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Blacklisters must 'own up, clean up and pay up'
The TUC is to hold a national day of action against blacklisting on Wednesday 20 November. Protests will be held up and down the country and there will be lobby of parliament in London. The TUC and unions say they are unhappy that companies who have blacklisted workers have still not been held accountable. They want a Leveson-style inquiry into the practice - they say if a judge is necessary to investigate a phone hacking scandal, then a practice that saw thousands of workers lose their livelihood should be treated with at least the same level of seriousness. Unions want the government to order a judge-led inquiry into blacklisting and for companies to be asked if they have ever compiled, used, sold or supplied information that could be used for blacklisting. They say blacklisting companies that refuse to comply or apologise and compensate victims should be barred from bidding for any public sector contracts. Blacklisting should be made a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and an unlimited fine, the unions add. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'There is a clear need for a Leveson-style inquiry into blacklisting to make sure it is stamped out once and for all. It is essential that companies who have blacklisted workers own up, clean up and pay up.' She added: 'Blacklisting is a shameful practice that has no place in a modern society. It causes misery for those blacklisted and their families and it puts lives at risk. It is scandalous that so many people's livelihoods have been ruined or put at risk just for raising health and safety concerns. The government cannot sit on the fence any longer. Blacklisting must be made a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and an unlimited fine.'
- TUC news release. TUC Stronger Unions blog. Unite news release. GMB news release. UCATT news release. The Guardian. The Independent. The Mirror.
Welsh government acts to 'eradicate' blacklisting
Public sector bodies in Wales can exclude blacklisters from bidding for public sector contracts under new Welsh government guidance, finance minister Jane Hutt has announced. A Procurement Advice Note has been issued to all Welsh public bodies to outline the necessary steps that can be taken through procurement 'to help eradicate blacklisting - which can be very damaging to the careers and livelihoods of trade unionists,' the Welsh government said. The guidance, which has been warmly welcomed by unions, makes clear those circumstances where Welsh public sector bodies can exclude blacklisters from bidding for a public contract. Jane Hutt said: 'The use of blacklists is wholly unacceptable and I fully sympathise with the individuals and their families who have suffered a terrible injustice as a consequence of contractors engaging in this practice. Procurement is an important part of the overall policy toolkit of the Welsh government. Under no circumstances is it acceptable for any business in receipt of public procurement expenditure to use blacklists.' She added: 'I am determined to take action in Wales. I trust that other governments in the UK will take similar action if they have not already done so.' Unite Wales secretary Andy Richards said: 'The Welsh government's action to rid Wales of the scourge of blacklisting by ensuring that those who practice blacklisting do not benefit from public contracts is to be commended.' He added: 'We look forward to working with the Welsh government to put this policy into practice and urge other governments across the UK to follow suit in bringing in tougher laws to call time on blacklisting everywhere.' Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: 'The other devolved administrations and the British government should follow the example of Wales and issue similar guidance. This will massively increase the pressure on the blacklisted construction companies to pay compensation.' GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: 'This fantastic announcement by the Welsh government is a game changer. The message to the companies who blacklisted Welsh citizens is loud and clear: if you want public contracts in Wales then own up, clean up and pay up.'
- Welsh government news release. Unite news release. UCATT news release. GMB news release. Wales Online. The Guardian and related commentary from Ricky Tomlinson. The Mirror.
Workers told to pay for justice
The TUC has slammed new plans to make workers with household savings of £3,000 pay the full cost of going to an employment tribunal. The fees introduced on 29 July mean workers can be required to pay up to £1,200 for taking a tribunal complaint about issues including victimisation for safety activities (Risks 615), sexual harassment or race discrimination. The government had claimed a system of 'fee remissions' would mean those on lower incomes would not have to pay the full charge. But, under proposals announced this week, any individual or household reaching the £3,000 savings threshold will not be entitled to any fee remission. From next month they will have to pay the maximum £1,200 fee to take a safety victimisation case to tribunal, for example, even if they are in a low-paid job or on means-tested benefits. The TUC says the government's decision will affect over two-fifths of all UK households and more than a third of couples with children. It adds the proposals will force low-paid workers to raid their savings and deter them from pursuing genuine cases. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'These plans will seriously limit access to justice for those who have been prudent enough to put money aside for hard times. Forcing people to raid their savings will serve only to deter victims from challenging unlawful behaviour by employers and is yet another attack on people's rights at work.' She added: 'Low-paid and older workers are likely to be the biggest victims from these proposals that give even more power to Britain's worst bosses.' The union body believes that in discouraging workplace whistleblowing, the system will make workplaces more dangerous. The TUC analysis of the Family Resources Survey shows that 46 per cent of all UK households will not qualify for a remission and 39 per cent of couples with children will have to pay full fees. The proposals will also penalise older workers who are more likely to have savings.
Bangladeshi union leader's plea to UK retailers
A top garment union official from Bangladesh has warned eight leading UK retailers that there could be a repeat of April's Rana Plaza tragedy (Risks 605) if they refuse to sign up to the international accord designed to protect Bangladeshi factory workers. Amirul Haque Amin, president of the Bangledeshi National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), said several big names are still refusing to commit to the agreement that will make building inspections compulsory at Bangladeshi factories that supply fashion goods to UK stores. The brands include Matalan, River Island, Sports Direct/Republic, Jane Norman, Peacocks, Bench, Mexx and Bank Fashion. The accord brokered by global garment union IndustriALL and its affiliates - and which has been signed by over 80 international companies - commits firms to meeting the cost of making buildings safe, and to working with a monitoring group made up of companies and unions, and chaired by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In addition, an independent safety inspector will be appointed to oversee all inspections in Bangladesh and to investigate complaints by workers. NGWF president Amirul Haque Amin, who this week addressed the TUC Congress, said: 'I am very disappointed that several leading UK retailers are still refusing to commit to this accord. This historic agreement ensures that thousands of factories will have compulsory building inspections for the first time ever.' He added: 'Voluntary initiatives have failed to protect workers in the past and if companies in the UK refuse to sign we risk a repeat of the Rana Plaza tragedy. It is essential that companies take more responsibility for the way in which their suppliers treat their employees.' TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said 'leading names on the UK high street must not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities. The health and safety of workers in their overseas supply chains should be their top priority, and not a secondary concern to profits. The collapse in Dhaka highlighted once again why we need strong unions and what happens when workers don't have a voice at work.'
Tell High Street brands to fix their dangerous factories
In April over 1,100 people died in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza building collapsed (Risks 615). According to the TUC: 'There has never been a clearer sign that all manufacturers and retailers need to lift dramatically their efforts to ensure that those making their clothes are doing so in safety and with dignity.' The union body says that due to the pressure of trade unions, campaigners and concerned consumers, over 80 brands - including H+M, Zara, Next, Primark, New Look and Debenhams - have so far committed to a union-backed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord commits companies to fund an independent safety inspection body that will involve workers in the process, through their unions, and to make long term deals with suppliers, offering more secure employment and training for workers. It represents a big deal for Bangladeshi workers. 'But whilst most retailers have stepped up to their responsibilities, there are still a few major brands with factories in Bangladesh but who still refuse to sign. Prominent amongst these are eight names you will probably know from your high street: River Island, Matalan, Bench, Bank Fashion, Peacocks, Jane Norman, Republic and Mexx.' The union body wants these household names to be told your household doesn't approve of their inaction. 'We need to send a clear message to these eight companies, telling them there are no excuses left for ignoring safety standards and workers' rights in Bangladesh.' It is asking people to use its online campaign website and 'take a few moments to send an email to these companies, urging them to sign up to the Accord today.'
New emphasis on preventing workplace diseases
Greatly improved measures to reduce the deaths and suffering caused by workplace diseases are needed, unions have said. The motion passed at this week's TUC Congress also criticised the government for watering down legislation intended to help victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy told delegates: 'We must work together to cut deaths from workplace diseases. As with banning of asbestos and cutting workplace deaths, this must be led by the trade union movement. From bitter experience we know that no one else is interested in ensuring the health and safety of workers.' He added the new asbestos law was weakened in response to lobbying by the insurance industry. 'Hundreds of workers will continue to die every year, without compensation because the government is in the pocket of the insurance industry,' he said. Chris Keates, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT, said: 'The coalition government has consistently sought to portray health and safety as bureaucratic and burdensome for employers, rather than acknowledging the rights of children and working people to a safe environment in which to learn and work.'
Ambulance workers must keep their sick pay
Ambulance crews won't put up with a 'draconian' cut to their sick pay which could see them being forced to work while ill, their unions have said. GMB, Unite and UNISON announced this week they are in dispute with the ambulance service in England and said their members were prepared to take industrial action. The unions are taking a stand because NHS Employers and all ambulance trusts in England have imposed cuts in sick pay of up to 25 per cent without the agreement of unions or individual employees and without notice (Risks 620). GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: 'Despite months of negotiations the final proposals from the NHS Employers simply weren't good enough and our members rejected them by over 90 per cent. Ambulance workers have had to put up with pay restraint and increasing workload and feel they are the pinch point in the NHS squeeze. They won't put up with a draconian cut to their sick pay which could see them being forced to work while ill to avoid losing money.' She added: 'Who wants an ambulance turning up at an emergency with the medics coughing and sneezing all over the place? It's stupid.' She said unions 'will be challenging the legality of this imposition which we believe is wrong. Our members are very angry and although none of them want to put the public at risk they have been forced into a corner and the threat of industrial action looks inevitable if the employers don't back down.' Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) published in July revealed that ambulance staff topped the NHS sickness absence table. On 12 September GMB said unions and ambulance employers had agreed to enter talks at the conciliation service Acas in a bid to resolve the sick pay issue.
Unilever forced to pay up for safety hazards
A production line operative with Unilever suffered a bad injury to his left knee when an electrical fault caused a guard door to swing open. The Unite member was stacking empty ice cream tubs on a production line at the multinational's Gloucestershire factory when he heard a loud bang and felt the guard door he was stood in front of swing sharply into his knee. He was left with an impact injury to his left knee which caused reoccurring tendonitis in his leg. He took a total of five weeks leave from work and has had a number of steroid injections and a course of physiotherapy to repair his damaged knee. Other members of staff working on the same production line were aware of the fault and knew from experience to stand back from the conveyor belt, however the 26-year-old who was injured had not been warned of the hazard. After he approached Unite, an investigation showed the guard door opened as a result of an electrical fault known to Unilever, who later placed bolts on the guard door to prevent it from being forced open. In a union-backed case, the injured man was awarded £5,000 in compensation. Unite regional officer Trevor Hall said: 'Health and safety in the workplace is not to be taken lightly by employers. For a large multinational company like Unilever to be so laissez-faire about the safety of its workers is deplorable.' He added: 'If our member had been informed of the 'temperamental' guard door, this accident could have been avoided, but better still - and more appropriately - Unilever should have dealt with the underlying fault.'
Faulty equipment caused worker's life-long injury
Northampton-based KAB Seating Ltd has been brought to book by Unite after poor safety standards saw one of its members left with permanent damage to his hand. Machine operative Stephen Wallinger, 56, had to take six months off work and faced a surgical procedure to relieve intense pain in his left hand after sub-standard manufacturing equipment at the car seat factory led to the workplace injury. The faulty equipment required Stephen to force car seats into place during the assembly process, as the seats were not being correctly aligned. Despite making repeated attempts to convince management to repair the equipment over a period of four months, he was instructed to continue to manually force the seats to fit. By December 2009, Stephen was suffering excruciating pain from his left thumb and throughout his arm, as the repetitive forceful action exacerbated an arthritic condition. He sought medical advice after the pain made it difficult for him to carry out his job. He has undergone a surgical procedure to help combat the acceleration of arthritis, which left him unable to work for 14 weeks. He now faces additional surgery and can no longer work in the machine operative role he had performed for two years. He was awarded a 'significant sum' in a Unite-backed compensation case. Stephen said: 'I have a young family, so during the time I was off work on sick pay it was a struggle for us financially. I'm constantly reminded of my injury on a day-to-day basis. I am naturally left-handed and now have limited power in this hand, making heavy lifting or even basic household tasks difficult.' Unite's Sally Mortimer said: 'Stephen brought this to his employer's attention on several occasions and they chose to ignore it. By refusing to repair equipment that could have simply prevented this situation, KAB Seating has caused our member a life-long injury.'
Health board failed to protect worker from violence
A health board has been prosecuted for failing to protect a nurse from a violent attack by a patient. Lothian Health Board was fined £32,000 after the community psychiatric nurse, 55, was attacked while making a home visit to a patient with mental health issues. The 58-year-old female patient had suffered from psychiatric illnesses for more than 30 years. HSE's investigation found that the injured person was an experienced nurse whose role involved visiting patients in the East Lothian area who were receiving community treatment for mental or psychiatric illnesses. The nurse was forced to the floor, threatened and had her hair pulled so violently that several clumps were pulled out. Since the incident, she has been apprehensive about undertaking home visits and has experienced 'flashbacks'. Haddington Sherriff Court heard that at the time of the incident there were no risk assessments in place for community health team workers dealing with client violence or aggression, or for lone working in clients' homes. Lothian Health Board had also failed to provide adequate training, information and instruction or a safe system of work for home visits to such patients. The incident, on 25 March 2009, was not reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) until November 2009, despite it being a serious occurrence that should by law have been reported within 10 days. Lothian Health Board, also known as NHS Lothian, was fined £32,000 after pleading guilty to criminal breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). HSE inspector Lindsey Stein said: 'The board's failure to protect its employee was added to by its failure to report the incident for eight months.'
Aggregate firm fined over tipper death
A Kent aggregate company has been ordered to pay more than £180,000 in fines and costs after a worker was killed by dangerous lifting equipment on a tipper lorry. Brian Peek, 57, from Ashford, sustained fatal injuries whilst unloading bags of hardcore and aggregate for Moores Turf & Top Soil Limited at a domestic address in Wittersham on 20 November 2006. The lorry was fitted with a small crane and clam shell bucket, which Brian Peek used to grab the bags and lower them to the ground. As he unloaded the final bag, he leant over the back of the lorry and the crane slew around, trapping his neck between the bucket and the back of the lorry's tipping body. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Canterbury Crown Court heard that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the equipment supplied to Mr Peek was in a poor state of repair and that the system of work employed to unload bulk bags of aggregate and hardcore was unsafe. The incident could have been prevented had more suitable equipment been provided for the unloading task, such as a flatbed lorry and forklift truck. Moores had such equipment available for use, but chose to send the crane-mounted tipper instead. Moores Turf & Top Soil Limited was fined £85,000 and £97,791 costs after pleading guilty to criminal breaches of safety law. HSE principal inspector Mike Walters said: 'Brian Peek's tragic death could and should have been prevented. The lifting equipment on the lorry was badly maintained and simply wasn't safe for use. It was also unnecessary because the firm had better equipment more suited to the job, which could have been used instead.'
Network Rail slammed over worker's death
Network Rail was the subject of a scathing Crown Court attack after it pleaded guilty to criminal safety offence that led to one worker dying and another two suffering serious injuries. The firm was fined £125,000 and £85,000 costs for the offences related to the death of track maintenance worker Malcolm Slater. Following a 2010 inquest into the death of the RMT member, the rail union called for Network Rail to prosecuted (Risks 477). On 11 June 2008, the maintenance gang was working at a height of approximately 15 feet on a mobile elevated platform, or 'cherry picker', attached to a vehicle, when the platform became detached and fell to the ground. All three occupants of the platform sustained injuries in the fall, including fractured bones and bruising. Sixty-four-year-old Malcolm suffered far more serious injuries and died on 1 July 2008, three weeks after the incident. The other two injured men - Phil Miles and Daniel Wild - became office-bound due to their injuries. An extensive Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) investigation into the incident found that Network Rail had failed in its duty to provide suitable work equipment for its employees and failed to properly plan the repair work. Chelmsford Crown Court heard that Network Rail had not provided its staff with training on working within the platform and did not identify that the overload alarm had been switched off, despite evidence showing the platform weight limit of 350kg had been significantly exceeded on a regular basis. Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson told the court that in 2005 an investigation found there were 388 incidents of overloading and during an eight-month period up to June 2008 there was overloading on 15 days and the company 'failed to do anything armed with that information from stopping it.' He added: 'There was nothing to prevent the staff from overloading. It was not a one-off. It was not just overloading on 11 June. There were other significant levels of overloading. It was a serious case of failing to provide suitable equipment, it extended over a considerable period of time - eight months - and there was a failure to heed warnings from a previous period.'
MPs to probe offshore helicopter safety
An inquiry is to be launched by a Commons committee into helicopter safety in the wake of a crash of a Super Puma off the Shetland Islands which claimed four lives last month (Risks 620). The Commons transport select committee will hold the inquiry into the fatal this and other incidents amid concerns over the safety of the Super Puma helicopter by the oil and gas industry. Labour's committee chair Louise Ellman said: 'Any fatal accident is a cause for concern but there have been five helicopter accidents involving personnel from the oil and gas industry in the last four years, two of which caused multiple fatalities.' She added: 'We have heard worrying evidence that the workforce has lost confidence in the helicopters which they have no choice but to use. We want to look at what has gone wrong and whether the government can do more to improve safety and protect the lives of offshore workers'. The committee's decision came in the wake of a TUC emergency debate on helicopter safety. A motion, which was moved by Unite and supported by the TUC, called for a public inquiry. Vice chair of the Unite national executive, Mark Lyon told delegates: 'Our unions want a public inquiry - similar to the inquiry into the Piper Alpha tragedy 25 years ago. We want to know why these helicopters have had five incidents in four years.' He added unions 'have said that we will support our members if they refuse to get aboard on one of these helicopters until they are given a clean bill of health.' Jim McAuslan of the pilots' union BALPA said the union was offering 'our technical and professional insights to help the inquiry get to the root causes and taking the appropriate action to make every flight a safe flight.' And David Hulse, GMB national officer for the offshore sector, said his union was demanding 'that safety has a higher priority than profits with investment in new and safer helicopters.' The transport select committee said it will publish more detailed terms of reference for its inquiry later in the autumn.
- Transport select committee news release. TUC helicopter safety motion. Unite news release. GMB news release. BALPA news release. The Scotsman. BBC News Online.
MPs back union concerns on pilot fatigue
Union concerns that planned European Union changes to flying hours rules would see pilots landing planes while dangerously tired have been supported by a committee of MPs. A report from the House of Commons transport select committee published this week expresses concern about the lack of evidence behind proposed changes which could mean pilots were awake for a 22 hour stretch. Pilots' union BALPA said the MPs agreed with the union line that science and proper scientific assessments should underpin decision-making on this safety critical area, but this had not been the case to date. The select committee report notes 'we retain concerns over several areas, in particular the use of scientific evidence in developing the regulations and the arrangements for oversight and active management of the new regime. It is also disappointing that a consensus with crew and pilot representatives has not been reached on the draft regulations.' It adds that 'there are legitimate concerns that while the regulations may lead to safety improvements elsewhere, there may be a diminution of standards in the UK.' Jim McAuslan, BALPA's general secretary, said, 'The government needs to listen to the concerns of the select committee and of the dedicated pilots who keep Britain flying safely. I hope Bill Cash MP and his European scrutiny committee, who will now take over responsibility for scrutinising the EU's plans, will heed the warning of his parliamentary colleagues and insist the transport minister stop, look and listen to protect UK flight safety standards.' On 30 September MEPs on the transport committee in the European Parliament will be voting on a motion, tabled by a number of MEPs, to reject the proposals and insist that the agency responsible for drafting the proposals, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), start again with science at the heart of the process. BALPA says it 'will be lobbying to support that motion in the interests of British flight safety.'
- BALPA news release. House of Commons Transport Select Committee report and webpages on flight time limitations.
Councils defy ban on proactive inspections
More than half of local authorities appear to be ignoring government guidance banning proactive inspections of lower risk businesses. The most recent data released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that 53 per cent of the authorities continue to proactively inspect 'some or many' lower risk 'Category B2' and 'Category C' businesses. EHN Online, the newsletter of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), reports that this contravenes guidance issued by HSE in 2011 following government pressure to target inspections and reduce 'regulatory burdens' on businesses. The guidance states 'Category B' firms are 'not suitable for proactive inspections' and 'Category C' firms should only be visited after incidents. According to the figures, council inspectors proactively inspected 2,515 'Category B1' firms and proactively inspected 7,370 'Category B2/C' firms between April 2012 to April 2013. An HSE briefing paper on the figures for the local authority liaison committee HELA says councils might be visiting lower risk premises as part of joint agency inspections, undertaking inspection visits to new premises for rating purposes or recording matters of concern uncovered during visits for other regulatory purposes. It stresses that councils have met government demands for a one-third reduction in proactive inspection activity. According to EHN, proactive inspections have fallen by 88 per cent since 2009/10. There has also been a significant shift in proactive inspection activity from 60 per cent of all visits in 2009/10 to 14 per cent in 2012/13.
Safety concerns over North Sea gas leak risks
New safety concerns have been raised about an oil and gas field that was shut down last year due to a leak. According to a report from Reuters news agency, the operator of the Elgin field has identified concerns about the corrosive effect of chemicals on pipes. Reuters reports that Total has plans for a costly shutdown of several Elgin wells due to the safety concerns. The report adds that the worries about corrosion have been shared with Shell, which operates the neighbouring Shearwater field and which could face similar challenges. Total attributed a leak to a corrosive reaction between calcium bromide used to complete the well and grease in the pipework, which under high pressure cracked the piping. Drilling fluids, such as calcium bromide, are commonly used in other deep sea wells across the world. Total's G4 well in the Elgin field leaked for a month and a half from March 2012, creating a huge cloud of flammable gas above the platform about 150 miles (240km) east of Aberdeen (Risks 550). A three mile exclusion zone was imposed around the rig. Total's own investigation into the causes of the leak remains incomplete, though the field resumed output in March, with the backing of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). John Downs, a chemical engineer who runs his own consultancy group, is quoted in the Reuters report as saying: 'An extensive well repair programme may be needed if the stress corrosion cracking caused by bromide brine in Elgin is also happening elsewhere.' In June, HSE reported the number of major gas and oil leaks from the UK's offshore installations rose last year from three to nine, the highest in 14 years (Risks 610). Total told the BBC the corrosions concern was 'an old story.'
Lung disease toll exposed
A comprehensive study of mortality rates across the Europe, carried out by the European Respiratory Society (ERS), has concluded that respiratory diseases across the continent cost nearly a million lives and 400 billion euros every year. The society's European Lung White Book reports that Britain topped the European league with the highest proportion of deaths caused by lung disease. The report notes that across Europe, work factors are responsible for a substantial part of the toll. 'Overall, occupational agents are responsible for about 15 per cent (in men) and 5 per cent (in women) of all respiratory cancers, 17 per cent of all adult asthma cases, 15-20 per cent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases and 10 per cent of interstitial lung disease cases,' it notes. The report's estimates of the occupational contribution to all lung disease are worrying, but still conservative compared to those from a number of recent studies. The report recommends: 'Since occupational diseases are, in principle, preventable, it is very important that clinicians take occupational histories in order to identify potential causes and build the basis for prevention of future disease.'
- European Lung White Book and Occupational lung diseases and occupational risk factors sections. The Independent.
Canada: Justice sought with new asbestos registry
The union representing people who worked at a notorious asbestos mine on Newfoundland's Baie Verte Peninsula is demanding changes to eligibility criteria that prevented most of them from receiving compensation. The United Steelworkers union (USW) says health information gathered by the Baie Verte miners' registry shows people were unfairly denied compensation for diseases caused by exposure to chrysotile, or white, asbestos. 'Nobody should have had to be exposed to what they were exposed to, and it's now well recognised,' said Andy King, the former director of the Steelworkers' health, safety and environment department. 'Let's try to do some justice.' The registry, created after years of pressure from USW, is an electronic database of more than 1,000 people who worked at the mine between 1955 when a huge asbestos deposit was discovered, and 1995 when the mine closed permanently. Among other things, the registry found that 109 former miners had asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer and asbestosis. Another 56 had gastrointestinal cancers, possibly related to asbestos exposure. Andy King said many people in the registry were unfairly treated. While 145 miners made claims to the compensation commission, 100 - or more than two-thirds of them - were denied compensation. He said compensation was denied in some cases because of how the rules were structured. For instance, he said compensation was denied to workers who might have received the maximum exposure over just a few months. 'If you can't provide some level of justice for those, how can people whose experience is perhaps less clear have confidence that the system will address their needs today?' he said. In 1977, workers at the mine waged a landmark 14-week safety strike.
- Baie Verte Miners Registry and Out of the fog film explaining the background to the registry. CBC News. March 2009 USW news release giving the background to the registry's creation.
China: Apple supply chain abuses continue
The new cheaper iPhone that Apple unveiled to a global audience this week is being produced under illegal and abusive conditions in Chinese factories owned by a major US company, investigators have claimed. Workers are asked to stand for 12-hour shifts with just two 30-minute breaks, six days a week, the non-profit organisation China Labor Watch said. Staff are allegedly working without adequate protective equipment, at risk from chemicals, noise and lasers, for an average of 69 hours a week, breaking Apple's required 60 hour ceiling. There are more effective measures in place to protect sensitive documents, CLW said. The problems were uncovered at a plant in Wuxi, near Shanghai, where Apple's first low-cost handset, dubbed the iPhone 5C, is being produced. The plant is owned by Florida-based Jabil Circuit, a US company with 60 plants in 33 countries including Scotland, and a turnover of $17bn (£11bn) a year. Jabil said it had uncovered problems last month and was taking immediate steps to investigate the allegations. Apple said its experts were 'already on site' to look into the claims. CLW said because of the poor pay and 12-hour shift patterns 'married workers have no choice but to leave their children in their rural homes with grandparents.' It added: 'The factory provides protective equipment but some workers either fail to receive it or use it in the wrong way due to a lack of risk awareness and monitoring. Despite this, the mechanisms for protecting important information related to products and the company are mature and well-developed, receiving a lot of attention from management.' Apple said in a statement it was 'committed to providing safe and fair working conditions.'
Pakistan: No compensation one year after deadly fire
A year after over 250 workers were killed in a devastating garment factory fire in Pakistan (Risks 573), injured workers and bereaved relatives have not received full compensation. Campaigners say German price-cutting chain KiK, the only known buyer of the jeans manufactured at Ali Enterprises, should pay up in full. The firm signed a $1 million emergency relief agreement with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) in January this year (Risks 590), but most of this has now been distributed to families. The balance of the compensation required by the workers remains unpaid. The tragedy exposed the limitations of voluntary industry audit schemes. The textile factory had received the coveted Social Accountability International's (SAI) SA8000 certificate in August 2012, just weeks before the deadly inferno, wrongly suggesting it was in compliance with minimum standards on working conditions and safety (Risks 575). The Clean Clothes Campaign is urging KiK, the Pakistani government and others to join negotiations to agree full, long-term and fair compensation to the families of those killed and for workers injured in the fire. The campaign's Sam Maher said: 'The auditing organisations have to be held accountable for their severe negligence and must take their share of responsibility for compensating the victims. The Clean Clothes Campaign will, together with its partners, continue to take action to make sure that the long-term compensation is paid.' To mark the 11 September anniversary of the fire, PILER, together the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) and other organisations held a rally and health and safety seminar in Karachi and events elsewhere.
USA: Shocking cancer rates among 9/11 responders
Over 1,000 emergency workers who responded to the 11 September 2001 World Trade Center (WTC) tragedy in New York have developed cancers believed to be the result of exposure to the contaminated air that enveloped them. As of August, 1,140 responders and people who worked, lived or studied in lower Manhattan have been certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to have a WTC-related cancer. 'There are more cases out there, because we just know of the people in our government-funded medical programmes, not those who have been treated by their private doctors,' said Dr Jim Melius, who is chair of the steering committee for the WTC Responder Medical Programme and a 9/11 Health Watch board member. 'Because of the carcinogens in the air at Ground Zero, people who were exposed are vulnerable. And with cancer, there is a delay.' As many as 65,000 people, including first responders, who got sick from 9/11 exposure are part of a WTC medical monitoring and treatment programme in the New York metro area and in clinics around the country.
Events and Courses
TUC courses for safety reps
COURSES FOR SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2013
- Visit the TUC www.tuc.org.uk/healthandsafety website pages on health and safety. You can also follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/TUCHandS or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TUChealthandsafety
- Subscribe to Hazards magazine, supported by the TUC as a key source of information for union safety reps.
- What's new in the HSC/E and the European Agency.
- HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995
Issued: 13 September, 2013