Issue date
24 Apr 2014
TUC Risks E-Bulletins

Number 651 - 26 April 2014

 
Asbestos - the hidden killer Hazards magazine Hazards at Work

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Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]

Contents

Union News

OTHER NEWS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Events and Courses

TUC courses for safety reps

Union News

The corrosive truth about the government’s safety record

The government’s “toxic, corrosive and hazardous” record on health and safety has placed workers at risk and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in jeopardy, the TUC has warned. The union body’s evaluation finds that since the coalition came to power in 2010, HSE has suffered a funding cut of over 40 per cent and has seen its independence “undermined”. It adds that HSE’s occupational health functions and official safety inspections have been “drastically cut”, new regulations have been blocked and some existing protections removed, reporting requirements have been undermined and access to compensation for work-related injuries and illness has been restricted. TUC’s report, launched ahead of the 28 April International Workers’ Memorial Day, warns these changes “are having, and will continue to have, a significant effect on the health of workers.” The report concludes: “The question is whether the HSE, and our health and safety system, can survive a further period of cuts, deregulation and political neglect or abuse. There must be a real concern that we are close to losing the workplace culture and consensus on safety that has existed in Britain for so many decades, and the results of that loss could be disastrous.” TUC says there “must be a sea-change in our attitude to health and safety if we are going to stop this massive health problem that costs the state billions of pounds but which claims the lives of far too many workers.” It says its 10-point manifesto for a protective regulatory and enforcement system with worker involvement follows a proven model that is good for employers, the economy and the workforce.

Ÿ  Toxic, corrosive and hazardous - the government's record on health and safety, TUC, April 2014 [pdf].

Ÿ   TUC health and safety – Time for change manifesto.

Ÿ  The Independent.

Ÿ  What are you doing on 28 April? Workers’ Memorial Day is nearly here! Don’t forget to tweet #iwmd14  TUC workers’ Memorial Day 2014 webpages. ITUC/Hazards 28 April global webpages and facebook page. ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2014 International Workers’ Memorial Day publicise-your-events poster.

TUC explodes the ‘compensation myth’

Workplace compensation cases have fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last decade, reveals a new joint report from the TUC and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). ‘The compensation myth’ – which tackles seven myths about compensation – smashes the misconception of a rise in risk aversion driven by a compensation culture. It reveals that there were 183,342 compensation claims in 2002/03 but only 91,115 in 2012/13, a fall of more than 50 per cent. The report notes more than six out of seven (85.7 per cent) workers who are injured or made ill at work get no compensation whatsoever. The government meanwhile is making it even harder for workers to pursue claims by taking the burden of proof away from the employer and increasing the costs workers have to pay to have their cases heard. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government is forever trying to brainwash us into thinking the UK has a rampant compensation culture, but – as this new report shows – the facts tell a very different story. Even those dying from work-related diseases have precious little chance of getting a decent payout.” She added: “The true government motivation here is to weaken health and safety legislation and make it even harder for victims to pursue claims against their employers. Unfortunately the end result is likely to be a much higher rate of workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses in the future.”

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  The Compensation Myth, TUC/APIL, April 2014.

Ÿ  APIL news release.

Ÿ  Insurance Times.

Ÿ  More background on the statistics.

No tears after top Tory’s legal costs shocker

A top Tory acquitted of criminal charges but left with a £130,000 legal bill is getting a bitter taste of how his party’s policies have hit injured workers. Before his arrest, Conservative MP and former deputy speaker Nigel Evans made statements about the need to cut legal aid and admitted he would probably have voted for the last round of cuts in 2011 had he not been deputy speaker at the time. Now he says the taxpayer should pick up his legal costs. Since the election the government has ended the system that allowed workers to pursue claims and receive all their damages, leaving them liable to hand over up to 25 per cent of their payout in costs. The government has also introduced charges for taking a claim to an employment tribunal and slashed legal aid. In light of his party’s policies, TUC’s Hugh Robertson said it was “incredible” that Nigel Evans should complain that he has been hit with a large costs bill. Writing in TUC’s Stronger Unions blog, the union body’s head of safety said: “Of course it is wrong that an acquitted man should have to pay a penny,” but he added “it is also wrong that, as a result of the actions of him and his party, workers have to pay a proportion of their compensation in legal costs when they are injured at work through no fault of their own and workers who are sacked for being a safety rep have to pay for the privilege of taking their employer to court.” He concludes: “The Tories had absolutely no concern about the effect that their changes would have on injured workers, those seeking justice from their employers, or even those accused of a crime. It is only now, that one of their own has suffered that we hear the call for change. Please forgive me if I do not shed a tear.”

Ÿ  TUC Stronger Unions blog.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Don’t fall for blacklisting payouts scam

Blacklisted workers are being told to steer clear of a compensation scheme set up by construction firms but not agreed with unions. Unions Unite and UCATT say the scheme is too restricted, too mean and won’t deliver justice. UCATT said its members should “have nothing to do” with the “counterfeit” Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) set up by eight major construction firms. And Unite urged blacklisted workers to use its special blacklisting ‘hotline’ instead. It said it is determined to ensure any scheme which is agreed by the unions, means a job for blacklisted workers and upskilling where necessary. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said “victims of blacklisting deserve the best legal support rather than a scheme designed by employers to limit their exposure, rather than properly compensate the victims.” She added: “Unite is also determined to hold out for the union’s red line in any compensation scheme, which must mean a job for blacklisted workers and upskilling if relevant. Unite believes this is the only true litmus test as compensation is not just about money but dignity, justice and the human right to work.” UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy accused the companies of “arrogance”, adding they “are intent on ignoring the will of parliament and launching a counterfeit compensation scheme. They are just interested in their own PR. Their scheme will in no way recompense blacklisted workers who had their lives and the lives of their families destroyed by these companies.” He added: “This scheme is flawed in so many places. Blacklisted workers should have nothing to do with it as it will in no way provide justice for them.”

Ÿ  UNITE news release.

Ÿ  UCATT news release.

Excessive checks ‘drove teacher toward suicide’

A harrowing regime of extreme monitoring by school bosses helped drive a teacher to suicide, the NASUWT union conference heard last week. Medway delegate Andrew Green described how an “inventive, inspiring and creative teacher” he knew had taken her own life after being ground down by an invasive system of appraisals and check-ups. “She found herself in such a dark place that the only way out she could see was to literally end her life,” he told the education union’s conference in Birmingham. “She would drive to school in tears thinking about how a little accident might free her from the constant monitoring undermining her professionalism and the criticism and stifling of her creativity.” The union rep was contributing to a debate on excessive monitoring including the growing use of classroom CCTV. “Excessive monitoring and all its implications is one of the main drivers of the recruitment and retention crisis that is just around the corner,” he said. The former head of human relations at the BBC this said last week that appraisals did not work. Lucy Adams, who described herself as “a recovering HR director”, told an event in London: “Spring is the season of PMT: performance management tension.” She said the assumption that appraisals increased employees’ productivity and engagement was a “myth”.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  Personnel Today.

Ÿ  More on work-related suicides.

Pressure on teachers is hurting mental health

A rise in mental health problems among education workers over the past two years is linked to the pressure of performance targets and inspections, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). The union surveyed more than 900 education staff about their mental health and the reasons for any problems. More than a third (38 per cent) of school and college staff had noticed a rise in mental health problems among colleagues in the past two years. More than half (55 per cent) felt their job had a negative impact on their mental health. The most common factors affecting the mental health of education staff were pressures to meet targets (63 per cent) and inspections (59 per cent), followed by pressure from leaders (55 per cent). The survey found schools and colleges should do more to look after their staff, with 49 per cent of respondents stating that their employer is not doing enough to meet its duty of care for their mental and emotional well-being, and 38 per cent saying not enough is done for their physical health. ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “I am shocked that so many education staff are reporting a rise in mental health problems. But teachers, lecturers, support staff and heads are now so overworked that it comes as no surprise that so many in the education profession suffer from stress, depression and other mental health issues.” She added: “Education professionals do more unpaid overtime than any other group and are put under constant intense pressure to meet targets, with excessive observation, changes in the curriculum and Ofsted inspections. Those working in education need to be supported better, with schools and colleges making adjustments to their jobs and working conditions where necessary.”

Ÿ  ATL news release.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  Union News.

Teachers face a ‘home invasion’ of work

Teachers are being swamped with work-related emails on weekends, in holidays and even when they are on sick leave, adding to their already excessive workload and causing rising levels of stress, a survey by the union NASUWT has found. Over two thirds (69 per cent) of teachers reported receiving work-related emails from senior staff outside school hours, with nearly 85 per cent receiving emails during weekends, over threequarters (76 per cent) during holidays and nearly half (43 per cent) during periods of sickness absence. The survey of over 7,500 teachers also found nearly half (45 per cent) of teachers say they are expected to respond to work-related emails outside of school hours, with four in ten saying that there is an expectation they will reply within a specific timescale. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “It is widely acknowledged that teaching is one of the most stressful occupations. The abuse of email is now adding to that stress.” She added: “This is home invasion on a grand and unacceptable scale with teachers’ privacy, home life and health being seriously adversely affected. School managements who indulge in this behaviour have clearly lost their grip on the reality of what is appropriate and reasonable.” She said: “All schools should be required to have a policy and protocol on the appropriate use of email.” Under a legally binding agreement reached this month by employers’ federations and unions in France, workers in the technology and consultancy sectors no longer have to answer work emails or phone calls outside work hours. The deal obliges staff to “disconnect” from work calls and emails after working hours. Companies must ensure employees come under no pressure to respond to messages, so the spirit as well as the letter of the law is observed.

Ÿ  NASUWT news release.

Ÿ  TUC Touchstone blog.

Ÿ  Prospect commentary.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

Stressed ambulance service is at breaking point

The ambulance service is on the verge of breaking down as thousands of stressed out staff fear they will not be able to continue doing their jobs. Tight targets, long hours and the physical demands of the job are placing an enormous burden on overworked ambulance workers, according to a UNISON survey. The health service union says its survey of 1,332 NHS ambulance workers reveals a worryingly high level of stress, with one in five saying they have a ‘terrible’ work-life balance. A third of respondents (34 per cent) said they have taken time off due to work related stress in the past year. Some say they suffer in silence as they are too scared of the repercussions while others are looking to leave the profession. A large proportion of respondents added that management had taken no step to remove or reduce stress, despite having a legal duty to do so. UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “The government needs to take work related stress in the ambulance service seriously or it will break down.” She said member were reporting stress-related problems including heart palpitations, flashbacks, nightmares, migraines, depression and an overall feeling of despair. “Work-related stress is the elephant in the room,” she said. “Employers can’t keep on ignoring it. We expect them to do all they can to manage and where possible eliminate the risks to the health and welfare of their workforce. Ambulance staff who join the service will be expected to work until they’re 68. And this won’t be sustainable long term if things don’t change. The government needs to take urgent action before the service breaks down.”

Ÿ  UNISON news release.

Ÿ   Morning Star.

Occupational therapists threaten bullying action

Occupational therapists (OTs) at Greenwich council, fed up with a ‘bullying culture’, are gearing up to vote on a possible walk out. The 11 Unite members will vote next week on whether to take strike action or industrial action short of a strike. Unite said that the OTs are protesting about alleged bullying, harassment and the suspension of a work colleague accused of being too friendly with staff. The union said her suspension followed a complaint she made about being bullied. The union also believes another worker was moved out of the team against her wishes after she complained of bullying. According to Unite, the post of the suspended worker was advertised and has now been filled, which the union said was “a clear indication that council bosses are apparently undertaking a sham investigation while she is suspended.” Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: "Greenwich council should be ashamed of itself for allowing what appears to be a bullying culture to thrive. Not only has it failed to deal with complaints of bullying, its managers are now allegedly victimising those who stand up against bullying. Our members have said ‘enough is enough’.” The union said it believed the bullying problem could be more widespread.

Ÿ  Unite news release.

More pressure for helicopter safety inquiry

Offshore safety campaigners, crash survivors and unions came together at this month’s Scottish TUC annual conference to step up the campaign for a public inquiry into UK offshore helicopter safety. The groups said they want Norwegian-style offshore safety reforms to help more workers get back home safe. They say since 2002 the UK offshore oil and gas industry has suffered 38 fatalities involving offshore helicopter transfers while there have been zero fatalities as a result of helicopter transfers in the Norwegian offshore industry over the same period. Unite said this reflects “an unacceptable failing” on the part of the UK industry and its helicopter operators and cannot be allowed to continue. Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “A public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety will be able to peel away the layers and help get to the root of the British problem and we can do this by following the example of our North Sea neighbours, Norway.” He added: “If our politicians and the UK offshore industry are serious about tackling this festering sore in our most profitable industry then they must agree that a full public inquiry is the only way which we can forensically analyse the problem and begin to remedy it. It’s far too late for the victims and families but we must do everything we can to learn from these tragedies and limit the possibility of more devastating workplace fatalities from happening in the future.”

Ÿ  Unite news release.

Ÿ  BBC News Online.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Pilots call for no ‘backsliding’ on helicopter safety

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has hit back at suggestions by industry body Oil & Gas UK that safety improvements to North Sea helicopter operations might damage North Sea productivity. Following recent tragic incidents in the North Sea, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recommended changes to operations such as restricting the number of passengers on board helicopters and ensuring all passengers have access to a window or aisle to aid egress in the event of an accident (Risks 644). However, Oil & Gas UK, the industry’s trade association, has said that these safety improvements could negatively impact maintenance and production. Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s general secretary, said he had written to the chief executive of the CAA, Andrew Haines, “urging him to ensure the CAA Review Board’s recommendations… are fully implemented and to ask him to challenge backsliding by the oil and gas industry. We have also written to Scotland’s First Minister pressing him not to be held hostage by the large multinational companies that have a history of setting the agenda.”

Ÿ  BALPA news release.

Ÿ  Shetland Times.

Detained ship in an ‘appalling’ state

A ship detained by authorities at the Cornish cargo port of Fowey was found to be unsafe and unhygienic, with the captive crew on poverty wages when they were paid at all. The Panamanian-flagged, Turkish-owned vessel Munzur was detained by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at the end of March. Global transport union ITF is assisting the crew, most of whom are desperate to leave the filthy vessel and return home. There are 12 crew members, of five different nationalities. All but one reports being paid below the ILO minimum wage, and at least five haven’t been paid since they joined the vessel. Nine crew members asked the ITF to secure owed wages and repatriation costs, prompting ITF to initiate legal action. ITF Darren Procter, who inspected the vessel, said conditions on the ship were “appalling”, with the vessel having no hot water at the time of arrest, no washing machines, filthy bed linen, low levels of fresh food, unsafe electrics and a sanitary system relying on a 45 gallon drum full of sea water. He said the owners would have to pay the crew and organise repatriation or face arrest. The company responded on 23 April, finally agreeing to pay all owed wages and help the seafarers home. ITF’s Darren Procter said: “Following our legal action on behalf of the crew, the company is now promising to pay them all the money it owes them, and to repatriate them. While that money is transferred they have demonstrated good faith by putting food onboard, along with two much-needed washing machines. If all that is owed is paid to the crew we will cease the arrest of the vessel. If the crew don’t get what they deserve we resume that arrest.”

Ÿ  ITF news release and update.

Ÿ  MCA news release.

Safety stars win top union awards

Unions in Scotland have recognised the stellar achievements of two workplace safety reps. The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) this month announced this year’s STUC Frank Maguire award for health and safety would be shared by Dundee University UCU reps Marion Sporing and Ian Ellis. STUC said the award winners were not only highly competent trade union health and safety representatives but had also developed branch health and safety structures, driving health and safety further up the trade union agenda in UCU. Both have been instrumental in identifying health and safety hotspots on high risks such as stress, ensuring employers carry out risk assessments to identify action required to reduce harm to UCU members. UCU Scotland president David Anderson said: “This is a welcome and very well deserved plaudit for all their hard work. But it's also recognition for the work of UCU health and safety representatives across the country who do so much to make workplaces safer places by tackling excessive workload, stress and bullying.”

Ÿ  STUC news release. UCU news release.

Schools asbestos campaigner gets union plaudits

An internationally renowned asbestos campaigner has received a union’s top award. Teaching union NUT presented this year’s Fred and Anne Jarvis Award to Michael Lees, who has worked “tirelessly” to highlight the risks posed by asbestos in schools. Michael’s wife Gina, a nursery school teacher and NUT member, was exposed to asbestos at a number of different schools and died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma at the age of 51. In the 12 years since her death, Michael has emerged as a leading voice on the risks of asbestos exposure. Working with unions, he helped set up the Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS). NUT says the group was instrumental in persuading the Department for Education (DfE) to establish an Asbestos Steering Group to improve asbestos management in schools. The AiS has also advised the DfE on web-based asbestos awareness guidance for schools. NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “The NUT is very proud of its association with Michael Lees through the Joint Union Asbestos Committee. Michael is a tireless campaigner who approaches his work with tenacity, passion and reason.” Michael Lees told the union’s conference this week his wife’s death was registered as an “industrial disease.” He said: “Why on Earth should a primary school teacher die of an industrial disease?” He said despite 140 teachers dying of mesothelioma in the past decade, the coalition government had ended checks for asbestos. “It’s a serious problem and people are dying because of it,” he said.

Ÿ  NUT news release.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  Asbestos in Schools.

Rubbing out safety rules puts pupils and staff at risk

Government attacks on health and safety provisions are jeopardising the quality of educational provision for children and young people and putting staff and pupils at risk, the teaching union NASUWT has warned. Delegates at the union’s annual conference condemned the repeal of the School Premises Regulations, reclassifying schools as low-risk environments and “leaving children at risk of being educated in disused offices, shops and factories.” They also criticised the removal of other “vital” protections to prevent overcrowding and to ensure a healthy learning environment. NASUWT’s 2014 Big Question survey found that nearly four in ten (38 per cent) teachers said their buildings were not fit for pupils and over a third (34 per cent) said they were not fit to teach in. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “The simple truth is that the deregulation of health and safety was part of the coalition’s strategy to make schools more financially attractive for take-over by private sponsors and external organisations. This is another example of where ideologically driven policy takes precedence over the health, welfare and needs of pupils and staff.”

Ÿ  NASUWT news release.

OTHER NEWS

Minister's ‘insensitive’ schools safety attack backfires

A news release issued by the UK safety minister attacking “ridiculous” safety measures in schools has been condemned as “insensitive”. The embargoed release was sent to journalists on the morning of the funeral of Keane Wallis-Bennett, the 12-year-old Edinburgh schoolgirl who was killed on 1 April by a collapsing school gym wall. Health and safety Mike Penning said legislation had been used for too long as a “smokescreen for jobsworths who have little knowledge of the law and who want to fob people off with an easy excuse.” He listed a series of “bizarre” misinterpretations of health and safety law, including a school in Gloucester banning girls from wearing frilly socks for fear of them tripping over. But campaigners said it would have been more productive to highlight examples of the need to abide by safety laws. They highlight recent incidents in schools including serious asbestos exposures and amputations, as a result of criminal safety breaches. Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) said the minister’s approach was “absurdly out of proportion.” A spokeswoman said: "Concentrating on these trivial issues but not on making schools safe in the weeks after a child’s death is not just insensitive, it is insane. Banning frilly socks or bringing a chick into school on health and safety grounds is of course wrong, irritating and extremely silly. But none of these will kill, maim or give anyone cancer.” Andrew Watterson, a professor of occupational health at Stirling University, said it was “crass” to focus on trivial incidents rather than on serious issues in the wake of the tragedy. “There are lots of issues about health and safety in schools and there have been incidents involving fingers and limbs lost, people falling down lift shafts and exposure to asbestos. One wouldn't want to get it out of perspective, but there certainly are a whole series of events which indicate we should be taking it seriously and not trying to trivialise it.” He added: “It will be interesting to see if the DWP now produces a press release for 28 April – International Workers Memorial Day – and, instead of trying to trivialise occupational health and safety yet again, announces proper measures to address our workplace disease and injury epidemics.”

Ÿ  DWP news release.

Ÿ  FACK news release.

Ÿ  Sunday Herald.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  The Scotsman and related story.

Ÿ  BBC News Online and related story.

Factory workers exposed to high lead levels

Workers at a ceramic tile factory in North Wales had levels of lead in their blood that could leave them at risk of kidney and heart disease, brain damage, cancer and other serious disorders. The employees of specialist firm Craig Bragdy Design, of Denbigh, were tested after the issue came to light in February 2012 during a routine visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The company, which uses colour glazes containing lead in its tiling work, was prosecuted by HSE at Llandudno Magistrates’ court. Tests carried out on staff following HSE’s inspection found three female workers had blood levels at or above the suspension limit – one of them significantly higher. The legal suspension limit means they should be withdrawn from working with lead until the concentration in their blood reduces naturally. In addition, five women and one man working at the site were found to be above the action level which alerts employers that a worker is approaching the suspension level. At this point the employer should investigate why this is happening and review its control measures. The firm, though, failed to control or assess adequately the risks or exposure levels, and failed to provide medical surveillance. Magistrates were told long term exposure to lead can cause serious health effects, including spontaneous abortion, still births and low birth weight before or during pregnancy. Other effects include cancer, organ damage, anaemia, fatigue, headaches, convulsions and paralysis. Craig Bragdy Design Ltd pleaded guilty to five criminal breaches of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 and was fined £35,000 plus costs of £23,271. HSE inspector Katherine Walker said: “Workers should not have to sacrifice their health for their jobs and this is why it’s vital that employers act on the regulations.”

Ÿ  HSE news release and lead webpages.

Ÿ  More on the risks posed by lead.

Sites 'timebomb' from health and safety cuts

The construction industry is sitting on a “ticking timebomb,” with inexperienced workers being recruited to work on London's major building sites at a time when safety standards are being run down, according to a former government adviser on the sector. Baroness Donaghy, who wrote a landmark report ‘One Death Too Many’ for the last Labour government, said there is a severe risk of a rise in deaths and serious injuries as building activity picks up during the recovery. Donaghy told the Observer she was appalled by a 35 per cent cut in the budget of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2011, after she had called in her March 2010 report for more funding to allow it to function properly as a regulator. The report’s recommendations have been ignored by the current government. Donaghy said: “I do believe that if the recession is ending, the number of accidents will increase. Is it a ticking timebomb? Possibly right, yes. There is a real danger, without a well-resourced HSE, that corners will be cut.” Steve Murphy, the general secretary of construction union UCATT, said: “I sincerely believe the construction industry is chaotic. And deaths on sites will tragically rise in the next year.”

Ÿ  The Observer.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Bangladesh: Brands must pay up for Rana Plana victims

A year after the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 people and injured around 2,000 more, major fashion brands have stumped up less than half the sum needed to compensate victims and their families. So far, companies keen to improve their public reputation have donated about £10 million, but that leaves a substantial £14.9m gap. According to Jyrki Raina, of the global union IndustriALL: “The needs of the workers who survived this catastrophe, and the families of those who did not, are desperate. This last year the victims have seen medical expenses, lack of income and the horrors of that day relived. The brands can show that they can be part of the solution – but only if they pay up.” Over 150 companies have signed up to the union-led Fire and Building Safety Accord which is now beginning to force change in health and safety conditions through a quality inspection system, publication of the inspection reports and legally binding commitments from the corporations. One other core demand, for workers to be allowed an independent trade union voice, also appears to be being realised. Last week, ILO deputy director-general Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo said: “Registration of over 140 trade unions in the RMG [ready made garment] sector in the last 15 months is a staggering growth… The formation and registration of new trade unions is a sign of a new era of collective bargaining and freedom of association in Bangladesh which can act as a catalyst for change in other industries.”

Ÿ  TUC news release.

Ÿ  TUC Touchstone blog.

Ÿ  IndustriALL news release.

Ÿ  ILO news release and related release.

Ÿ  Growth without tears campaign video.

Ÿ  Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

Ÿ  Morning Star.

Ÿ  Sign up to the TUC ‘Join hands with Bangladesh’ campaign.

Namibia: Uranium miners dying, Rio Tinto denying

Miners who dug uranium ore at a Rio Tinto-owned mine in Namibia are dying of cancers and unexplained illnesses after working in one of continent’s largest mines. A study of current and former workers at the giant Rio Tinto-owned Rössing uranium mine in Namibia found that everyone questioned was aware of people who are now suffering lung infections and unknown illnesses thought to be linked to their work. The findings come two decades after the company used legal threats to silence critics of radiation, silica and other hazardous exposures at the mine. Rössing produces around 7 per cent of the world's uranium but was operated with rudimentary safety when it opened in 1976. “People get sick. We are seeing it in people that have worked for Rössing for a long time. They just go back and die after working at Rössing,” one man told researchers working with Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute.  The study authors note: “Most workers stated that they are not informed about their health conditions and do not know if they have been exposed to radiation or not. Some workers said they consulted a private doctor to get a second opinion.” The report says: “The older workers all said they know miners dying of cancers and other illnesses. Many of these are now retired and many have already died of cancers.” A spokesperson for Rio Tinto told the Guardian that Rössing has been recognised by independent consultants as one of the world's safest mines. However similar claims by the firm were challenged by Hazards magazine in the 1980s and 1990s. And coverage in 1992 by The Namibian newspaper of a book - ‘Past exposures – revealing health and environmental risks of Rössing Uranium’ – highly critical of conditions at the mine, led to legal threats from the mining giant. Rössing, which mines millions of tonnes of rock a year to extract uranium, employs more than 1,500 people.

Ÿ  Study on low-level radiation of Rio Tinto’s Rössing Uranium mine workers, EJOLT & Earthlife Namibia Report, April 2014.

Ÿ  The Guardian.

USA: Union calls for safety first in poultry industry

A new official study confirms what workers in the US poultry industry have been saying for decades - it is among the most dangerous places to work in America. Among the key findings of the report released by the US government’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are that 42 per cent of workers had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome; 41 per cent performed daily tasks above the threshold recommended by industry experts; and 57 per cent reported at least one musculoskeletal symptom. The report was commissioned to allay safety concerns about the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) proposed poultry modernisation rule, which would increase the speed that birds are processed to a maximum of 175 a minute. But the report has instead fuelled concerns -  the dramatic work-related disease prevalence documented by NIOSH was occurring before the lines were speeded up. “One injury is one too many,” said Joe Hansen, international president of the food workers’ union UFCW. “Four out of ten workers with carpal tunnel. Nearly six out of ten showing symptoms. This is an epidemic.” He called the idea of proceeding with the poultry modernisation rule “reckless” given the current rash of injuries across the industry. “The USDA must pull this rule and take a hard look at how to improve safety in our nation's poultry plants,” he said. “This NIOSH report is both a wakeup call and a warning sign.”

Ÿ  UFCW news release.

Ÿ  IUF news report.

Ÿ  NIOSH report summary and full report.

Events and Courses

It’s all coming together for 28 April!

Workers’ Memorial Day – the 28 April campaign which has become the world’s largest annual health and safety event – looks like being bigger still this year. The global union federation ITUC says it has been deluged with events listings - from protests, to seminars to local and national campaigns - which it will publicise in the coming days via social media and on its dedicated 28 April webpage. Meanwhile the TUC’s listings for Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 suggest there will be tens of thousands of workers marking the health and safety campaigners’ big day at events and activities across the land. Check out the webpages and make sure we know what you are doing.

Ÿ  TUC workers’ Memorial Day 2014 webpages.

Ÿ   ITUC/Hazards 28 April global webpages and facebook page.

Ÿ  ITUC/Hazards 28 April 2014 International Workers’ Memorial Day publicise-your-events poster. Don’t forget to tweet #iwmd14
 

Are you geared up for 28 April?

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: [email protected]

Ÿ  For news, resources and updates on UK Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 activities, see the TUC 28 April webpages.

What will you be doing on 28 April?

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.

Ÿ  TUC Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April 2014 webpages. If you know of any union 28 April events, email details to the TUC health and safety department.

TUC courses for safety reps

COURSES FOR 2014

Ÿ  TUC courses

 

The person responsible for the Risks e-bulletin is Hugh Robertson
E: [email protected]