Risks 638 - 18 January 2014


Government-ordered review supports HSE’s role….

The TUC and unions have welcomed the recommendations of the Triennial Review into the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which confirms the important role the regulator plays in reducing injury and ill health caused by work. This review, authored by a government-selected business lobby group leader, is the fourth to examine the health and safety system since 2010, following the Young and Loftsedt reports and the “Red tape” challenge. All have confirmed the need for a robust health and safety system and have concluded that the Health and Safety at Work Act has stood the test of time. The review also confirmed the current regulatory regime “is fit for purpose.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is the fourth government-commissioned report in recent years to highlight the benefits that the HSE brings to workers across the UK. The past few years have been difficult for the HSE given the cuts to funding and reductions in enforcement activity. We hope that the government will now support the HSE in taking forward the review’s recommendations and give it the resources and political backing it so desperately needs.” She added: “The report is supportive of bringing together unions, employers and government to deal with health and safety issues. We are concerned, however, that the government’s implementation of some of its recommendations could undermine this approach. It is important that unions and employers continue to play an equal role in the way the HSE operates. There was huge support from all those who responded to the review for the work of the HSE as a public body. We believe that, given the scale of injury and illness across UK workplaces, the government should not undermine the ability of the HSE to meet that challenge.”

Ÿ TUC news release.

Ÿ UNISON news release.

Ÿ Prospect news release.

Ÿ Health and Safety Executive: 3-yearly review of its future as a non-departmental public body, webpage and full report. Mike Penning, Ministerial statement, 9 January 2014.

… But the government says it will carry on regardless

The government-ordered Triennial Review gave overwhelming support for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said its approach was “fit for purpose”, highlighted the importance of its regulatory role and called for an a renewed push to prevent occupational diseases. The report of the review – authored by the chair of the employers’ lobby group EEF, Martin Temple - concluded the current system works, contradicting government complaints that health and safety is a “burden on business”. It found: “In both development of standards and submitting proposals for legislation, HSE’s strength was seen to be its technical expertise and its access and contact with all the relevant stakeholders (employers and employee representatives).” The report also opposed the government driven “dumbing down” of guidance. And it rejected outright the privatisation of HSE functions, noting an HSE which is a “non-departmental public body remains the appropriate delivery model.” It was exactly what ministers didn’t want to hear, so the government promptly announced it was going to go its own deregulatory way regardless. In a 9 January ministerial statement, safety minister Mike Penning said the government wants “to go further to introduce reforms of HSE to ensure that it delivers value for money to the taxpayer, whilst ensuring safety for the nation. There is considerable potential for HSE to become more commercial in outlook and in delivery – increasing the pace of the work already started within the organisation. Therefore, I have asked HSE to begin work immediately to examine commercial models for HSE in collaboration with HMT and Cabinet office, and to review the HSE Board to ensure it has the right skills to oversee future efficiencies and commercial income generating options.” According to TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson: “So once again they have asked a question and because they do not like the answer they are going to go ahead with what they clearly wanted to do anyway. They have also indicated that they will not respond to other parts of the triennial review until later in the year,” leaving HSE “in limbo”. He said the last minute government decision to strap the recruitment process for a new HSE chief executive, after interviews had taken place, suggested the government now intended to “appoint someone who will share their zeal for greater commercialisation.”

Ÿ TUC Stronger Unions blog.

Ÿ UCATT news release.

Ÿ NASUWT news release.

Ÿ Hazards Campaign news release.

Ÿ IER news release.

Ÿ BOHS news release.

Ÿ IOSH news release.

Workers must be consulted on HSE changes

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) union Prospect has welcomed the findings of the Triennial Review of the watchdog commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions - but the union said the government must heed warnings about the dangers of the 'fee for intervention' model. Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “We are delighted that the fourth review of the HSE in recent years once more confirms that the agency is fit for purpose and benefits workers and employers across the UK. We welcome author Martin Temple's finding that the HSE's functions should continue to be delivered by a non-departmental public body, allowing it to retain its independence and his praise for the professionalism and competence of staff.” He said “the review rightly raises concerns about the new 'fee for intervention' (FFI) model, which links the regulator's funding to its income from 'fines', calling it a 'dangerous' model that has potentially damaged the HSE's reputation for acting impartially and independently.” He said the union was “concerned” by safety minister Mike Penning's indication the government intended to “go beyond the review's recommendations to introduce reforms to make the HSE more commercial in its outlook and delivery. We warned about fee for intervention and the government didn't listen. It must not impose further reforms without proper consultation and engagement with stakeholders, including the trade unions. It is vital that workers have a say in any changes to policy and law that affects their lives and livelihoods.”

Ÿ Prospect news release.

Ÿ Construction Enquirer.

Cleaners treated like ‘third-class’ workers

Cleaners are facing a corrosive mix of workplace hazards, poor employment conditions and disrespect from their colleagues, their union UNISON has said. A UNISON focus group involving NHS cleaners found the “appalling treatment of cleaners by their own co-workers” topped the list of concerns. Cleaners felt they were regarded “as third-class citizens”, UNISON said. Commenting on the research, which will contribute to an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) nationwide project, UNISON national officer for health Siân Rabi-Laleh said: "Some of the things described to us were shocking and more akin to Victorian Britain than today… This project is about learning what it is like to work in this sector, and making some changes.” The focus group said cleaners are treated as inferior by other staff, especially middle managers and staff new to the NHS. They complained the EU working time directive is used to deny cleaners their breaks and identified poor health and safety practices, especially where dangerous chemicals are concerned. “Problem substances are withdrawn from use by senior staff, while cleaners must continue to use them,” UNISON said. Other problems include poor training and pressure to go into work when sick. “The focus group has given us a lot of food for thought. There are issues here that we as a union are determined to sink our teeth into,” said Siân Rabi-Laleh. UNISON will make its formal response to the commission by the end of January, addressing problems faced by cleaners across the public services and private companies. After hearing evidence from cleaning staff, employers and users, EHRC will publish its key findings in the spring. A taskforce will then take its recommendations forward.

Ÿ UNISON news release.

Union concern over unsafe breakdown vehicles

Unsafe AA breakdown vehicles are being kept in service, a union has charged, and is demanding road and workplace safety regulators intervene. GMB, the union for AA roadside and recovery staff, has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) asking them to intervene. It says changes to the AA’s vehicle recovery systems (VRS) have created “serious risks of death and serious injury to road users.” The union says under the new system, winches are operating above the manufacturer’s safe use settings and presenting misleading information to the vehicle operator. New fibre rope cables have replaced steel cables, the union adds, with the changes leading to “a number of instances where the winch cable has snapped leaving the extremely heavy recovery equipment crashing to the floor with a serious risk to the operator and other road users.” The union warns a broken cable could recoil dangerously or allow a towed vehicle to run away on the road. GMB maintains both the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (1998) are being breached. Paul Grafton, GMB regional officer for AA staff, said: “GMB expect HSE and DVSA to protect road users since AA directors have so far failed to investigate these serious risks.” He added that the regulators “have to insist that as a matter of urgency every VRS unit is taken out of service” until the problems are rectified.

Ÿ GMB news release.

Jail term for online abuser of a reporter

Journalists’ union NUJ has pledged to continue its campaign against bullying of journalists after an online troll was jailed. The union was speaking out following the sentencing of a football supporter for sending a threatening communication to a journalist. David Limond’s podcast referred to journalist Angela Haggerty, a reporter in Glasgow, as a “Taig,” a sectarian insult levelled at Irish Catholics - and “scum of the day.” He also encouraged listeners to abuse the NUJ member on Twitter. The attacks came after she edited a book about the financial troubles at Glasgow Rangers football club. Limond was sentenced last week at Ayr Sheriff Court to six months in prison and handed a three year non-harassment order. Paul Holleran, NUJ’s Scotland organiser, said: “This robust action by the judiciary sends a clear message to those individuals who think it is acceptable to bully, threaten and incite others to violence through the social media. The NUJ will continue to campaign against online bullying particularly where members are on the receiving end of abuse and threats merely for carrying out their professional duties as a journalist.” He added: “Angela Haggerty was brave enough to challenge the abuser in this case and she is to be applauded for that. The NUJ encourages members to contact us or the police directly if they are subjected to any form of abuse and specifically threats of violence. Maybe individuals will think twice before they send hate messages via the various forms of media and this sentence will certainly focus minds.” Angela Haggerty said: “I’m relieved that the case is now over and I’m satisfied with the court’s judgment. Mr Limond targeted me both because of my profession as a journalist and because of my Irish heritage.” She added: “I hope that the case will encourage others to report similar abuse and intimidation. The result of this case is an important one for journalism in Scotland. Protection of journalists is vital for a healthy media environment and intimidation of journalists who covered the financial collapse of Rangers has been well documented.”

Ÿ NUJ news release.

Ÿ The NUJ guidance for journalists who are victims of online sexism, cyber bullying and online , briefing on online sexism, cyber bullying and online abuse and information on NUJ bullying policies.

Ÿ Press Gazette.

Ÿ Herald Scotland.

Disappointment for shopworkers on the frontline

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has said it is disappointed that the government “turned its back” on hundreds of thousands of workers assaulted in the course of their duties every year. Usdaw general secretary John Hannett was commenting on 14 January after the government blocked a Lords amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which would have introduced a specific offence of assaulting a worker serving the public. The amendment was lost by 195 to 137 votes, a government majority of 58. “We were very disappointed to see Tory and Liberal Peers combining to block Labour’s amendment to provide for stiffer sentences for those who assault workers serving the public,” said the union leader. “There is a real need to address the scourge of violence against workers and I am concerned that the attackers are getting away with relatively lenient sentences. Parliament expects workers to enforce and police the laws they pass, but they have failed to provide the additional protection needed to help keep those workers safe.” He said the government “offered only warm words and sympathy for workers who put themselves on the frontline every day, but that is not enough. We will continue to campaign for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”

Ÿ Usdaw news release.

Ÿ Debate on the protection of workers amendment: Lords Hansard, 14 January 2014, 6.51pm, column 165.

Floor slip polished off career for prison officer

A former prison officer from Sunderland had to give up work after he fell on a polished floor while attending an alarm call. Prison Officers’ Association (POA) member David Hunter was walking briskly down a flight of stairs at HMP Durham on his way to respond to the alarm. As he left the staircase he slipped and landed with force on his left side. He later learned that the floor had been waxed by an inmate assigned cleaning duties, who hadn’t buffed off surplus cleaning material. The prison officer suffered multiple injuries including a scaphoid injury to his left hand, a tear to the rotator cuff in his left shoulder and bruising to his ribs. He underwent two operations to fix the damage to his hand and was off work for a year. He returned to work on restricted duties but because he was not able to carry out the control and restraint tasks the job required of him, his career as a prison officer was cut short. He said: “I have had to change my job because of the accident but I’m not able to earn the same salary as a prison officer. It’s extremely frustrating as there was nothing I could I have done to prevent my accident.” He was awarded £100,000 compensation in a POA-backed claim. Glyn Travis from the POA said: “A wet floor sign should have been visible and polish should never have been left on the floor’s surface. Our member was responding to a call, which are a routine occurrence given the nature of the work, and yet the consequences have been devastating for David.”

Ÿ Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Injury cost gardener his job

A gardener couldn’t return to work for three years and eventually had to leave his job after suffering devastating injuries caused by a faulty lorry tailgate. The 52-year-old Unite member from Bristol, whose name has not been released, was working for South Gloucestershire Council. He had driven a lorry to a cemetery to collect a dumper truck and needed to lower the lorry’s tailgate so that the truck could be driven onto the back. But the faulty tailgate crashed down to the ground, trapping his hand and wrenching his right arm. He had to lie on the ground to pull his hand from beneath the weight of the tailgate. He suffered neck and shoulder injuries and required three operations and physiotherapy over a period of two years to repair nerve damage to his spine. He still suffers pins and needles and stiffness in his neck and shoulders. He was unable to work for three years because he wasn’t physically fit enough to carry out the heavy lifting tasks his job required of him. The gardener, who subsequently had to find alternative employment, received an undisclosed compensation payout with the support of Unite’s legal service. Unite’s Steve Preddy said: “Defective work equipment causes accidents and this case is a clear example of an employer’s failing to protect their staff.” He added: “Work vehicles should have regular health checks to make sure that the fixtures and fittings, like the tailgate, are safe for use. Our member has been left with damage to his neck and shoulder which has turned his domestic and work life upside down simply because South Gloucestershire Council failed to carry out basic checks.”

Ÿ Thompsons Solicitors news release.

Ÿ Union News.

‘Immoral’ mesothelioma bill faces more flak

The union GMB has added its voice to widespread criticism of a government bill to compensate victims of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma when no responsible insurer can be found (Risks 637). The union criticised an “attempt by the Department for Work and Pensions to put a positive spin” on the “positively immoral” shortcomings of the Mesothelioma Bill. John McClean, GMB national health and safety officer, said payments would be significantly below the going rate and would only be available for those diagnosed after 25 July 2012 “when this administration began what was effectively a second consultation, following the first instigated by the Labour government in February 2010.” He added: “Why potentially more than 600 victims should arbitrarily lose out due to ministerial edict is positively immoral.” Last week TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said this was “not the end of the line” for the campaign. “Unions are going to continue fighting for justice for all those who are made ill or injured at work and that means 100 per cent compensation, for everyone.”

Ÿ GMB news release.


Business for Britain’s plan is ‘unworkable and unjust’

A report from a right wing group claiming to speak for business and calling for the wholesale removal of workplace protections for millions of British workers has been dismissed by the TUC and the business group representing Britain’s manufacturing firms. The report from Business for Britain, led by the founder of the Conservative-linked TaxPayers’ Alliance, says that workers employed by UK companies that don’t export to Europe should have fewer workplace rights. It notes: “The ‘British Option’ is a new proposal which would allow British companies and organisations that do not export to the EU to opt out of some of the more onerous European regulations.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady responded: “This is just another attempt to take away people’s rights to paid holiday leave, health and safety at work, fairness and equality. It would take away basic employment rights – as well as protections like food safety and consumer rights – from everyone except the chosen few in Britain’s export industries.” She concluded: “It would create a two-tier economy with reams of bureaucratic red tape. It’s impractical, unworkable and unjust.” The report also received a cool response from the manufacturers’ lobby group EEF. It noted: “The UK cannot pick and mix, choosing EU rules to accept and reject – this is what a red-card process would amount to,” adding: “With the future of the UK at stake, the debate on Europe needs to be rational and objective. Today's announcement fell far short of what was required.”

Ÿ TUC news release.

Ÿ Business for Britain news release, and report ‘Setting out the British Option’. EEF news release.

Widow calls for end to betting shop lone working

The widow of a man murdered behind a betting shop counter has called for an end to lone working in the industry, echoing calls from the Labour Party and the union Community (Risks 608). Betting shop manager Andrew Iacovou, 55, lay bleeding to death for 90 minutes behind the counter at Ladbrokes, in Morden, south London, as oblivious gamers continued to use slot machines. Shafique Ahmad Aarij, 21, a regular at the branch, was this week jailed for at least 26 years after being found guilty of murder at Southwark Crown Court. He hit Mr Iacovou repeatedly with a claw hammer before grabbing £296.88 from the till and walking away covered in his victim’s blood. Anita Iacovou said her husband might have been saved if there had been an employee working alongside him. She said her husband had worked for Ladbrokes for 25 years and had received threats from customers before the fatal attack. “He shouldn’t have been left alone,” she said. “If there were two people I don’t think it would have happened. There would have been someone to save him.” As he lay dying Mr Iacovou pressed a panic button but security staff at Ladbrokes’ head office saw nothing unusual on the CCTV cameras and they decided not to pursue it. Labour leader Ed Miliband has stated that a Labour government would legislate on single-staffing in betting shops, a move welcomed by betting shop union Community. Assistant general secretary John Park said: “Ed Miliband's announcement is a welcome step towards ending single-staffing in the betting industry.” Under the government’s safety blueprint, retail premises are not subject to unannounced official safety inspections.

Ÿ The Standard.

Ÿ Community news release.

Government urged to support bereaved workers

Bereaved people are being ‘failed’ by the lack of support they get at work, a charity has said. The National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) report, produced in partnership with the Dying Matters Coalition, calls on the government to look into the “feasibility” of statutory leave from work after a loved one dies. The charity found that 32 per cent of people who had been bereaved in the last five years felt their employer did not treat them with compassion. Out of 4,000 people polled for NCPC, 81 per cent said there should be paid bereavement leave and 82 per cent said providing employees with paid bereavement leave is likely to be beneficial to the employer in the long-term. NCPC chief executive Eve Richardson said: “Employers have an important role to play by being compassionate and having a bereavement policy in place. They should also ensure that they support their managers so that they are confident in having sensitive discussions about end of life issues with their staff.” Construction union UCATT said for the past decade it had being pressing without success for binding rules on statutory bereavement leave in industry agreements. General secretary Steve Murphy said: “Statutory bereavement leave is urgently needed. Workers who lose a loved one are deeply traumatised, often in shock and are grieving. To refuse them bereavement leave is a simple case of penny pinching and an entirely false economy.” He added: “We have always believed that there are serious safety implications in forcing deeply traumatised workers to work in dangerous industries such as construction. Workers who are unable to concentrate due to grief are a safety risk to themselves and their colleagues.”

Ÿ NCPC news release and full report, Life after death. Dying Matters news release.

Ÿ UCATT news release.

Ÿ Personnel Today.

Ÿ BBC News Online.

Cuts fears prompt BMA occupational health action

The British Medical Association (BMA) is seeking assurances over the future of occupational health services for GPs and their staff amid reports they are about to be cut. Doctors leaders have written to the Department of Health requesting confirmation of the continuing provision of support for GPs and NHS staff suffering from stress and burnout. NHS England has confirmed that from April GP practices will have to fund such services for the staff they employ, rather than it being centrally funded. However, NHS England will fund an occupational health assessment for GPs experiencing burnout without performance concerns being raised. In their letter, BMA occupational medicine committee chair Paul Nicholson and BMA GPs committee chair Chaand Nagpaul say the BMA has received reports of inconsistent access to occupational health services in England. “We believe that the stress caused by rising workloads and work intensity that many NHS staff are presently under is adding to the need for appropriate specialist-led occupational health services,” they wrote to DH director general for strategy and external relations Charlie Massey. “In spite of the many initiatives to guarantee occupational health services for all NHS staff and at a time when doctors face increased stress, it is unacceptable that GP occupational health services are in jeopardy as the DH and NHS England reviews funding.” A BMA briefing sent with the letter highlights evidence for high levels of burnout among doctors, the benefits of occupational health services and existing DH and NHS guidance supporting the provision of these services for NHS staff.

Ÿ BMA news release.

English Heritage gets a ticking off

English Heritage has accepted a Crown Censure for criminal safety failings that led to a 12-year-old boy being badly cut when a glass floor panel broke during a family visit to Yarmouth castle on the Isle of Wight. The youngster was with his brother and two friends in the 17th century exhibition room when he jumped on a glass viewing panel set into the floor, designed to show stonework beneath. The panel, which had been in place for many years and walked on by thousands of people over that time, splintered into shards and the boy suffered severe lacerations to his left leg from the jagged glass. He needed surgery twice, but is now recovered and back at school. The incident, on 5 September 2011, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). HSE is not allowed to pursue criminal prosecutions of Crown bodies like English Heritage, but administered a Crown Censure instead. Tracey Wahdan, historic properties director at English Heritage, attended the Crown Censure meeting on 14 January at the HSE premises in Basingstoke, and accepted the findings and the Censure, formally acknowledging there had been criminal health and safety failings. HSE found the glass floor panel broke because it was not made of toughened or laminated glass. English Heritage had not assessed specifically the risk of glass floor panels breaking at any of its properties since it was created as a body in 1984. It has responsibility for around 400 historical sites. HSE’s Stephen Williams, who chaired the Crown Censure meeting, said: “The evidence brought to light by the HSE investigation would be sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of English Heritage in criminal courts. This Crown Censure is the maximum enforcement action that HSE can take and should serve to illustrate how seriously we take the failings we identified.”

Ÿ HSE news release.

Developer fined following platform collapse

A prominent London developer has been sentenced for criminal safety management failings after a worker was seriously injured when a temporary platform collapsed at a landmark site in south London. Noel Doyle, 32, suffered a shattered right elbow, broken vertebrae, fractured pelvis and ribs, and damage to internal organs in the incident at St George Wharf in Vauxhall on 10 February 2009. He fell almost ten metres from a platform when it gave way, landing on a concrete staircase below. St George South London Ltd (SGSL), the principal contractor for construction work at the site, was fined after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a number of criminal failings. HSE found SGSL had failed to properly plan and manage the construction work and had failed to ensure that their subcontractors had developed and implemented safe systems of work, particularly in relation to the management and use of temporary works. St George South London Ltd was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £27,386 in costs after pleading guilty at Southwark Crown Court to a criminal breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The company subcontracted for the construction of the reinforced concrete frame of the building was also prosecuted over the collapse. J Reddington Ltd was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £22,193 in costs at Southwark Crown Court on 28 June last year after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence (Risks 612).

Ÿ HSE news release and construction webpages.

Ÿ Construction Enquirer.

Steel giant prosecuted after worker’s injury

Steel multinational Tata Steel has been fined for criminal safety failings after a worker sustained serious injuries to his hand at the company’s works in Llanelli, South Wales. Llanelli Magistrates heard the man, an employee for 34 years, was working on a production line at the Tata site in Trostre on 6 December 2012 when his left hand became trapped in a pair of steel pinch rolls. The worker, whose name has not been released, suffered crush injuries that led to the amputation of half his index finger and part of his middle finger. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation discovered there was insufficient guarding equipment on the machinery the worker was using. Tata Steel UK Ltd was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £8,320 in costs after pleading guilty to three criminal safety breaches. HSE inspector Steve Lewis said: “This was a completely needless and entirely preventable incident that left an employee with a permanent impairment.” He added: “It is shocking that a company of this standing failed to achieve compliance on such a basic level of machinery guarding, thereby putting their employees at risk. This case should serve as a warning that HSE will not hesitate to prosecute companies where key safety devices are not fitted to potentially dangerous machinery.” Tata Steel was fined £120,000 in January last year on criminal charges relating to the death of subcontract worker Kristian Lee Norris, 29, who was killed by a falling metal bar at a Teesside plant (Risks 591). It was also fined £500,000 in July 2012 over the death of Kevin Downey, who fell into molten slag at Tata’s Port Talbot works (Risks 568).

Ÿ HSE news release and work equipment webpages.

Ÿ BBC News Online. ITV News.

Plastics worker severed fingers in saw

A Birmingham plastics firm has been fined after an employee had four fingers severed in a circular saw. An official investigation found although some workers knew about a problem with the machine, workers were not represented in safety meetings so this information was not known to management. The affected employee was working at Kalsi Plastics (UK) Ltd on 10 August 2012 when the incident happened. He stopped the machine to clear a blockage and the saw blade automatically moved from its operating position to its maintenance position in the base of the machine. However, because of its position in the base of the machine the worker did not realise it was still rotating. As he attempted to clear the blockage, his left hand came into contact the blades, severing four fingers. He has been unable to return to work. Kalsi Plastics UK was prosecuted after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the motor had not been fitted with an injection brake so the saw continued to rotate for around five minutes after the stop button was pushed. The firm was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £2,418 costs at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to a criminal safety offence. HSE inspector Pam Folsom said: “A number of employees knew that the blade continued to rotate after the power was cut but neither Kalsi Plastics UK management nor its health and safety consultant were aware of the issue. Employees were not represented in safety meetings so that known issues could be highlighted and control measures implemented. This incident also shows the importance of staff having a voice in management meetings.” In response to the government’s health and safety policy blueprint, HSE no longer conducts routine unannounced inspections of plastics factories.

Ÿ HSE news release.


Cambodia: Stop government violence against workers

Unions worldwide have called for an end to the violent suppression of union protests in Cambodia in which at least five workers have been killed, with many others injured or detained. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady last week wrote a letter of protest to the Cambodian ambassador as part of a global campaign co-ordinated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), protesting at the violent repression of a strike by textile workers seeking a living wage. The letter referred to “the shock and horror we felt at the violence perpetrated by members of the police and armed forces against striking garment workers in Pnomh Penh earlier this month. We express solidarity with our sister trade union organisations in Cambodia and their struggle for a living wage.” The union dispute began on 24 December, but the government response was brutal. On 3 January, heavily armed police and soldiers were mobilised to quash the protests, leading to violent and bloody clashes. Union campaign body Labourstart is coordinating an online protest. “Faced with this brutal repression, the unions have called off the strike and workers are returning to work, although they are continuing to press their demands,” it reports. An online sign up letter notes: “I support the trade unions in Cambodia which are asking that the government stop the violence, restore freedom of association and assembly, release the detained workers and drop any charges against them, and resume negotiations for an increase in the minimum wage. They are also asking that the global brands that produce garments in Cambodia - Gap, H&M, Inditex, Adidas, Puma, Walmart, C&A and others - condemn the violence, and only send new orders to Cambodia when workers’ rights are restored and negotiations on the minimum wage resume.”

Ÿ Act Now! Sign up to the Labourstart and union campaign in support of the Cambodian workers.

Ÿ ITUC news release.

Ÿ Industriall news release.

Ÿ TUC news release.

Global: Sweden’s Winter Olympics set rights record

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation, LO-Sweden, has signed an historic cooperation agreement with the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK) which stipulates respect for labour rights as a basis for the Swedish bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The agreement covering the 2022 Stockholm Olympic Games includes groundbreaking sustainability, economic, social and ethical benchmarks. There is also a commitment from the SOK to encourage the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic movement to integrate this approach in all their activities. LO-Sweden and the SOK say they want the Olympic Games in Sweden to be remembered for its respect for trade union and other human rights, good labour relations, sustainability and sound working conditions. “I am impressed with the work done by the TUC in the UK before and during the London 2012 Olympic Games and I hope this agreement can improve this important issue even further,” said Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, president of LO-Sweden. Global union confederation ITUC said the agreement seeks to stop the violations of workers’ rights and worker exploitation which continue to plague Olympics, football World Cup and other showcase events. Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “The contrast between this agreement and the deadly exploitation of migrant workers for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup could not be greater. We have written to IOC president Thomas Bach today to call on the IOC to meet at least the Swedish standard for all Olympics. FIFA and other global sporting bodies would do well to follow suit as should all those bidding to host events.” She added: “Some good steps were taken by the London Olympics organisers, and we are calling on the IOC and its sporting counterparts to build on that legacy. However, people are still paying with their lives as organisers rush to build stadiums on time, and poverty wages and cruel exploitation are the daily realities for factory workers producing merchandise for global brands and events.”

Ÿ ITUC news release and letter to IOC President Bach.

Ÿ TUC Stronger Unions blog.

Ÿ Equal Times.

Norway: Landmark win on mercury at work

Health workers exposed to mercury were harmed and should be compensated, Norway’s top court has ruled. Former dental nurse Bertha Regine Serigstad took the union-backed case against her government employer all the way to Norway’s Supreme Court. Unions say the case could be an important breakthrough for female-dominated workplaces. Anne-Gry Rønning-Aaby, the lawyer brought in by Fagforbundet (the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees) to act for the dental nurse, took the case to a Social Security Tribunal, the Court of Appeal, and finally to the Supreme Court. “It is a breakthrough case for these women, just as asbestos was for many men some years ago. There is reason to believe that this ruling may open the door for other similar cases concerning occupational illnesses,” she said. Fagforbundet represents over 100 dental nurses who believe their health was harmed as they prepared mercury amalgam, bringing them into contact with mercury vapour daily in their work. For Serigstad, she will now receive an enhanced disability and retirement pension. She will also be entitled to compensation for permanent injury of between £8,300 and £25,000. The Court of Appeal’s ruling established that there does not need to be “one set of symptoms and indications” for there to be an occupational illness; the illness can present in different ways. The union says the ruling is expected to benefit a number of female-dominated occupations where employees may be afflicted by lung diseases, asthma, allergies or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or where they work with x-rays. Fagforbundet leader Mette Nord said the court ruling was “fantastic.” She added: “The fact that these women have finally been believed is important. But it is very sad that it had to take such a long time. Many of the women that this case was about are no longer alive.”

Ÿ PSI news report.


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