TUC - Risks 719 - 12 September 2015

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TUC Risks E-Bulletins
 
719 - 12 September 2015
 
Risks is the TUC's weekly online bulletin for safety reps and others. Sign up to receive this bulletin every week. Past issues are available. Disclaimer and Privacy Editor: Rory O'Neill of Hazards magazine. Comments to the TUC at [email protected]
 

Contents

UNION NEWS

OTHER NEWS

EVENTS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

UNION NEWS

TUC warns of the re-emergence of ‘Burnout Britain’

The number of people working excessive hours has risen by 15 per cent since 2010, according to a new TUC analysis. The number of employees working more than 48 hours per week has now reached 3,417,000 – up by 453,000 since 2010 – following more than a decade of decline in long hours working. Regularly working more than 48 hours per week is linked to a significantly increased risk of developing stress, mental illness, heart disease and strokes (Risks 718) and diabetes (Risks 674). Illnesses caused by excessive working time put extra strain on the health service and the benefits system, as well as impacting on co-workers, friends and relatives. Many people are working unpaid overtime and at least a million report that they want to cut their excessive hours. The TUC says that the government should reassess its negative view of the EU Working Time Directive, which has been brought into UK law and stipulates a 48 hour working week. Many long hours employees report that they feel pressured to ‘opt-out’ from the 48 hour limit as a condition of employment - individual opt-outs are currently allowed by law. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain’s long hours culture is hitting productivity and putting workers’ health at risk. Working more than 48 hours a week massively increases the risk of strokes, heart disease and diabetes.” She added: “We need stronger rules around excessive working, not an opt-out of the Working Time Directive. David Cameron will not convince people to vote yes in the EU referendum if all he’s offering is ‘Burnout Britain’.”

TUC news release. Morning Star.

Trade Union Bill a ‘major attack on civil liberties’

Leading human rights groups have warned that the government’s Trade Union Bill is “a major attack on civil liberties in the UK”. In a joint statement Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights said the bill “would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.” The groups accused ministers of deliberately trying to put “more legal hurdles in the way of unions organising strike action” and said the bill would undermine workers’ ability to organise together to protect jobs and livelihoods. The warning came just a fortnight after the government’s red tape watchdog, the Regulatory Policy Committee, criticised ministers for trying to rush through the Trade Union Bill without proper consultation, describing the government’s three impact assessments on its proposals as “red – not fit for purpose”. Commenting on the new joint statement, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a welcome and significant intervention.” She added: “Ministers should be working with unions to deliver a fairer Britain, not dreaming up new ways of stopping their members from defending jobs and pay and standing up for decent services and safety at work.” In one of three TUC responses to the government consultation on the Bill, the TUC noted: “Union workplaces are safer workplaces, largely due to tens of thousands of union health and safety reps being trained each year to internationally-recognised standards. Unions raise safety concerns through health and safety committees and collective bargaining arrangements and this leads to far fewer workplace accidents.” The TUC response points to government commissioned research that showed this union safety effect saved hundreds of millions each year by reducing lost time from occupational injuries and work-related illnesses. Another TUC response noted that agency workers lacked the necessary training to replace striking workers, adding: “There are also genuine health and safety risks to agency workers from these proposals, who could find themselves asked to run entire services without the support, proper induction and direction from permanent colleagues that temporary staff expect to allow them to do their jobs well.”

TUC news release and responses to the government consultation on the Trade Union Bill. BBC News Online.

Can you send an email to your MP? Make sure all supportive MPs attend the forthcoming vote on the Trade Union Bill, and that government MPs realise their constituents are concerned.

Liverpool agrees breakthrough construction charter

Construction firms that want to build in Liverpool will have to agree a six-point charter to ensure that workers have guaranteed health and safety rights and decent employment conditions. The charter, which has been drawn up by the unions Unite, UCATT and the GMB, is designed to stamp out ‘notorious’ industry practices, such as bogus self-employment schemes, blacklisting and health and safety breaches on any construction site within the city limits. The three unions signed the document on 10 September, along with the mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson. The charter states: “It goes without saying that the health and safety of all workers is paramount. The construction industry is a dangerous industry and consequently we expect health and safety standards to be rigorously implemented and adhered to. We also expect welfare facilities for construction workers to be appropriate to the 21st century, such as toilets, mess, and drying facilities.” Other commitments required of contractors wanting to work in the city include skills training, respect for national agreements and a living wage. The charter adds: “We also believe that all workers have the right to paid holidays, access to a sickness benefit scheme, a decent pension, accident compensation and the comfort of knowing that a death in service scheme is in operation.” Two of the six clauses support union safety reps, while another backs the “provision of equality of opportunity for all, including the acknowledgement that the blacklisting of workers, for whatever reason, has no place in our society.”

Unite news release. GMB news release. UCATT news release. Construction Enquirer.

Bus driver fired after breaking his neck

A bus driver was fired after his neck was broken as he made his way to work. Describing the decision by Metroline to dismiss Manelson Chivela as “sickening”, his union GMB is now demanding his reinstatement. On 11 May this year, the 39-year-old father of three suffered multiple injuries including a broken neck, broken bones in his face, extensive soft tissue injuries to the left side of his body and bruising all over his body when his motorcycle was hit by two cars as he travelled to work. He was taken by air ambulance, to the Royal London Hospital where he received extensive treatment over six days. GMB regional organiser Richard Owen said: “In just over three months after the accident Mr Chivela was ordered by his employer Metroline to attend a ‘Medical Capability Hearing’, which he did with the help a crutch to help him walk and a neck-brace to support his broken neck. Mr Chivela’s medical advisers expect him to make a complete recovery and Metroline’s own occupational health report advises the company to support his recovery by offering a phased return and a sedentary role and said that ‘there is no evidence of permanent incapacity and that medical dismissal would not be relevant currently’.” Mr Chivela has been described by his managers as “an excellent employee, with a superb attitude to his work”. The union says he has never been disciplined, and has an excellent attendance record. “Clearly, Metroline no longer allow their employees to recover from serious injuries, they simply dismiss them, and try to recruit replacements,” GMB’s Richard Owen said, adding that the union is demanding his reinstatement with no interruption of his employment rights. He noted: “GMB have also been told by Metroline are struggling to recruit drivers. If this is the way they treat loyal, hard-working employees, is that really a surprise?”

GMB news release.

Unions welcome death knell for tribunal fees in Scotland

Unions have welcomed the Scottish government announcement that it intends to abolish fees for employment tribunals in Scotland. The announcement came as public service union UNISON vowed to go to the UK Supreme Court in its ongoing fight against the UK government's decision to introduce employment tribunal fees across the UK (Risks 718). Under the fees system, workers can be required to pay up to £1,200 for taking a tribunal complaint about issues including victimisation for workplace safety activities. Commenting on the Scottish government’s move, Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish secretary, said: “This decision will ensure that people at work in Scotland will get a fair opportunity to have their case heard. This announcement goes a long way towards building more sensible industrial relations in Scotland and we welcome it.” UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “We urge the UK government to look at what is happening in Scotland to see that there is a better way. Workers across the UK who have been treated badly at work are being denied access to justice day after day, simply because they don't have the money to take a case. Now it seems that workers in Scotland are at least going to get a better deal.” He added: “Our fight for fairness at work and access to justice for every person at work in the UK will continue until these unfair and punitive fees are scrapped right across the land.” Alan Denney, national secretary for Scotland with the specialists’ union Prospect, said: “This has been an issue that Prospect has campaigned on across the UK,” adding: “We are very pleased that the Scottish government has identified this as a priority, and we look forward to working with ministers on this, and other issues, to make Scotland a better and fairer place for our members to work.”

UNISON Scotland news release. Prospect news release.

A Stronger Scotland: The Government's Programme for Scotland 2015-16, Scottish government, September 2015.

Survey identifies issues facing women seafarers

Seafarers’ union Nautilus is to seek better tailored guidance and action to address health problems faced by women seafarers. The union’s commitment follows the publication of the findings of a large scale international survey of the health concerns of women working at sea. It found the problems encountered mirror those of their male counterparts, with back and joint pain, and stress being the most commonly reported health concerns. The survey, coordinated by the global transport union federation ITF and maritime organisations, also identified barriers to women accessing healthcare. The research found that relatively simple and low cost interventions could be made to improve women seafarers’ health and welfare. These included gender-specific publications on back pain, mental health and nutrition, as well as gynaecological complaints. It also called for the introduction of sanitary waste for all female crew on all ships, and improved availability of female-specific items, such as sanitary products, in port shops and welfare centres. The survey was a joint initiative by ITF, the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), and the Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS). Nautilus said union officials and medical experts in the field will meet this month to discuss the results and to explore “ways in which the recommendations for action can be taken forward collaboratively within the maritime industry, to improve provisions for women seafarers.”

Nautilus news release. Nautilus Telegraph.

New Merseyrail trains must have guards

Plans for a new generation of Merseyrail trains will be welcomed by all, the union RMT has said – but it adds these trains must have guards on board to maintain safety and security. The union said both passengers and rail workers will be horrified at the prospect of Merseyrail trains without guards, saying networks without staffing descend into an “anti-social abyss”. The union, which is concerned management intends to dispense with these safety-critical guards, is seeking urgent meetings with Merseytravel and the region’s Combined Authority to demand an input in the commissioning of new rolling stock and to defend the nearly 400 jobs that could be under threat. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We welcome the principle of new trains and the plan to cut out the racketeering train-leasing companies, but RMT, along with our sister union ASLEF, are opposed to any new driver-only or driver-controlled operation. Serious recent incidents on Merseyrail underline the essential safety role played by guards, and we feel sure that the travelling public, as well as the region’s MPs and councillors, will be horrified at the thought of trains being run without them.” He added: “We will work alongside passenger groups to stop Merseyrail from sliding into the anti-social abyss that we see opening up elsewhere, with ghost trains and de-staffed stations ending up as a muggers’ paradise. The case for keeping guards is unanswerable and should be reflected in the bidding process: the bottom line is that we will not hesitate to defend our members’ jobs and public safety.”

RMT news release.

Firefighter badly injured in pig rescue

A firefighter from Louth, Lincolnshire has received £108,000 in compensation after suffering a serious shoulder injury at work. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) member, whose name has not been released, was part of a team responding to a call where a lorry that was transporting pigs had turned over. Firefighters were instructed by their station manager to move the dead pigs out of the back of the lorry to allow access to the animals that were trapped but still alive. The lorry was lying on a slope, which meant two of the firefighters had to climb up the incline to access the back of the vehicle. The FBU member was standing at the top of the slope while his colleague was standing inside the lorry. The men were able to move some of the animals by lifting them over the lip in the back door of the lorry, but they were heavy and difficult to grip. When lifting one of the pigs out of the doorway the FBU member slipped on the embankment and fell backwards, landing on his elbows and jolting his left shoulder. The man was diagnosed with a muscle injury but after four months of physiotherapy he was re-examined and it was discovered that he had in fact torn his shoulder muscle and tendons. Nine months after his accident he had surgery but doctors were unable to repair the damaged tendons. It was only after a further six months of physiotherapy, he was fit enough to return to work. FBU national officer Dave Green said: “Situations involving overturned vehicles need to be carefully assessed to avoid further casualties. In this case, our member was sent in without a proper risk assessment of the environment in which he would be operating and the result was a permanent injury. A little bit more thought and the personal cost to our member’s health and to his Brigade’s finances could have been avoided.”

FBU news release. Thompsons Solicitors news release and new industrial diseases website.

OTHER NEWS

Low pay is a workplace ‘well-being’ issue

In in an increasing number of workplaces, workforce ‘well-being’ has become a favourite management preoccupation – often as a more palatable alternative to dealing with health and safety concerns, according to the TUC (Risks 685). But a new official report suggests employers may be ignoring the key driver of poor well-being – low pay. ‘Relationship between Wealth, Income and Personal Well-being, July 2011 to June 2012’, published this month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) “vividly shows the how dependent personal well-being is on a decent standard of living,” notes TUC senior economist Geoff Tilly. On the relation between well-being and wealth, ONS reaches an “utterly clear-cut” conclusion, he says. “‘Life satisfaction’, ‘sense of worth’ and ‘happiness’ are greatly reduced for those on lower wealth; ‘anxiety’ is greatly increased. (All four aspects are significant in the statistical sense.) This is not earth-shattering stuff, but it is a measure of the damage to individuals and likely their families caused by low income and hardship.” The TUC economist warns: “As policy gears up to take an even harder line with the most vulnerable, this damage is likely only to intensify.” Research last year linked long hours at low pay to a higher risk of diabetes (Risks 674). And a report last year in Hazards magazine noted “low paid work comes with high work risks”, including more occupational accidents and work-related diseases including diabetes and cancer.

TUC Touchstone blog. Relationship between Wealth, Income and Personal Well-being, July 2011 to June 2012, ONS, September 2015. Low blow: Low paid work comes with high work risks, Hazards, October-December 2014.

New warning on deadly work stress

Job insecurity, long working hours and other common workplace stressors can all damage a person's health, raise the odds of them having an illness diagnosed by a doctor and even leading to an early death. This is the conclusion of a Harvard Business School and Stanford University study. The research team analysed evidence from 228 studies investigating stress in the workplace. They found that high job demands increased the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35 per cent. Long work hours increased the chances of early death by almost 20 per cent. By far the biggest stressor identified was the worry that you might soon lose your job; that increased the odds of having poor health by about 50 per cent. The research paper notes: “Our results suggest that many workplace conditions profoundly affect human health. In fact, the effect of workplace stress is about as large as that of second-hand tobacco smoke, an exposure that has generated much policy attention and efforts to prevent or remediate its effects.” Joel Goh, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, and the study's co-author, said: “When you think about how much time individuals typically spend at work, it's not that surprising.” He said many companies now have ‘wellness programmes’ which include exercise and yoga classes at lunchtimes. But the focus shouldn't solely be on the employee's actions, companies should also think about the effects managers have on their staff, he added. “Wellness programmes are great at doing what they're designed to do,” he said. “But they're targeting [employee behaviour], not targeting the cause of stress. There are two sides of the equation and right now we focus on one side. We're trying to call attention to the other side, which is the effect of managerial practices.”

Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Stefanos A Zenios, Workplace stressors and health outcomes: Health policy for the workplace, Behavioural Science and Policy, volume 1, number 1, September 2015. Daily Mail. CNN News. Boston.com.

Law project wins 95 per cent of 'fit for work' appeals

Almost all of the 200 “fit for work“ test appeals undertaken by a student volunteer project have been won, providing more evidence of the unreliability of the government’s controversial work capability assessment (WCA). The programme was created by Avon and Bristol Law centre, two years ago using a handpicked team of law students to fill the gap created by legal aid cuts in 2013. Legal aid has all but disappeared for welfare benefits work. The centre reports that the students have won 95 per cent of the appeals they took to Bristol’s Social security and Child Support tribunal, successfully reinstating £1m of benefits for ill and disabled clients wrongly assessed by the WCA as able to work. Most of those clients who turned to the Avon and Bristol project after being found fit for work had mental health problems or severe physical illness. According to the law centre, the national average success rate for WCA appeals is 59 per cent. Around 44 per cent of those who appeal receive no professional or legal representation. But the Avon case provides more evidence that where they do, the chances of overturning the original decision increase hugely. Avon and Bristol law centre director Clare Carter told the Guardian she had no doubt that the 95 per cent figure reflected the basic unreliability of the fit for work test. “It speaks for itself. There is clearly a problem with the [WCA] decision-making process,” she said. Official figures released last month after a Freedom of Information request showed that over a two year period more than 4,000 people died within six weeks of being found ‘fit for work’, prompting the TUC to call for an urgent inquiry into the “disturbing findings” (Risks 717).

The Guardian. The Mirror. Lawyer 2B.

Study looks at the impact of work on health

A major ongoing research project is turning its attention to the effects of work on health. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson described the new evaluation by the UK Biobank study as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to learn more about how certain workplace hazards are resulting in illness or death. In 2006 UK Biobank started recruiting 500,000 people aged between 40-69 years who agreed to give detailed information about themselves and agreed to have their health followed. Now they are asking participants to take part in an online survey about their working lives. According to the TUC safety specialist: “This questionnaire will help scientists to research the effect working hours and chemicals in the workplace may have on an individual’s health. It asks about where you work, what you did, what you were exposed to and whether you works shifts, and if so, what kind. Detailed data of this kind and scale has not previously been available, and could give us a lot more information about the hazards of work.” He concludes: “Large studies like this are the best way to find out when a disease that is relatively common such as certain cancers or stress-related illness, is more common in people who do certain jobs and we need more of them. Data from a similar research project, the Million Women Study which was started in 1996, is being used to get more information on the link between breast cancer and shift work so this kind of research is crucial. Previously very few countries have kept this level of information on its population and this is something to be very much welcomed.”

UK Biobank news release and website. TUC health and safety facebook page.

Scotland urged to plug asbestos loophole

Scotland’s groundbreaking asbestos compensation laws need an immediate tweak to stop the most seriously affected individuals losing out, occupational health researchers have said. The University of Stirling team said Scotland leads the way in protecting the rights of people affected by asbestos, but in certain circumstances claimants are poorly served by the current arrangements. Their research found people who suffer from pleural plaques, an asbestos-related chest condition, are being forced to second-guess their chances of subsequently developing a potentially fatal condition such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Pleural plaques victims must choose between a smaller provisional payout enabling them to return to court if then affected by a more serious condition, or accept a full and final payment, ending all legal liability. “It is perfectly understandable that the victim when faced with such a choice would choose the larger compensation award, but they cannot possibly grasp the potential effects of a more serious illness upon them and their family,” said lead researcher Tommy Gorman, from the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group. “The Scottish Parliament has produced vital legislation in recent years to address the devastating impact of asbestos-related conditions and I believe our report provides a compelling argument for the need to move quickly to resolve negative impacts on claimants and their families.” The team suggest one solution would be to give pleural plaques stand-alone status, in line with similar approaches taken across Europe. This would enable victims to receive an award through an alternative payment system and pursue future court claims in relation to a subsequently emerging more serious condition. The Stirling report was presented this week to a meeting of MSPs from all parties, government ministers, groups representing those with asbestos-related diseases, health and safety groups, and trade union officials and personal injury lawyers.

Stirling University news release. Irwin Mitchell Solicitors news release. Glasgow Evening Times. Hawick News.

Labourer aged 16 died in site fall

A north London company has been fined £325,000 following the death of a 16-year-old labourer. Enfield firm Rooftop Rooms Ltd pleaded guilty to criminal safety offences at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 16 March 2015 at the start of the trial. At a sentencing hearing this month, the company was fined £325,000, ordered to pay the Crown costs of £12,187.78 and health and safety costs of £7,334.84. Alfie Perrin, 16, fell from a scaffold on 14 November 2012. He was working for the loft conversion company when the incident happened. The teenager was treated at the scene and taken to an east London hospital where he subsequently died from head injuries. The death was investigated by officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Major Crime Command together with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The investigation established he had been instructed to clear rubbish and timber off-cuts from the rear roof area of the two storey house. He did this by transferring them over the flat roof of the dormer extension and down the pitched roof at the front of the house, from where he was told to throw the material into the skip on the ground. There was no edge protection around the flat dormer roof and the scaffold platform had a large gap at one end where a ladder should have been fitted or scaffold poles used to reduce the risk of falls. Neither measure was in place. Alfie fell to his death after throwing a bag of rubble from the scaffold platform into the skip.

Metropolitan Police news release. Construction Enquirer. Ilford Recorder. Wanstead Guardian. Enfield Today.

Fall into recycling machine proved fatal

A waste recycling firm has been sentenced after admitting criminal safety failings related to a worker’s death. Bradford Crown Court heard that on 17 August 2012, Simon Brook, an employee of Gwynn Davies-McTiffin Ltd, was found lying seriously injured at the bottom of a horizontal baling machine. His legs had been partially severed inside the machine and had to be amputated by a doctor at the scene. The 50-year-old father of six died two days later. The court heard though there were no witnesses to the incident, it seems likely the deceased was fatally injured when he fell into the baling machine’s hopper while clearing a blockage. A steel pole was found in the chamber, suggesting that Mr Brook had been using the pole to clear a blockage. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found it was likely that Mr Brook falling into the hopper cleared the blockage, causing the machine to automatically restart. HSE served a prohibition notice on the company on the day of the incident prohibiting use of the baler, as guarding deficiencies allowed access to dangerous parts. An improvement notice was also served requiring the company to provide systems of work for all foreseeable interventions on the baler. HSE told the court that failings at the company’s premises in Batley were systemic. Prosecutor Ben Mill, for HSE, told Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC that the accident occurred despite advice being given in 2002 and 2011. The court heard that although improvements had been made to another more modern baling machine at the firm’s Uttoxeter site in 2011 the method being used at Batley was “inherently unsafe”. Gwynn Davies-McTiffin Ltd was fined £80,000 with costs of £40,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal safety breach. In a victim personal statement, Mr Brook’s widow, Diane, said: “The lives of myself and our children have been ruined.” She added: “Every aspect of my life has been affected. Simon lost his life but I have lost my life too. We did everything together. It feels like my lights have been turned off.”

HSE news release. Dewsbury Reporter. Morning Star.

European Health and Safety Week, 19-25 October

European Health and Safety Week will take place in the third week of October, running from Monday 19 October to Sunday 25 October. The theme is workplace stress for the second year running. The Wednesday of European Health and Safety Week – this year, 21 October - is traditionally the TUC National Inspection Day when all safety representatives are encouraged to inspect their workplace.

TUC European Health and Safety Week webpage and resources.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Canada: Study shows unions keep site workers safer

Unionised construction workers are significantly less likely than their non-unionised counterparts to be seriously injured on the job, a new Canadian study has shown. The report examined Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims data from more than 40,000 construction firms across the province of Ontario. It found that workers with unionised firms reported 23 per cent fewer injuries that required time off than those at non-union shops. Unionised workers were also 17 per cent less likely to experience muscle, tendon, and nerve injuries that affect mobility. They were almost 30 per cent less likely to suffer critical injuries — defined as those that place workers’ lives in jeopardy. “One of the things that I think our study shows is that one way to identify firms that are doing well is to identify unionised firms,” said the report’s lead investigator, Ben Amick, of the Institute for Work and Health. “That may not be the only way but I think we need to have a discussion about what’s going right.” The study was funded by the Ontario Construction Secretariat, which represents 25 building trade unions, together with representatives of government and contractors. “There’s a general kind of understanding that the unionised construction industry is safer than the alternative,” said the organisation’s head, Sean Strickland. “I think it’s important to have this kind of study to actually prove that this is indeed the case.” The research looked at injury claims between 2006 and 2012 for firms together employing more than 1.5 million full-time Ontario workers, in what Amick calls one of the most comprehensive studies in North America. While the report found that unionised workers were less likely to claim for serious injuries, they were more likely to file less serious incidents, which Amick says allows construction unions to better identify workplace dangers. IWH associate scientific director Dr Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, a co-author of the report, said: “The lower rates of lost-time claims might also suggest that unionised workplaces are safer. It could be they do a better job educating workers, in part through apprenticeship training. They may have more effective health and safety programmes and practices. They may give workers more voice to influence the health and safety of their work environments, and to report not only injuries, but also near-misses.”

IWH news release. OCS union safety effect infographic. FIU news release.

Toronto Star.

Benjamin C Amick, Sheilah Hogg-Johnson, Desiree Latour-Villamil and Ron Saunders. Protecting construction worker health and safety in Ontario Canada: Identifying a union safety effect, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online ahead of print, September 2015. doi 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000562 [full paper].

Europe: EC refuses access to glyphosate assessment

The European Commission has refused to make available the risk assessment report on glyphosate prepared for the European Food Safety Authority. Glyphosate is the world's most widely used herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. The risk assessment will determine glyphosate's renewed authorisation in the European Union. The European pesticide lobby is pressing Europe to follow the United States in increasing allowable glyphosate exposure levels. In a letter to the German NGO Testbiotech last month, the Commission stated that the report is confidential and there is “no overriding public interest” in making it accessible. However, a report earlier this year from the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” – described by global food and farming union federation IUF as “presumably a compelling public interest.” IUF adds: “The Commission's ongoing refusal to make available its risk assessment data violates a 2013 ruling by the European Court of Justice requiring public disclosure.” In the light of the new IARC cancer rating, the UK TUC warned this year that because of the unquestionable risks posed by glyphosate, which can also causes short- and long-term skin, eye and respiratory problems and serious liver and kidney damage, it is “necessary to try to prevent any workers coming into contact with glyphosate” (Risks 703).

IUF news report.

Global: Lawyers bid to hide scientist’s asbestos links

In a document filed on 4 September, lawyers for Union Pacific Railroad Company made a court bid to suppress evidence that an expert witness in an asbestos compensation case was a regular recipient of money from a global asbestos lobbying group. Robert Nolan is a key scientific witness for the company in a US court case concerning the death of a worker from asbestos-related lung disease. Lawyers for the company are asking a judge to prohibit the introduction of evidence “Regarding Dr Nolan’s Association with the International Chrysotile Institute or Claims he is a Paid Advocate for the ‘Chrysotile Industry’.” However, asbestos industry critic Kathleen Ruff says Nolan has a long history of lucrative dealings with the industry lobby. In 2015, he was paid $26,000 to make two trips on behalf of the International Chrysotile Association (ICA) to Malaysia, one in February 2015 and one in May 2015, to assist efforts by the asbestos industry to defeat a proposed ban. According to Ruff, in addition to his work in Malaysia, Nolan has in the last five years also been paid by the ICA to make presentations at meetings promoting the use of asbestos in countries including Indonesia, Georgia, the Philippines, India and Vietnam. “The lawyers in the court case are seeking to hide Nolan’s funding by the asbestos lobby. The motion to exclude this information will be heard by a judge on 14 September 2015,” notes Ruff. She says the asbestos industry’s investment in Nolan and other experts has been proved fruitful. The Malaysian government’s 2011 proposal to ban asbestos has not proceeded.

RightOnCanada.ca.

South Africa: Miners march for pay and safety

South African miners marched to the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg on 5 September in protest at poor working conditions. Thousands of National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members marched through the city to deliver a list of demands to the goldmine owners’ federation. The union is angry at bosses reneging on agreements. “It is intolerable that after 21 years of democracy mineworkers are still trapped in conditions of abject poverty together with their families,” said NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu. “The workers continue to take risks, facing death and injury at the workplace, while bosses rake in millions without any threat to their lives.” The NUM reasserted its demands for the gold sector, including a 15 per cent pay rise and better housing conditions.

NUM video and news release. Morning Star.

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