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TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 627: 19 October 2013

Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy

Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at


Call for stiffer penalties for shop assaults

The leader of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw has called on MPs to introduce an explicit offence of assaulting a worker serving the public. John Hannett wants MPs to support an amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill that would extend existing protections for police officers and Scottish emergency service workers to all workers serving the public, by making the assault of a worker serving the public an offence in its own right. Sentencing guidelines currently say assaulting a worker is an aggravating factor, but Usdaw says there are concerns this is not being applied in the courts. Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “There is a real need to address the scourge of workers being assaulted. I am concerned that assailants are getting away with relatively lenient sentences. We want a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.” The Usdaw call came on 14 October, a day before the brutal death at work of butcher Parvaiz Iqbal. The 40-year-old was attacked with a machete at his shop in Eastwood, Rotherham. 

Usdaw news release. Get your MP to vote for the amendment.

Top Tory calls for gangmaster clampdown

David Cameron should listen to Conservatives in the capital and extend protection from abusive gangmasters to workers in hospitality and construction, site union UCATT has said. The union was speaking out after Andrew Boff, the leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly, published a report supporting an extended role for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). The party nationally has instead reduced the powers of the watchdog, which now has a more limited ‘light touch’ regulatory role restricted to the food sector. Mr Boff’s report, ‘Shadow City: Human trafficking in everyday London,’ highlights the use level of human trafficking in industries using a casual labour. The report recommends: “The mayor should call for the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) to be extended into the hospitality and construction sectors so that it effectively tackles labour trafficking in London.” Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: “This highlights the dysfunctional nature of the Conservatives. On the one hand the out of touch government is reducing the powers of the GLA. While on the other leading Conservative politicians are rightly calling for an extension of its powers to areas such as construction.” He added: “There is growing evidence about the level of exploitation that exists in the construction industry. The common sense solution to end exploitation is for the GLA to be extended to construction as soon as possible.”

UCATT news release. Greater London Authority news release and full report, Shadow City – Exposing human trafficking in everyday London.

‘Grave concerns’ over stand-in fire staff

East Sussex firefighters have expressed “grave concerns” over breathing apparatus training for stand-in staff scheduled to work during planned strike action. Worries about poorly trained staff being required to don breathing apparatus emerged during earlier strike action. Firefighters’ union FBU says it is frustrated with a lack of progress from East Sussex Fire Authority. It is to raise its concerns with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). FBU East Sussex chair Simon Herbert said: “Wearing breathing apparatus is one of the most hazardous activities that a firefighter can undertake and sending out crews that have not proved competence in the use of them is ludicrous.” East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has told local FBU reps that stand-in staff, many of whom may not have worn breathing apparatus for many years, have undertaken one day’s refresher training. In keeping with long-standing national and local standards, the Health and Safety Executive recently issued recommendations that re-enforced the need to maintain and prove competency in the use of breathing apparatus. FBU says photos have appeared on social media sites showing one stand-in wearing breathing apparatus wrongly with incorrect personal protective equipment and incorrect safety systems in place. FBU’s programme of industrial action is over “unsafe, unfair and unworkable” pension proposals by central government.

FBU news release.

Ambulance strike warning over sick pay cuts

The ambulance service in England could face strike action unless dramatic sick pay cuts for staff are reversed, the union GMB has warned. The union’s Central Executive Council (CEC) this week authorised an official strike ballot, noting the decision moves the ambulance service a step closer to a national dispute. The executive decision means GMB negotiators have authority to proceed to an official strike ballot “unless there is progress in discussions with employers who imposed cuts to sick pay by up to 25 per cent for 35,000 ambulance workers in England from 1 September.” The union says the nature of the job means that ambulance staff have higher sickness rates and that, if they struggle into work when sick, they risk exposing vulnerable patients to infections. A GMB spokesperson said: “A full report was given to CEC from the national negotiators on this dispute. CEC has now given has given authority for the negotiators to proceed to an official strike ballot unless there is progress in discussions with employers. This moves us a step closer to a national dispute in the ambulance service in England as the CEC was told that the other unions (Unite and UNISON) are likely to adopt a similar stance to that of GMB.”

GMB news release.

UCATT welcomes reform of site skills scheme

Construction union UCATT has welcomed plans to amend an abused site skills scheme. From July 2014, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) is to reform its green card so people applying for or renewing the entry level green (labourers) card will be required to complete a level 1 vocational qualification in health and safety. UCATT says the reforms are necessary as the green card, which is easier to qualify for than other CSCS cards and so provides easy entry to construction sites, has been abused. Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: “We welcome the CSCS reform of the green card scheme. This will help to ensure that workers have the right card for the right job. This will be a major step forward in achieving a 100 per cent qualified and competent workforce.” He added: “Ensuring that workers are fully competent and have the right card for the work they are undertaking is a major factor in improving construction safety.” It is estimated that the additional training required will cost £25 to £50 per person. However experienced green card holders may not require any additional training or just minimal training, before sitting the test. The green card has to be renewed every five years.

UCATT news release and background information.

AMEC ‘should apologise’ over blacklisting

The union GMB has condemned construction giant AMEC's failure to apologise for its involvement in an illegal blacklisting scandal. It says AMEC should join Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci, who last week apologised for their involvement with the blacklist and announced the creation of The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme. GMB has accused AMEC of denying the extent of it role in blacklisting when it was bidding for work at Sellafield. GMB’s Chris Jukes said: “To win contracts in what is a captive market from the public purse while clandestinely engaging in blacklisting of ordinary working people is scandalous. GMB condemn AMEC's failure to apologise. It has been proven that a number of parts of the AMEC business were involved in illegal blacklisting.” The senior organiser added: “The days of ripping off the public purse with false commitments should be over. On blacklisting AMEC are in complete contradiction to what they said when originally bidding as part of the consortium for Sellafield work. Shame on them. It is time for AMEC to come clean, apologise and compensate for what they have done.”

GMB news release.

Cross-party support for union blacklisting campaign

A Conservative MP has backed the union campaign against blacklisting and supported calls for compensation for affected workers and a bar on public sector contracts for blacklisting firms. Stephen McPartland, the MP for Stevenage, told the House of Commons on 16 October that he and the Labour MP for Luton North, Kelvin Hopkins, will shortly contact the 44 firms that paid to access the blacklist held by The Consulting Association. The Tory MP told the Commons: “I am not a member of any union, but with, I hope, the support of the GMB union and the hon. Member for Luton North, we will launch a cross-party campaign to contact the 44 construction companies that were involved in that blacklisting database, the idea being to ask them to apologise and to provide compensation. What we would ultimately like is for no one in the government or local government to provide them with any public sector contracts or money until they have taken those actions.” McPartland, who joined Labour MP Glenda Jackson in calling blacklisting a “disease”, added: “Blacklisting is completely wrong – not only did it destroy the individual but also their families. We are going to launch a cross-party campaign with the help of the GMB union to contact these 44 firms. We will be asking these 44 to come clean and we will be contacting their shareholders. The campaign is designed to win justice for those who have been blacklisted.” The parliamentary debate came after confirmation last week from the Independent Police Complaints Commission that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police collusion in blacklisting has identified that it is “likely that all special branches were involved in providing information” that kept individuals out of work.

Blacklisting debate, Hansard coverage for 16 October 2013. The Observer. Morning Star.


Business leaders deliver deregulation ‘whine-fest’

A Business Taskforce created by the prime minister to examine the impact on business of Europe regulations has delivered the expected ‘whine-fest’, the TUC has said. Commenting on the publication this week of ‘Cut EU red tape: report from the Business Taskforce’, produced by a group of six business leaders hand-picked by David Cameron, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said: “The report is exactly what you would expect if you are going to ask business leaders to write a report on regulation. It recycles everything we have heard before, this time with the addition of unsubstantiated costs which ignore the benefits that strong regulations bring. A whine-fest in other words.” The report, which was warmly welcomed by the prime minster, noted - without presenting supporting evidence - that “problematic, poorly-understood and burdensome European rules” slowed production, job creation, sales and innovation and left Europe trailing international trading rivals. Health and safety topped the list of recommendations, calling for smaller businesses to be exempted from the requirement to keep written records of risk assessments. “Well, as small businesses with fewer than five workers do not have to keep written risk assessments at the moment presumably they are talking about much bigger businesses,” TUC’s Hugh Robertson commented. “They do however say that removing the requirement to write down health and safety risk assessments could save businesses across the EU some €2.7 billion (£2.3m). This is nonsense. It will increase the cost by driving up injuries and occupational illnesses.” He added: “According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the cost to society of these injuries and illnesses was £13.4 billion. Many of these injuries were in the very kind of company that the Business Taskforce now wants to exempt. The government and the EU needs to be increasing compliance with health and safety legislation to reduce the huge number of injuries and illnesses caused through work, not reducing it. Let’s have an EU strategy on health and safety that addresses the actual problems and plugs the gaping holes we have, not which adds a few more.”

Stronger Unions blog. BIS/Prime Minister’s Office news release. Cut EU red tape: report from the Business Taskforce.

'Red tape' deregulation call is ‘wrong’

The government-commissioned report by business leaders on ‘EU red tape’ is wrong to label health and safety as a threat to small firms, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the Hazards Campaign have said. The ‘Cut EU red tape’ document highlighted what it described as the ‘30 worst threats to small firms’, with written risk assessments topping the list. Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, said: “In this latest report, we’re concerned that once again health and safety is misunderstood and wrongly labelled as a hindrance to business – whereas research shows that positive feelings about work are linked with higher productivity, profitability and worker and customer loyalty.” He added: “In terms of economics, we understand that at least one European employer body (UEAPME), while supporting simplification, has opposed general exemption from health and safety laws for small firms because of fear it would create a two-tier system in the internal market and be detrimental to their members.” A statement from the Hazards Campaign described the report as “just another lazy, unevidenced, deadly demand by vested business interests, without consulting any representatives of those harmed by work, to legitimise bad work.” It added: “Like a bunch of demented Daleks, six business leaders are rolled out to repeat the same ludicrous robotic mantra: ‘Deregulate, Deregulate, Deregulate!’…  we say Regulate, Regulate, Regulate, we love red tape and we want a health and safety system with workers at its centre that is good for all!’”

IOSH news release. Hazards Campaign news release.

‘We love red tape’ facebook page.

McVey loses safety brief after concerns are raised

The new employment minister Esther McVey has been stripped of health and safety responsibilities after it emerged she had been the director of a demolition firm linked to criminal safety breaches.  Esther McVey, who was switched on 9 October from disabilities minister to employment minister, was a director of her father’s firm JG McVey & Co Ltd from February 2003 to March 2006. In July 2003 safety inspectors ordered work to stop at a demolition site in Liverpool after they spotted McVey employees working on scaffolding without any edge protection. In September of the same year inspectors again halted work at the firm’s demolition site as two employees were caught working at on scaffolding without edge protection. Inspectors also found a worker using a chainsaw without suitable personal protective equipment. In both cases inspectors served immediate prohibition notices, which are only issued when there is a ‘risk of serious personal injury’. McVey was expect to take on the safety brief - the employment minister portfolio was given the health and safety role in 2010. Both the former incumbents - Chris Grayling and Mark Hoban - had responsibility for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). After Environmental Health News raised concerns with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about criminal safety breaches identified during the minister’s tenure as a director of the company, the DWP amended its website, switching responsibility for the HSE from McVey to the disability minister Mike Penning. In comments on his appointment, Penning made no mention of the workplace or safety. As of 17 October, over a week after the reshuffle, Esther McVey was still listed as the responsible minister on DWP’s safety webpages.

DWP news release and webpages on the responsibilities of ministers Mike Penning and Esther McVey. DWP safety webpage. EHN Online.

Call for a preventive cancer action plan

A coalition of environmental and safety groups and unions says the government and the cancer establishment must introduce a new and comprehensive ‘Cancer Action Plan’ if they are to address needless deaths from occupational and environmental cancers. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention’s report says existing strategies are “grossly outdated”, adding: “Despite gains in treatment and detection still almost 900 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK and about half that number will die from the disease each and every day.” The alliance says the new plan must give explicit attention to “environmental and occupational risk factors for breast and other cancers with targeted actions for those risk factors and specifically allocated funding.” Current cancer strategies and plans target lifestyle factors but not ‘life circumstance’ factors, like the jobs people do and the environment in which they live. The alliance points out that 26 different cancers have been linked to occupational and environmental exposures. Recommendations include incorporating environmental and occupational risk factors in all cancer plans and strategies, with definitive targets for action and appropriate funding allocated. Other recommendations include the phase out of all IARC classified Group 1 proven human carcinogens and Group 2A potential carcinogens.

Alliance for Cancer Prevention news release and background document.

Employers not doing enough to address stress

Stressed workers are suffering in silence and employers aren’t doing enough to tackle stress, according to new figures from Mind. The mental health charity’s survey of over 2,000 workers found 45 per cent of those polled said that staff are expected to cope without mentioning stress at work and almost a third (31 per cent) said that they would not be able to talk openly to their line manager if they felt stressed. Mind also found a huge difference in the perceptions of managers and their staff about how mental health is addressed in the workplace. Only 22 per cent of workers felt that their boss takes active steps to help them manage stress. Many managers, however, seem to think that they are doing enough to support staff, with over two-thirds (68 per cent) saying that they would find ways of helping staff who were stressed or experiencing a mental health problem. Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “These figures show that stress remains the elephant in the room in many workplaces. It also highlights the worrying disparity between how managers and other members of staff view their organisation’s approach to mental wellbeing. It is vital that managers are equipped with the tools they need to be able to confidently and effectively support their staff, whether they are experiencing stress or mental health problems as a result of work or other factors. He added: “There is a real danger that companies are neglecting workplace mental health, with huge implications for staff wellbeing; not to mention productivity, motivation and sickness absence.” Public sector union UNISON has produced a suite of new campaign materials on a ‘Cut stress, not jobs’ theme.

Mind news release. UNISON ‘Cut stress, not jobs’ campaign resources.

Worker crushed to death on dry dock

A ship repair worker was crushed to death when an anchor weighing almost three tonnes toppled onto him in a dry dock at Teesport. Kevin Watson, 51, was one of three men working for ship repair and conversion company A&P Tees Ltd on a sand dredger in the dry dock when the incident happened on 11 February 2009. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the Hebburn-based firm for serious criminal safety failings. Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Watson and his colleagues were ranging anchors on the dredger to lay out chains ready for inspection. Despite several attempts, they were unable to get the starboard anchor to lie flat on the bottom of the dock, so left it in an upright position for almost half an hour while they worked on the chains. When Mr Watson later attempted to pass a chain sling under the anchor in order to manoeuvre it into a flat position, the anchor fell towards the vessel and landed on top of him. He died as a result of multiple crush injuries. The HSE investigation found that while he was trained to operate a dockside portal crane, he had no formal qualifications in lifting and slinging of loads. It was also unclear how many times he had undertaken the ranging of anchors and chains before the fatal incident. The company did not have an effective management system in place to inform supervisors and others of employees' competence. In addition, A&P Tees Ltd had not carried out or recorded an assessment of the risks associated with the ranging of anchors and chains, and there was no safe system of work in place for this task. The court was told that following the incident an improvement notice was served for the implementation of a safe system of work for the ranging of anchors and chains, as well as a system for assessing the competence of those required to carry out the task. A&P Tees Ltd was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £23,500 in costs after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to a criminal safety offence.

HSE news release.

Bulldozer driver was crushed to death

A Surrey company has been fined for criminal safety failings after a contractor was crushed to death at the London Gateway Port construction site in Essex. Robert Noel Mayne, known as Noel, from Tichfield in Hampshire, died as he and colleagues tried to retrieve a bulldozer that was bogged down in mud at the Stanford-le-Hope development on 23 April 2011. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Dredging International (UK) Ltd, which controlled operations at the site, failed to plan and execute a safe recovery of the stricken machine. Basildon Crown Court heard that Mr Mayne was carrying out land reclamation work in the early hours of the morning when the bulldozer he was using became bogged down in water-logged silt that was being piped ashore by a dredger. The 59-year-old used his mobile phone to request assistance from the driver of a nearby excavator. He had left the cab of the bulldozer and was standing on a platform step while the excavator reversed towards him in order for him to hook a steel tow rope from the bulldozer onto a tooth of the excavator’s bucket. The court was told that as the excavator driver turned the vehicle so the arm and bucket was towards the rear of the bulldozer, Mr Mayne was seemingly struck by the bucket. He was found lying partially submerged in water behind the bulldozer. He died at the scene as a result of extensive crush injuries to his chest and upper torso. HSE found that Dredging International (UK) Ltd had failed to draw up safe working procedures for the recovery of bogged down vehicles - despite the entirely foreseeable risk that this type of incident would occur. The firm was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £26,473 in costs by 30 November 2013, after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.

HSE news release and construction webpages.

Three guilty in trench collapse death

The director of a Hertfordshire building company and the co-owners of a south London property undergoing conversion have been sentenced for their criminal safety failings after a worker was killed in a trench collapse. Xian Hou Ye, 56, was crushed and suffocated by nearly nine tonnes of soil at the property in Lewisham, on 30 September 2010. Woolwich Crown Court heard he was one of a group of workers contracted by HMB Services Ltd and company director Vijay Patel to convert an existing three-storey property into nine flats. The property was co-owned by brothers Mukesh Shah and Kiran Shah, who appointed HMB Services and Mr Patel as the principal contractor to oversee the project. As part of the works, a large trench had been dug out that was approximately seven metres long, between one to two metres wide and almost three metres deep. This was being extended at one end at a 90-degree angle to form an L-shape. A digger was helping to shape the extension whilst Mr Ye was working in the deeper existing section. As work progressed, the inside corner of the L-shape caved in and buried him under approximately 8.7 tonnes of earth. He died at the scene despite frantic efforts to dig him out. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found the trench was inadequately supported with sheets of plywood and timber props. This was a failing on behalf of both HMB Services and Mr Patel, who were responsible for the work, and clients Mukesh and Kiran Shah, who should have ensured their principal contractor was competent to carry out the project in a safe, properly planned manner. Mukesh Shah and Kiran Shah were each convicted of criminal breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. Mukesh was fined £40,000 with costs of £34,750. Kiran was fined £25,000 plus £34,750 in costs. The brothers were told they would be jailed if they failed to make the necessary payments. Vijay Patel was ordered to undertake 270 hours of community work after pleading guilty to a single criminal breach of the same regulations. The court ruled he had no means to pay a fine or contribute towards costs. HMB Services Ltd, of the same address, is now dissolved so the company avoided prosecution.

HSE news release and excavations webpages.

Firm fined after worker suffers severe caustic burns

A Warwickshire company that manufactures car components has been fined after a worker was burned by caustic soda while leaning over a conveyor. The operative required skin grafts to his stomach as a result of the incident at Grupo Antolin Leamington Limited on 25 January 2012. Nuneaton Magistrates' Court heard the man, from Leamington Spa, was working on a spray line as part of a process for manufacturing car headliners. The headliners, which form part of a car's roof interior, are made up of a number of layered components glued together to form a 'sandwich'. Adhesive is applied onto the individual layers as they pass through a sprayer machine on a conveyor. The machine includes a reservoir containing a solution of caustic soda, also known as sodium hydroxide, which is used to soften the adhesive that builds up on the conveyor, allowing it to be scraped off more easily. The operative's job required him to remove the components from the conveyor as they left the spray machine. However, the size and shape of the headliners meant that he and others had to lean over the conveyor to lift them off the line and then support them on their abdomen to transport them to the next part of the process. It was during this process the victim's stomach came into contact with the caustic soda. It was only when he got home that he noticed his skin was black. He returned to work and informed his shift manager, who arranged for him to go to hospital where his skin was irrigated with water to neutralise the alkali. However, the damage sustained was substantial and he subsequently required skin grafts. Grupo Antolin Leamington Limited pleaded guilty to a criminal breach of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 between 24 June 2010 and 25 January 2012 and was fined £12,000 plus £9,900 costs.

HSE news release.

Agricultural firm fined for chemical asthma risks

A Lincolnshire agricultural machinery manufacturer has been fined after employees were put at risk of developing asthma through the spraying of a hazardous chemical. Grantham Magistrates' Court heard that Marston Agricultural Services Ltd allowed trailers to be sprayed with isocyanate-containing paint without fully assessing the potential dangers and implementing adequate controls to protect workers from the chemical. The failings came to light after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) made an unannounced visit to the company on 20 June 2011. Inspectors found the isocyanate-containing paint was being sprayed in large quantities and that the respiratory protective equipment and spray booths were not being used correctly. The court was told that although staff were provided with personal protective equipment, the overalls were ripped and the gloves were not suitable to prevent the chemicals breaking through to infiltrate clothing and skin. The hygiene facilities provided for staff were also found to be in an extremely unhygienic condition, so much so that employees were reluctant to use them. The facilities included an emergency shower that had been broken for years. Marston Agricultural Services Ltd was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £13,420 in costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence.

HSE news release and isocyanates guide.


Australia: Workers need more protection, not less

A toll of over half-a-million workers injured and thousands killed each year in Australia shows the need to strengthen not weaken workplace safety regulation, the country’s top union body has said. National union federation ACTU points to statistics showing each year 600,000 workers are injured – 127,000 of these seriously – costing Australia more than $60 billion (£36bn) annually. ACTU president Ged Kearney said: “This raises serious questions about workplace safety at a time when the government is seeking to further diminish the ability of workers to speak up for themselves in their workplaces.” Speaking after a new coalition government that has promised to remove employment protections took office, she added: “Thousands of workers are injured or killed from preventable factors and that tells us we need to be much more vigilant, not less which is the direction we are heading. There are not enough inspectors and they are unable to visit anywhere near the number of workplaces required. Fines and prosecutions are extremely low compared with the number of injuries and deaths.” New figures from Safe Work Australia reveal that in 2011-12 only 417 employers were prosecuted for breaching OHS laws resulting in just $22 million (£13m) in fines. The union leader was speaking on the eve of the ACTU’s national Occupational Health Safety and Workers Compensation Conference, where delegates discussed the next 1,000 days and how to tackle significant workplace safety issues and barriers. “We must urgently act to save lives and stop injuries,” she said. “Employers, governments and unions must work together to ensure safety is at the highest level in our workplaces because we can do a lot better than we currently are.”

ACTU news release.

France: Thousands stage ‘die-in’ over asbestos risks

Thousands of people staged a “die-in” in Paris on Saturday 12 October over the failure by authorities to clear workplaces of asbestos. The protesters from all over France lay down in the street outside Sorbonne University in Paris’ Latin Quarter to illustrate dramatically how asbestos exposure claims 3,000 lives per year in the country. They had kicked off the march at the Tour Montparnasse, one of the city’s few tall buildings, where inspectors have repeatedly found levels of asbestos contamination exceeding allowable levels. “Ten deaths each day, with no one held responsible or found guilty,” one poster read; “For criminal proceedings on asbestos” read another in the march that ended at Paris’s main courthouse. The National Association of Victims of Asbestos (ANDEVA) called the march, which was headed by relatives of victims of asbestos exposure, mainly widows holding pictures of their husbands. The protest aims to “show the public and political officials that the victims of asbestos are still waiting for criminal proceedings,” ANDEVA said in a statement. “It has been 17 years since we submitted the first complaints, and there has still not been a criminal trial,” ANDEVA vice president Francois Desriaux told AFP. “The asbestos risk is not ancient history, it still exists today,” he said.

Google News. Raw Story.

Japan: Fukushima cleanup takes its toll

Almost three years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown, the human cost of the industrial cleanup is becoming evident. With each successive accident and radiation leak, the men working inside the plant are suffering from plummeting morale, health problems and anxiety about the future, according to insiders interviewed by the Guardian. Even now, at the start of a decommissioning operation that is expected to last 40 years, the plant faces a shortage of workers qualified to undertake the dangerous work that lies ahead. The hazards faced by the nearly 900 employees of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and about 5,000 workers hired by a network of contractors and sub-contractors were underlined this month when six men were doused with radiation-contaminated water at a desalination facility. The Guardian reports that sources with knowledge of the plant and health professionals who make regular visits believe the flow of bad news is sapping morale and causing concern, as the public and international community increase pressure on Japan to show demonstrable progress in cleaning up the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Jun Shigemura, a lecturer in the psychiatry department at the National Defence Medical College, heads of a team of psychologists that counsels Fukushima plant workers. He is most concerned about the 70 per cent of Tepco workers at Fukushima Daiichi who were also forced to evacuate their homes by the meltdown, and are separated from their families. The plant is suffering staffing shortages, and there is little it can do about the departure of experienced workers, forced to leave after reaching their radiation exposure limit. Tepco documents show that between March 2011 and July this year, 138 employees reached the 100-millisievert [mSv] threshold; another 331 had been exposed to between 75 mSv and 100 mSv, meaning their days at the plant are numbered.

The Guardian.

Global: Union put companies on notice over Qatar

Trade union leaders from 58 countries meeting in Brussels last week for the annual general council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) put companies on notice that failure to address abuses of workers’ rights in Qatar will lead to more deaths and injuries. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said the abuses of workers in Qatar, where one worker dies on average each day, and FIFA-inspired changes to labour laws in Brazil and Russia are high priorities for the governing body of the world’s trade unions. “The Qatar authorities are in denial about the treatment of workers on their own doorstep and will not take responsibility for the ongoing mistreatment of workers. The legal and political solutions that would give workers their rights, and create the conditions for a safe World Cup in 2022 are easily available to the government of Qatar,” said Sharan Burrow. “The World Cup is becoming notorious for exploitation of workers, in Qatar, in Brazil and now with an unprecedented new law in Russia.” She added: “FIFA itself needs to take responsibility to ensure that that the people who deliver the facilities and services are protected, not exploited.” The ITUC has launched a global campaign calling on FIFA to re-run the vote for the 2022 World Cup unless Qatar reforms its track record in labour rights.

ITUC news release. Re-run the Vote campaign.


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