Risks 624 - 28 September 2013

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Asbestos - the hidden killer
Hazards magazine
Hazards at Work

Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others, read each week by over 23,000 subscribers. To receive this bulletin every week, click here. Past issues are available. This edition contains Useful links TUC courses for safety reps Disclaimer and Privacy

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

Union News

River Island to sign Bangladesh safety accord

The TUC has welcomed a decision by clothing retailer River Island to sign up to the Bangladesh accord, the union-backed agreement designed to improve workplace safety in the country. The accord was implemented following the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed over 1,100 textile workers in April this year (Risks 605). River Island was one of eight UK retailers holding out against the Bangladesh fire and building safety accord, which has already been backed by most of the big names on the UK high street including Zara, Next, Primark, New Look and Debenhams. River Island's decision to sign up follows an extensive push this month by unions and other campaigners. The move now commits River Island to join with around 90 brands and retailers in funding inspection and safety training in over 1,700 factories across Bangladesh. As a result, Bangladeshi workers will have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions and be entitled to full lay-off pay whilst any repairs recommended as a result of safety inspections are completed. The TUC says the spotlight now falls on the seven other UK-based brands which are still refusing to sign the accord - Peacocks, Jane Norman, Bench, Bank Fashion, Republic, Matalan and Mexx. It intends to step up its campaign, using UK consumers to keep up the pressure until these last few companies agree to sign. Welcoming River Island's decision to commit to the accord, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'We're pleased River Island has stepped up to its responsibilities for its workers' safety in Bangladesh. The few remaining brands outside the accord now need to consider their position even more urgently. No-one's life should be worth as little as a few extra pence on a t-shirt.' Of the four deadliest factory disasters in history, three happened in the last 12 months.

Union concerns over helicopter safety probe

Unions have raised serious concerns about the organisation undertaking a review of offshore helicopter safety and the limited scope of the planned probe. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigation follows the crash last month of a CHC-operated Super Puma AS332 L2 off Shetland in which four contract workers died (Risks 622). Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: 'Unite has been very clear that we now need a forensic analysis of UK offshore health and safety that will help deliver essential reform.' He added: 'The Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) own investigations will need to provide substance and if it is serious about learning from the Norwegian model of offshore health and safety, the CAA would do well to support our earlier calls for the UK to replicate the widespread legislative changes made by the Norwegians to make their industry safer in 2000.' He added: 'If Oil & Gas UK and key stakeholders, including the CAA, are serious about reforming offshore health and safety then they must meaningfully engage with the industry's workers - it's most important resource. This is the only way the industry can begin to restore the shattered confidence of the workforce and help ensure that in future all workers get back home safe from the North Sea.' Pilots' union BALPA said the review was 'too little, too late.' A statement from the union said: 'Firstly, the CAA has not shown itself adept at getting below the surface of industry, the real life experience of pilots and understanding the human factors that drive safety. Nothing in today's announcement gives us confidence that this has changed.' BALPA said safety is not a high enough priority in the 'commercial cut throat business that is the North Sea', adding 'we believe any review must look at the role of the regulator in this lengthening trend of accidents. We are, for instance, concerned that there does not appear to have been any pre-existing comparison of accident rates being maintained despite a series of accidents. In the light of this we just do not think it credible to expect the Regulator to review itself.' The union called for a judicial-led independent review along the lines of the post-Piper Alpha inquiry led by Lord Cullen. Bob Crow, general secretary of offshore union RMT, said his union was 'demanding an investigation in to North Sea safety which extends beyond just the use of helicopters but which covers every aspect of the offshore working environment.'

Unions welcome Labour blacklisting inquiry

The Labour Party aims to launch a 'full inquiry' into the 'disgraceful' practice of blacklisting in the building industry, if the present government does not, a senior party figure has said. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna outlined the plan a Labour's conference this week. He said 'if this government won't launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful blacklisting in the construction industry, we will.' The news was welcomed by the TUC, although it said 'unions still want a full Leveson-style independent inquiry, as well as compensation for the victims and apologies from the construction companies who ruined so many lives.' Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: 'Labour's commitment to hold a full inquiry puts fresh pressure on the companies guilty of blacklisting. They must understand the full truth is going to be revealed. They should come clean and pay compensation to the blacklisted victims now.' The TUC, in partnership with the construction unions GMB, UCATT and Unite and the Blacklist Support Group, is holding a Day of Action on Blacklisting on 20 November.

Blacklister ousted from Labour conference

Construction unions have welcomed a decision by the Labour Party to bar blacklisting construction firm Carillion from its conference. A stand originally allocated to the construction giant was taken over by UCATT, after the Labour executive withdrew the Carillion invitation. The stand was then used by UCATT to promote the anti-blacklisting campaign and the campaign for Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets. Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: 'Labour is the party of natural justice and therefore it is entirely appropriate that a stand which would have been used to promote a company involved in blacklisting, will now be used to promote the campaign against blacklisting and Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets.' UCATT explained that the pickets were charged and convicted on 'trumped up charges' following the 1972 building workers' strike. The pickets are campaigning to have their convictions overturned. Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: 'The Labour Party must be applauded for kicking Carillion out of the exhibition hall at its conference. Clearly they are as sick as the rest of the Labour Movement by Carillion and their blacklisting mates.' He added: 'For any worker to be represented by a trade union in their workplace is a civil right that must be protected to the highest level, with new legislation backed by imprisonment and unlimited fines for anyone who interferes with it. For the Labour Party, these should be bread and butter manifesto commitments right now.' A list of nine major companies responsible for blacklisting over 1,100 construction workers was circulated by GMB at the Labour conference.

Sea union's concern at suppressed tragedy report

Seafarers' union Nautilus has condemned a decision by Panama to prevent public access to a long-awaited report on the 2009 loss of the livestock carrier Danny FII. The Panamanian-registered ship sank in stormy conditions off the coast of Lebanon in December 2009, with the loss of more than 40 seafarers - including the master and electrotechnical officer, who were both UK Nautilus members. The union had raised concerns about delays in producing the investigation report, which Panamanian officials had stated as far back as October 2010 was 'imminent'. The report was finally lodged with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) at the end of July 2013, but is still not publicly available. Nautilus is protesting to the IMO and the Panamanian Maritime Authority about the lack of access to the report. General secretary Mark Dickinson commented: 'We are utterly appalled that after all this time the report is not publicly available. Ever since the ship was lost, the families of those who died have been treated with contempt and the move to withhold the results of the investigation adds further insult to injury.' He added: 'This was a very major casualty with significant loss of life and there was worrying evidence suggesting the Danny FII had suffered from safety problems before the accident. It is therefore imperative that there is transparency and disclosure to demonstrate that concerns have been properly addressed and that investigations had assessed technical issues including the potential effects of any alterations to hull or equipment, and the factors affecting the stability of the vessel. Above all, it is essential that the relatives of those who died, and the shipping industry in general, can be given some comfort and reassurance that lessons have been learned to prevent similar disasters in the future.'

High price of a failure to fix a leaking tap

A firm has had to stump up £6,000 after its failure to fix a leaking tap led to a security guard suffering a serious knee injury. Colin Hillyard, 60, required knee surgery and had to take four months off work after slipping on a wet floor. The PCS member from Cheltenham was employed at an unidentified firm in the town in September 2009 when he slipped on the toilet floor. Colin contacted his union representatives who instructed personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors to take up his case for compensation. He said: 'My employer was supportive after the injury, but that doesn't change the fact that the accident could have been easily prevented by simply fixing or replacing the tap.' Carl Banks, PCS health and safety officer, said: 'Colin's case highlights that seemingly small and easily sorted problems, such as a leaking tap, can have serious consequences. A lack of a system for proper maintenance resulted in a member of staff being unable to work for four months and having to undergo knee surgery.' He added: 'The message to our members is that careless practices in the modern workplace are unacceptable and we would encourage members who know that this goes on where they work to contact the PCS.' David Coulthard from Thompsons Solicitors said: 'This seemingly simple case was legally complicated by the fact that there were three potential defendants all of whom blamed each other for the defective tap. We come across the blame game a lot in cases so we cut to the chase and issued claims against Mr Hillyard's employer, the occupier and the owner of the site. They quickly sorted out the blame game and we got a successful conclusion for our client.'

National Grid 'ignored vibration risk'

A GMB member will suffer health problems for life after excessive exposure to vibrating work tools while employed by the National Grid. The man from Lincoln, whose name has not been release, had been employed as a craftsman by National Grid for 32 years, where his work regularly involved using tools such as jack hammers, whackers, rock drills and vibration rollers. Excessive exposure to these tools has seen him develop vibration white finger (VWF) - an incurable condition which leaves those affected with frequent pain and numbness, tingling and lack of strength in their hands. His condition was diagnosed during an occupational health check at work. Andy Worth, from GMB Midlands and East Coast region, said: 'Our member's excessive exposure to vibrating tools at National Grid is shocking. Unfortunately, he is not the first of their employees to be exposed to such a risk. It begs the question whether National Grid - a huge employer - did enough to mitigate the potential health risks to their employees.' Monique Medd from Thompsons Solicitors, who were brought in by GMB to act in the case, said: 'Employers should have strict patterns of rotating shifts to ensure workers are not at risk of developing conditions such as vibration white finger. His usage of vibrating tools is now monitored to ensure his condition is not made worse but that is too late for our client who will pay the physical price for the rest of his life due to his employer's failure to address a basic health and safety issue.' He was awarded an undisclosed payout.

Prison workers welcome jail smoking ban plans

Prison officers' union POA has welcomed plans by the Prison Service to make prisons in England and Wales smoke-free workplaces by 2015. Inmates are currently allowed to smoke in their cells but a ban would prohibit this and extend to all parts of a prison, including exercise yards. POA began campaigning for a smoking ban in all UK prisons in 2007. It had expressed concerns about staff and prisoners being 'forced to suffer the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.' A ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces came into effect in England in July 2007 following similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The bans did not apply to prisoners as their cells were defined as 'domestic premises', although non-smoking prisoners could not be made to share a cell with a smoker. Peter McParlin, national chair of the POA, said: 'This is a health and safety issue for our members. Smoking is banned in workplaces throughout the UK and prisons cannot be exempt from this ban. The necessary resources will need to be put in place to ensure that the ban is implemented safely and that the health benefits are explained to prisoners.' POA general secretary Steve Gillan told the Times the union would work with the Ministry of Justice to make sure a ban 'works effectively'. He pointed out a ban had been introduced successfully in young offender institutions in England and Wales.

Other news

Charities furious at one-sided asbestos consultation

Asbestos charities have expressed their fury to justice minister Helen Grant over what they believe is the excessive influence of the insurance industry on the government's cancer compensation policy. In a 23 September meeting, the groups told justice minister Helen Grant the 'partisan' consultation 'Reforming Mesothelioma Claims' would disadvantage people suffering from the always fatal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum, the June Hancock and Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Funds, Macmillan and Mesothelioma UK said proposed reforms, which include removing an exemption from legal costs for mesothelioma sufferers, were drafted by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and incorporated wholesale in the consultation paper. The charities say concerns they raised were ignored by the minister, including problems with inadequate and possibly misleading data used in the consultation impact assessment. Charities believe that the ABI-inserted options will slow down claims and limit access to justice. Tony Whitston, a spokesperson for the groups, said: 'We are furious that the ABI agenda for reform has been adopted wholesale in the Ministry of Justice consultation and is being construed as the basis for imposing legal costs on dying mesothelioma sufferers. We are calling on the minister to abandon this partisan consultation which disadvantages mesothelioma sufferers, and instead, to arrange an opportunity for the defendant and claimant community to develop a positive agenda for reform.'

However good you are, you are not good enough

A managerial offensive is taking place at work, with a new report claiming the government's blitz on employment rights and welfare is being mirrored in a 'new workplace tyranny' and a massive intensification of work. Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde Business School, writing in Hazards magazine, says the phenomenon 'has brought narrow tasking, stress, bullying and lack of voice. The combination of unremitting intensity, insecurity and claustrophobic control and coercion is now characteristic of work across the economy.' He warns that performance management is the main tool used to up the pressure at work, with a proportion of workers set up to fail by design. Professor Taylor warns: 'In the worst cases, managers are given targets for the numbers of workers under their control who should be underperforming, put on sickness absence management actions or 'exited' out of the organisation. Should they fail to meet these targets, the managers themselves will be judged to be underperforming.' The professor concludes: 'Unrelenting work intensity and the insecurity caused by fear of the consequences of underperforming induce profound pressure and cause deep anxiety,' adding: 'The outcome frequently is a vicious circle. A worker gets a poor performance ranking and it affects their confidence. They are put on a PIP [performance improvement programme] and they believe that they have been targeted. Stress might follow and they go off sick. When they return to work, often prematurely, they are in 'a two-pronged cycle', facing warnings over their performance and sickness absence triggers. The resultant pressure compounds their insecurity making them even less likely to make the improvements the performance managers are demanding. The result can be acute mental ill-health with the threat of capability dismissal looming.'

Labour crackdown on bogus self-employment

Construction union UCATT has welcomed Labour's announcement that the next Labour government will crackdown on false self-employment in the construction industry. Following a year-long review commissioned by shadow chancellor Ed Balls, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeve said: 'False self-employment in construction is a scandal that is costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions each year at the same time as undermining responsible employers and the sustainable development of the UK construction industry. The Tory-led government has ignored the evidence and refused to take action. A Labour government will put this right.' She said that the last Labour government proposed criteria where workers would be automatically 'deemed' to be employed for tax purposes if they were what most people would regard as employees, rather than self-employed subcontractors. 'This will be our starting point. We will of course consult further and work closely with the construction industry to design the criteria so that the right level of flexibility is maintained, that those who are genuinely self-employed are not hit.' Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: 'I want to congratulate the shadow Treasury team for this pro-active policy, which will have a real impact on the lives of construction workers.' He added: 'False self-employment affects every aspect of the industry including safety and training. By reducing self-employment the industry will become safer, training will be improved and exploitation will be reduced.'

Critics of EU chemical policy had industry ties

Seventeen scientists who launched a high profile attack on plans in Europe to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals have past or current ties to regulated industries. An investigation by Environmental Health News (EHN) revealed that of 18 toxicology journal editors who signed a controversial editorial, 17 have collaborated with the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tobacco, pesticide or biotechnology industries. Some have received research funds from industry associations, while some have served as industry consultants or advisers. EHN says the stakes are high in the controversy because it involves the European Union's strategy to regulate hormone-altering chemicals - the first attempt in the world to do so. The new rules would have sweeping, global ramifications because all companies that sell a variety of products in Europe would have to comply. EHN says the editorial - published in 14 scientific journals from July to September - 'has created a firestorm in Europe among many scientists and regulators.' The paper, whose lead author is toxicologist Daniel Dietrich, criticised a leaked draft proposal by Europe's environment Directorate-General that recommends a precautionary approach, which could lead to the ban of some commonly used chemicals. Dietrich is a former adviser for an industry organisation funded by chemical, pesticide and oil companies that lobbies the European Commission on endocrine disruptors. Other scientists immediately queried the writers' motives and undisclosed ties to industry, calling the editorial criticising a policy proposal an 'unusual initiative' for science journal editors. 'I was very surprised by the editorial. I thought it was emotional and non-specific, a mixture of science and policy, and with too many errors,' said Åke Bergman, an environmental chemistry researcher at Stockholm University. A rebuttal, published in the journal Environmental Health, was signed by Bergman and 40 other scientists with no declared conflicts of interest. They wrote that they were 'concerned that the Dietrich editorial appears to be intended as an intervention designed to impact imminent decisions by the European Commission.' The editorial 'ignores scientific evidence and well-established principles of chemical risk assessment' related to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, they wrote. Another rebuttal signed by 104 scientists and editors of journals was published last week in the journal Endocrinology. Scientist Philippe Grandjean, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Environmental Health, has also urged Dietrich and colleagues to correct their 'lapse' of disclosure of competing interests in their editorial.

Chemical exposure at work poses worst pregnancy risk

The evidence that exposure to chemicals in pregnancy leads to adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes is 'sufficiently robust,' medical experts have warned, with the risks highest for those exposed at work. A report this week from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) urges doctors to push for stricter policies to better identify and reduce exposure to chemicals that prove truly risky. During the first prenatal visit, ACOG wants doctors to ask mothers-to-be about their exposure to chemicals. Doctors should also ask about work during that first visit, the committee advised. The report warns: 'Women with occupational exposure to toxic chemicals also are highly vulnerable to adverse reproductive health outcomes.' But it's not just about women and pregnancy, the report noted, with a father's exposures also relevant. 'Obtaining a patient history during a preconception visit and the first prenatal visit to identify specific types of exposure that may be harmful to a developing fetus is a key step and also should include queries of the maternal and paternal workplaces,' the report said. 'Prenatal exposure to certain chemicals has been documented to increase the risk of cancer in childhood; adult male exposure to pesticides is linked to altered semen quality, sterility, and prostate cancer; and postnatal exposure to some pesticides can interfere with all developmental stages of reproductive function in adult females, including puberty, menstruation and ovulation, fertility and fecundity, and menopause.'

Man doused in deadly chemical at drug firm

A Northumberland pharmaceutical company has been fined for a serious criminal safety breach that left a worker fighting for his life in hospital. On 7 February 2012, the employee was sprayed with seven litres of bromine as he removed cables from a valve connected to pipework at Aesica Pharmaceuticals in Cramlington. He spent 48 hours in a critical condition after inhaling the corrosive substance and also suffered severe skin burns and damage to one eye. Newcastle Crown Court heard that in 2007 a bromine bulk storage tank had been taken out of service and prepared for an insurance inspection which included removing short sections of connecting pipework. The subsequent removal of the tank left the rest of the pipework, including some valves, suspended from a set of flexible bellows which allowed movement in the pipework, but were not designed to be weight-bearing. One end was still connected to pipework for filling an adjacent tank with bromine, which left it contaminated. When the worker removed the cables, the bellows failed releasing the bromine over him. He was in hospital for four weeks and continues to receive treatment for his injuries. He has not returned to work. Aesica Pharmaceuticals Ltd was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £7,803 costs after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. After the case, HSE inspector Graham Watson said: 'Any changes to plant must be carefully assessed to ensure it does not increase the risk of failure. Measures must be in place through an on-going programme of maintenance and inspection to ensure the continued integrity of the plant according to risk.'

Window firm fined over severed fingers

A Cumbrian manufacturer of wooden doors and window frames has been fined for criminal safety failings after an employee's fingers were severed by a rotating saw. The New West Port Corporation Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at its factory on the Solway Industrial Estate in Maryport on 2 March 2011. West Cumbria Magistrates' Court in Workington heard the 29-year-old local man had been feeding long pieces of wood through a machine so they could be cut to size by circular saws. As he put a piece of wood into the machine's exit so it could be recalibrated for the next job, his right hand was struck by one of the blades, which was still rotating. The worker lost parts of all four fingers on his right hand and now struggles to carry out everyday tasks like shaving and cooking. The HSE investigation found there was no guard over the part of the machine where the wood came out from under the saw, which meant it was possible for workers to reach it while it was still rotating. The New West Port Corporation Ltd was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £4,075 after pleading guilty to a criminal breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the machine. HSE inspector Andrew Jewitt said: 'The company has since installed a tunnel guard over the machine's exit. If this simple guard had been in place at the time of the incident then the worker's injuries could have been avoided.'

International news

Canada: Mine deaths plea bargain 'betrays workers'

A plea bargain dropping the majority of safety charges against international mining giant Vale related to the deaths of two nickel miners in exchange for a Can$1m (£600,000) fine is another betrayal of Ontario workers and their families, unions have said. The 'decision highlights our government's failure to take comprehensive, meaningful action to better protect workers and to ensure justice for families whose loved ones are needlessly injured or killed on the job,' said Rick Bertrand, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500, representing 2,600 mining workers in Sudbury. 'Damning evidence was uncovered that showed the deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram, like so many other injuries and fatalities in Ontario mines, were preventable. Yet our government has refused to pursue the possibility of a criminal prosecution and rejected a public inquiry into mining safety. We're left with a plea bargain deal in which our government drops most of the health and safety charges in exchange for a fine against one of the largest corporations in the world.' Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) president Sid Ryan said: 'Even a one million dollar fine for regulatory infractions is a miscarriage of justice when the Vale bosses responsible for putting profit ahead of worker safety are allowed to walk free.' The plea bargain agreement, negotiated between the Ministry of Labour and Vale, was accepted in the Ontario Court of Justice last week. The deal saw Vale plead guilty to three violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, with fines of $350,000 (£212,000) for each violation. The fines fall short of the maximum penalty of $500,000 (£303,000) for such breaches. Numerous other charges against Vale and one of its supervisors were dropped as part of the deal. USW conducted an eight-month investigation in the deaths and released a landmark report that revealed 'disturbing evidence' of safety violations in the mine and made sweeping recommendations to improve mining safety. Vale refused to co-operate with USW in its investigation.

Global: Unions continue container safety campaign

The global transport workers' union ITF has pledged to continue the struggle for container weight safety after what it described as a missed opportunity to reduce the risk of harm to transport workers and members of the public. ITF was speaking out after the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sub-committee on dangerous goods, solid cargoes and containers decided to reject mandatory weighing of packed shipping containers. ITF has sought to amend the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) to make the checks mandatory, but the sub-committee opted for a compromise. This allows governments to either choose what ITF describes at the 'gold standard' of mandatory weighing or to verify the weight by adding together the different constituent parts of a container load at unspecified times and places along the transport route. ITF president and dockers' section chair Paddy Crumlin said: 'This was the ideal opportunity to finally bring in a system which would lessen the risk that unweighed and misdeclared containers pose to dockers, seafarers, truck drivers, the general public and the environment. Instead we have a compromise that in some countries will put in place a process that is likely to be bedevilled by the obvious questions: who will certify, when, and how?' He added: 'It must be made a legal requirement that containers are weighed and weighed accurately, and there must be repercussions for those who misdeclare. That's what we're campaigning for because anything less just isn't good enough.'

Honduras: Banana workers call for help

A certification system supposed to provide a guarantee that goods are produced according to strict standards that guarantee workers' rights is giving cover to an abusive banana producer in Honduras, the global food workers' union IUF has said. Last year workers at the Tres Hermanas banana plantation in Honduras formed a union, SITRAINBA. But rather than recognise the union, IUF says Tres Hermanas management set up their own bogus "union" and started a campaign of harassment, including sacking some SITRAINBA members and suspending others. Last month the company suspended for eight days workers who are members of SITRAINBA. According to an outraged IUF: 'Amazingly, Tres Hermanas has certification from the US-based Rainforest Alliance (RA) for its good social, economic and environmental practices!' IUF general secretary Ron Oswald said: 'It is clear that the company is hiding behind its Rainforest certification and using this to fool both its buyers and the public that it is a good guy. We call on Rainforest to decertify this plantation immediately.' The website of the Rainforest Alliance says its 'little green frog' label 'is your assurance that goods and services were produced according to strict environmental, social and economic standards that curb deforestation, protect wildlife and improve conditions for workers, families and communities.' According to Ron Oswald: 'In the case of Tres Hermanas this is clearly untrue. Rainforest should decertify them now.' He said that IUF will have further talks with banana giant Chiquita, a major buyer from Tres Hermanas.

Global: Child labourer falls by a third since 2000

A new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), says that the number of child labourers worldwide has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million. But 'Marking progress against child labour' warns even the latest improved rate of decline is not enough to achieve the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 - agreed by the international community through the ILO. The latest ILO estimates, published in the lead-up to the Global Conference on Child Labour, which takes place in Brasilia next month, show that most of the progress was made between 2008 and 2012, when the global number fell from 215 to 168 million. More than half of the 168 million child labourers worldwide are involved in hazardous work. The current number of children in hazardous work stands at 85 million, down from 171 million in 2000. ILO director-general Guy Ryder said: 'We are moving in the right direction but progress is still too slow. If we are serious about ending the scourge of child labour in the foreseeable future, then we need a substantial stepping-up of efforts at all levels. There are 168 million good reasons to do so.' Constance Thomas, director of the ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), said: 'No one can take sole credit for this result, as many have helped draw attention to the negative impacts of child labour on economic growth, the future of societies and the rights of children. However, the ILO's role in leading the fight against child labour, through its standards and supervisory system, advice, capacity building and direct action, deserves special mention.' Global unions have argued consistently that children should be in education, not work, and have supported schools projects.

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