To mark International Workers’ Memorial Day, a new short film has been launched today (Saturday) by the Wales Trade Union Congress to highlight the difference that trade union health and safety representatives have made in workplaces. International Workers’ Memorial Day is a global annual day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled and injured by their work.
The animation shows how health and safety reps are ensuring that unionised workplaces are safer workplaces, with evidence showing that injury and sickness rates are lower in workplaces with higher numbers of union members. It is launched alongside a message from the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, who urges people across Wales to join a trade union to make their workplaces safer.
The trade union body has also published by a new guide which will help union health and safety reps make the Wales’s workplaces even safer.
As 2018 is also the 40th anniversary of health and safety reps, the report sets out two ways reps can go above and beyond current legislation to keep workers safe:
1. Roving health and safety representatives: Trade union health and safety reps reduce the serious injury rate by 50%. However, some workplaces – due to their small size or isolated location – don’t have their own rep. So union safety reps can, with agreement from bosses, represent workers in a number of different workplaces across a range of employers. This type of scheme has been successful in schools, the health service, construction and the voluntary sector.
2. Union inspection notices (UINs): Occasionally when a breach of health and safety law is raised, an employer does not take action to address it within a reasonable time. A UIN is a formal notice a rep can issue to an employer to officially register that they are not complying with health and safety law. It explains clearly what steps the employer should take the address the problem, usually within 28 days.
Wales TUC National Officer for health and safety at work, Julie Cook, and Mike Jenkins, President of Wales TUC, laid a wreath at the Workers' Memorial Day monument in Cardiff to mark the day.
Julie Cook said: “International Workers’ Memorial Day is such an important date in the trade union movements’ calendar – not just in Wales and the rest of the UK, but throughout the world.
“It’s about remembering those who have lost their lives or suffered serious injury at work. And it’s also about focussing on one of our most important goals – to make workplaces safer and healthier for everyone.”
“Trade union health and safety reps make workplaces safer. This helps workers, and it helps employers. We won’t stop campaigning until every worker in Wales has access to a health and safety rep and everyone is safe from illness and injury while doing their jobs..”
Mike Jenkins added: “Last year in Wales, ten people lost their lives because of an incident at work, and many more died from injuries and illnesses related to their job. We remember them today, along with the many thousands more who shared their fate throughout the world.
“As a trade union lawyer, I’ve supported those who’ve been the victims of unsafe working environments – something that should never exist in the 21st century. But the legal requirements only offer the bare minimum. Many reps want to do much more to protect their colleagues. Roving health and safety reps and inspection notices are two simple ways of doing this
“Trade unions have campaigned to make workplaces safe for as long as we have existed. I would urge anyone worried about health and safety at work to join a union.”