked” by the BBC findings. Jude Brimble, GMB national officer for the security industry, said: “If the BBC’s investigation proves to be correct it raises very serious concerns about the security of some of the UK’s most sensitive installations and institutions let alone the safety of individual security guards. Operating in the security industry with a fraudulent SIA licence is a very serious issue that not only undermines the professionalism of the security industry but potentially puts the UK public at risk.” She said the union had campaigned for “rogue operators” to be driven out of the industry, adding: “No doubt the SIA will use all its powers to fully investigate and take the appropriate action, including reporting any criminal findings to the police.” A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC: "We take allegations of malpractice very seriously and any criminal behaviour will be addressed."

Ÿ  GMB news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Skipper jailed after death of diver

A shellfish boat skipper whose criminal safety failings led to the death of a diver off the Scottish coast has been jailed for nine months. Guthrie Meville's boat The Solstice was fishing for razor clams in Largo Bay in the Forth Estuary, when diver James Irvine died on 24 March 2011. Mr Irvine, 42, was found by a police diver lying face up on the seabed with neither of his air supply regulators in his mouth. Melville, 60, was found guilty last month of two criminal safety breaches, and sentenced last week at Stirling Sheriff Court. The Solstice was thought to have been using an unapproved technique known as electrofishing when Mr Irvine died. The technique is designed to make the razor fish rise to the surface of the sandy sea bed by trailing unprotected copper electrodes connected to an electric welder. An expert said the set-up posed a risk of serious injury, with only a few milliamps being capable of stopping a diver's heart. Last month prosecutor Louise Beattie said Mr Irvine was left “truly on his own”, eight metres down in the Forth. During the dive, he had descended as normal, but after some time, the people in the boat were unable to see any air bubbles on the surface of the water from his breathing apparatus, and after looking for some time, contacted the emergency services to report the diver missing. His body was recovered from the seabed by police divers on 25 March 2011. The court heard that Melville, as the master of the vessel and the dive contractor, had failed to assess the risks to the health and safety of James Irvine or provide appropriate supervision and equipment, including a means of communication, and essential safety gear. Melville also failed to ensure there were sufficient people who were competent to take part in the diving project and failed to have a stand-by diver in place to provide assistance to James Irvine in the event of a reasonably foreseeable emergency. The court also heard that Melville had displayed the same lack of regard as far back as April 2005 and as a result exposed a number of other divers to serious risk.

Ÿ  COPFS news release.

Ÿ  HSE commercial shellfish diving guide. BBC News Online.

Toy firm and builder in court over fall death

A builder has been given a suspended jail term and a toy distributor a six figure fine after a worker plunged to his death through a warehouse roof. Craig Gray, 39, had been helping to clear debris from the roof when he fell nine metres through a fragile plastic panel at Halsall Toys Europe Ltd on 19 July 2012. The company and builder David Plant were both prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found no safety measures had been put in place to make sure the work could be carried out safely. Preston Crown Court heard debris had been washing down the roof and into the gutters, causing them to overflow into the warehouse below. Halsall Toys had arranged with Mr Plant, an unemployed builder, for the roof cleaning work to be done, but did not carry out any checks to make sure he was competent. Mr Plant and Craig Gray climbed onto the roof, which covers 36,000 square feet, without any preparatory work or planning having taken place. They failed to use harnesses or any other equipment to keep them safe. The men were four days into the project when Mr Gray stood on one of the clear panels, designed to let in light, which gave way sending him nine metres to the concrete floor below. He died at the scene. Halsall Toys Europe Ltd pleaded guilty to a criminal safety breach and was fined £200,000 plus £10,483 costs. David Plant, 60, was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after being found guilty of a criminal breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. HSE inspector Allen Shute said: “Craig Gray should never have been allowed onto the warehouse roof without being given suitable training and equipment, but both Halsall Toys and David Plant allowed his life to be put in danger.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and work at height webpages.

Suspended jail term over asbestos exposure

A Leeds trader has been given a suspended jail sentence after exposing a household and workers to potentially dangerous levels of asbestos fibres at a home in Bramhope. Clive Raper, 49, trading as Bramley Asbestos Removals, took on a job to remove asbestos insulating board from the garage of a couple’s home despite the fact that he did not hold the legal licence required to carry out the specialist work. He hired a couple of workers to help him but failed to take any of the vital safety measures needed, or implement the tight controls imposed by law, to protect workers, local people and the environment when working with the material. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Raper at Leeds Magistrates’ Court after investigating the incident in July 2011.The court was told Raper accepted the job from the couple knowing he did not have the necessary licence to do the work. He then took on a couple of labourers to help him, neither of whom held licences. He had not used any of the standard control measures that licensed operators employ, such as a protective enclosure, full-face respiratory equipment, negative pressure units and specialist vacuums. The poor standards employed meant that potentially cancer-causing asbestos debris and residue was left, compounding the risk to the homeowners. Clive Raper, trading as Bramley Asbestos Removals, was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay £260 toward costs.

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Metals firm a ‘serial safety offender’

A metals business repeatedly risked workers’ lives by making them use dangerous machines – notching up a shocking 31 enforcement notices for criminal safety breaches in just three months. Sheffield Crown Court was told that Meadowbank Vac Alloys was a serial safety offender. It allowed employees to operate vehicles and plant with category ‘A’ defects, the highest possible level meaning ‘immediately dangerous’, and continued to keep the machines in use even after being specifically prohibited from doing so by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Twenty enforcement notices were served by HSE at the end of May 2012 after a visit by inspectors to the firm’s site in Rotherham. The visit was prompted by a complaint about the condition of the firm’s vehicles. The notices covered safety and health risks ranging from improvements needed to plant and lifting machines to the provision of basic welfare facilities for staff. The court heard that there were a further four visits by HSE in the period to early August when additional enforcement notices were issued. These included seven that banned use of three forklift trucks, three mechanical grabs and a loading shovel that had no brakes. All had category A defects, identified by an independent engineer. Despite numerous extensions of the time granted by HSE for the firm to comply with the enforcement notices, it failed to take the necessary action and workers had to operate the defective machines. During the last inspection, in October 2012, HSE found the dangerous loading shovel still in use and with some 80 hours’ working time clocked up when it should have been idle. In total 31 notices were served between 29 May and Aug 2012 identifying 57 safety breaches. Meadowbank Vac Alloys was fined £36,000 plus £36,000 costs after pleading guilty multiple criminal safety offences. HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham said: “Despite being given ample opportunity, Meadowbank chose to ignore their responsibilities; put workers in danger on a daily basis; defy the law and turn a deaf ear to information, advice and guidance conveyed by inspectors and an independent engineer.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

Two reversing forklifts, two injured workers

Two workers were seriously injured by reversing forklift trucks in separate incidents at a vegetable processing factory in Chicksands, Bedfordshire. The first serious incident at MyFresh Prepared Produce occurred on 15 January 2014 as warehouse team leader Chris Bottesch, 43, was talking to another forklift driver in the goods yard. He sustained multiple fractures to his right leg, hip and foot after being trapped between two forklifts. He was off work for a year, before returning to an administrative role as his injuries meant he was no longer able to cope with the physical demands of his former position. MyFresh was served with an improvement notice requiring it to make changes to protect staff. The notice required improvements to be made by 29 April, however, six days before the compliance date – on 23 April – there was a second incident in the same yard. This time a 44-year-old quality control technician, who does not want to be named, was struck by a reversing forklift truck while inspecting raw material. He suffered a fracture to his lower left leg. The court was told that both incidents could have been prevented had work in the goods yard, principally vehicle movements, been better controlled and managed. MyFresh Prepared Produce Ltd was fined £38,000 and ordered to pay £8,320 in costs after pleading guilty to criminal safety offences. HSE inspector Emma Page said: “Prior to the two incidents, we identified evidence of near misses in the Chicksands goods yard that should have alerted MyFresh to the need to better manage the movement of people and forklift trucks.”

Ÿ  HSE news release.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Bangladesh: Two years on, disaster fund has $9m shortfall

With one month to go before the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, the organisations spearheading the campaign for justice have launched a countdown campaign to remind consumers, governments and major brands that this is still eluding the thousands of workers killed or injured. Global unions IndustriALL and UNI together with the Clean Clothes Campaign are ramping up demands on global brands linked to the disaster to fill an US$8.5 million gap in the funding needed to deliver full and fair compensation to each of the over 5,000 individuals with eligible claims. So far US$21.5 million has been paid into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund through contributions from buyers, the Bangladesh Prime Ministers Fund and other private donors. But it is calculated that at least US$30 million is needed to cover compensation claims. To date claimants have only received no more than 70 per cent of what they are owed, with further payments delayed as a result of the failure of brands to pay the US$8.5million shortfall. The groups say amongst the worst offenders is Benetton, which is yet to pay a penny into the Fund. Others, including Walmart, Mango and The Children's Place, are being singled out for making donations that fall far short of expectations. Other companies still to pay the required amount include Lee Cooper, JC Penny, Matalan and Kik. IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina said: “For an industry that is all about image, the garment brands are taking shockingly long to do the right thing and close one of the most shameful chapters in the history book of the global clothing industry.” He added: “It has been almost two years since this industrial homicide; the victims and their families are owed compensation and the possibility to build a new future.” UNI general secretary Philip Jennings said: “The clock is ticking and we expect to see nothing less than full and generous contributions by 24 April 24 from every brand still to pay. Garment industry brands pride themselves on being trend setters and responding to the fast-changing fashion world. In this case the brakes have been firmly slammed on.”

Ÿ  IndustriALL news release.

Ÿ  UNI news release.

Ÿ  Clean Clothes Campaign news release.

Canada: Public workers demand healthy workplaces

Canadians must be provided better public services delivered by public sector workers in healthy workplaces, unions in the sector have said. Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said the ‘Together for healthy workplaces’ nationwide campaign launched at a 19 March day of action, was the start of a union drive “to negotiate measures for healthier workplaces.” As public sector contracts come up for renegotiation, the unions say cutbacks have led to low morale and an unhealthy work environment. Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said: “This government has done less to ensure healthy, productive federal workplaces than any government in living memory. You need only look at the rise in mental health claims in recent years to see that.” She added: “Public service professionals want only to provide the best possible service to Canadians, but they can only do that when the government cares seriously about fixing toxic workplaces, crumbling federal buildings and ensuring healthy workplaces.” Ron Cochrane, who chairs the employees side in federation contract negotiations, said: “All public service employees have been affected by the government's programme of cuts regardless of classification or union status.  We are determined to work together to turn things around and once again make the public service a good place to work.”

Ÿ  PSAC news release.

Global: Outrage at India’s ‘discredited’ asbestos push

Dozens of prestigious scientific organisations and scientists from around the world have called on India to end its ‘discredited’ efforts to keep chrysotile asbestos outside the scope of a United Nations treaty on toxic exports. A study by India’s National Institute of Occupational Health is being used to support the Indian government’s argument, and concludes there is no evidence that chrysotile asbestos is harming workers in India. It is the key evidence submitted by India in its bid to block listing of the human carcinogen at the Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva in May. The Convention does not ban products, but sets safety standards to promote responsible trade in hazardous substances. “The study has no scientific credibility,” said Philip Landrigan, the president of the Collegium Ramazzini and a signatory to a statement sent to the Indian government calling for it to withdraw the paper. “It is flawed in the design, methodology and interpretation of the results.” Photos in the study show some workers wearing a cotton scarf tied around their face as their only “safety equipment”.  The study also shows workers weaving asbestos cloth. This is one of the most hazardous uses of asbestos. The statement notes that the conclusion of the study “is unacceptable to any credible scientists or scientific community. The world scientific community has overwhelmingly concluded that chrysotile asbestos causes deadly diseases, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung and other cancers, and that it cannot be safely used.” It requests that the government of India “withdraw the NIOH study, which does not hold up to any credible scientific scrutiny and do the right thing by supporting the listing of chrysotile asbestos at the upcoming UN conference.”

Ÿ   RightOnCanada.ca news release and statement sent to the Indian government.

Ÿ  Study of health eazards/Environmental hazards resulting from use of chrysotile variety of Asbestos in the country, National Institute of Occupational Health (India).

Ÿ  Rotterdam Convention.

USA: McDonald's workers told to put mustard on burns

McDonald’s workers are filing official health and safety complaints in 19 cities in the US after suffering burns that some were told to treat with mustard, mayonnaise or other condiments. The official health and safety regulator OSHA has launched an investigation in response to 28 worker complaints stating workers often suffered burns, some of them severe, under pressure to filter oil for recycling while it was still hot, and from exposure to grills. The restaurants in question are a mix of franchises and directly-operated restaurants.  The complaints also allege inadequate or missing first aid and protective equipment. Some workers suffering from burns were told by managers to treat their injuries with various condiments. Fight for $15, a fast food trade union fighting for better pay and conditions, has spearheaded the campaign with a graphic video showing McDonald’s workers pouring hot fat into bins lined with plastic bags and filled with ice. Fight for $15 says that one-third of fast food workers who have sustained burns have been told to treat themselves with mustard. Reports say four in five fast-food workers have been burned on the job in the past year, according to a Heart Research survey of 1,426 adults working at a variety of fast-food restaurants. McDonald’s said in a statement that it would review the allegations. It added that the company and its independent franchisees were “committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald's Brand US restaurants.”

Ÿ  Fight for $15 petition and 'Burned at McDonald's, Treated with Mustard' video.

Ÿ  UF news report.

Ÿ  The Independent.

TUC COURSES FOR SAFETY REPS

Courses for 2015

Ÿ  Course dates now appearing at www.tuceducation.org.uk/findacourse/

 

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