Category Archives: Blog

PM’s speech on mental health ‘woefully inadequate’

Hazards Campaign comment on Prime Minster Theresa May’s  announcement of a  package of measures covering mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities. 10 January 2017

Whilst the Hazards Campaign welcomes the discussion about how to help workers suffering from mental ill-health, Theresa May’s speech  is woefully inadequate, full of empty words and it comes at a time when the Government is under considerable pressure because of the crisis in the NHS,  yet she  offers no new resources to handle the extra demands of her proposals.

The NHS  crisis is based on political dogma of privatisation.   A crisis which has seen children being sent hundreds of miles to find suitable mental health support.  A crisis which has seen people waiting for days in general hospital beds whilst mental health beds and the support they desperately need, become available. This is being rolled out also at a time when there are funding cuts for our schools, a time when our teachers continue to be over worked,  and there are excessive pressures on our children from continuous testing.  Their mental health will not be improved unless all this is tackled and not by placing new demands on them.

The PM talks about a ‘shared society based on the values of citizenship, responsibility and fairness’ when in reality our society is more divided and unequal than it has ever been in recent history.

“Mental health first aid is like putting a sticking plaster over the festering sore.  The injury needs to be prevented.”

The welfare system is broken and people are taking their own lives rather than face the misery of unbearably stressful work, poverty, debt and homelessness.  Nowhere in the speech does the PM address this. Nowhere does she mention trade unions or safety reps who are in the front-line dealing with the mental health epidemic caused by government and employers actions.

We do not need another report, what we need is urgent action.  Action which forces employers to ensure that their employees’ mental health is not made worse by their workplaces.  That they are not having to do the same workload with fewer workers, or increased work on fewer hours.  That at the end of their 12 hour shifts they are not ill from fatigue.  That their employment is not based on a series of zero hours contracts  leaving them unable to challenge injustices and unfairness or unsafe working conditions.

This is not just in precarious employment, not just in casual employment, but applies to workers in government departments, in universities, in colleges, who are all working in unacceptably stressful jobs because of the excessive demands made on them, the insecurity of their work, and often the low wages do not cover the bills.

Mental health first aid is like putting a sticking plaster over the festering sore.  The injury needs to be prevented.

As there is so little done to help people with mental health problems at work at the moment, it would be hard to reject any real action to tackle this. We welcome the focus on the huge and growing epidemic of work-related stress illnesses and the way in which stress and mental ill-health have become endemic in most workplaces.   However as a proposal  ‘to transform mental health support’ this falls way short.

Government policies fostering inequality, injustice at work, lack of access to justice for resolutions, a culture that blames those who are ill and sick as shirkers and malingers, in-work poverty from low wages that do not pay the bills creating debt and  insecurity exacerbated by zero hours and other insecure contracts, and the endlessly increasing pressures upon workers are all major causes of mental ill-health at work.  There is no clear acknowledgement  that these and the way work is organised, is making so many workers mentally ill.

Tackling the work factors that cause stress is essential to ‘drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace’. Much of the proposal focuses on individuals  already suffering and we welcome the promise to provide more help and support and to ‘review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health’.

However, Government policies and workplace practices are driving this huge epidemic of work related depression, anxiety and other mental ill-health.

If Theresa May’s speech is not to just become a speech which at best mentions mental illness and at worst it is a deflection from the current NHS crisis, then we need mental health support to be treated more seriously, with more resources, achievable targets, support for trade union safety reps and for all actions by employers which make people ill, to be dealt with more severely.

Hazards 2016 – conference report and documents

Hazards 2016 conference 29-31th July 2016, Keele University

Building Resistance to Support Safety Reps

The Hazards conference is the largest conference in the northern hemisphere solely for Trade Union health and safety reps.  This year’s was called ‘Building Resistance to Support Safety Reps. It was a packed weekend with 350 delegates, fantastic speakers, valuable workshops and inspiring meetings.

Hazards 2016 started with the Friday plenary session. Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign welcomed delegates, explained what the Hazards Campaign is, listed useful website links, outlined #Haz2016 theme, the new format programme and arrangements, gave thanks to sponsors, and noted that a third to half of delegates are new to Hazards.

postcardrear

The Hazards Campaign’s blunt message to the new Prime Minister warns her not to neglect the effective regulation and strict enforcement of safety laws

Delegates were asked to sign a ‘Stop it you’re killing us’ postcard included in their delegate bag, to send one by e-mail , share it on Twitter and Facebook, and take it back to workplaces and branches. The introduction ended with a minute silence to remember all those workers – over 50,000 – who  have died at, and by, work over the last year and especially Linda Whelan a founder member of FACK, Families Against Corporate Killers, and those killed in multi-fatality incidents such as the five migrant workers killed at Hawkeswood Metals, in Birmingham, the four killed at Bosley Wood Flour Mill,  and the four killed at Didcot power station, of whom three were still buried under the rubble.

Hugh Robertson, TUC Health and Safety officer, spoke about ‘Protecting health and safety after Brexit’  describing the potential implications of leaving the EU on workers safety and health, threats from new trade deals, what regulations are specifically at risk and the TUC’s campaign on protecting workers rights.

Aida Ponce Del from the European Trade Union Institute brought solidarity greetings and the message that ‘Despite Brexit ‘Occupational health and safety should REMAIN’.

Dr. Anne Raynal, an ex-HSE senior medical inspector described ‘HSE’s failure to enforce the duty to prevent occupational diseases’. Anne spoke about the lack of reporting from employers on workplace illness and the subsequent lack of prosecutions and enforcement. She said “On average there are only 1,600 disease notifications under RIDDOR per annum for the 516,000 new cases of work-related ill health that HSE estimate occurs every year, a staggeringly low 0.03% reported.  Consequently there is little action, prosecution or active prevention taking place to stop workers being made ill by work.”

Professor Steve Tombs from the Open University and Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, spoke about his recent research: ‘Better regulation’ Better for whom?  Steve  talked about ‘dismantling a system of regulation – social protection – which was put into place from the 1830s onwards’,  the privatisation of enforcement  and the restrictive ‘Growth duty’ placed on enforcers.  He detailed the reduction in the number of HSE and Local Authority inspections (fell by 69%, preventive inspection fell by 96% for Local Authority Environmental Health Officers, EHOs), prosecutions (fell by 35% for HSE and 60% for  L.A.  EHOs). Steve also raised concern about the Primary Authority Scheme which enables businesses across different local authorities to elect one authority to regulate all of its sites across all LAs. A copy of Steve’s briefing was provided in delegates’ bags and can also be found here.

Under the new format, there was no Saturday plenary, so delegates went straight from a hearty breakfast into a full-on programme of workshops, seminars and meetings that were broken down into three themes: 1. Workplace organisation, 2. Dealing with risks and 3. Employers offensive/Workplace tyranny.

Workshop, Seminars and meetings

Theme 1 – Workplace organisation

Workshop 1 Safety Reps Functions and employers duties
Download the notes here

Workshop 3 Recruiting safety reps and improving workplace health and safety
Strengthening involvement / Recruiting Safety Reps/Activists
Building organisation Powerpoint
Key components of the trade union attitude to health and safety
Workplace safety flowchart

Seminar 1 Sharing experiences of workplace organisation and good practice

Meeting 1 Improving support for safety reps Chair: Dan Shears, GMB, Speakers: Julie Weeks & Michelle Marshall Seminar on Work Organisation – Notes from the seminar & Well-Being or Worse-Being?

Theme 2 – Dealing with risks

Workshop 6 Identifying Hazards/Risks, Hierarchy of control
• Download the notes here
• Identifying Hazards and Risks
• Looking for examples of the Hierarchy in Use

Workshop 9 Finding out what harms us
Download the notes here

Seminar 2 Sharing experiences and making the case for dealing with what harms us Dealing with what harms us 

Meeting  2 Death due to overwork Karoshi &-suicide Karojisatsu Chair: Susan Murray UNITE, Speaker: John Bamford

Theme 3 – Employers offensive / workplace tyranny

Workshop 13 Resisting Resilience
More details from Hazards magazine here

Workshop 14  Behavioural Safety
Download the notes here

Seminar 3 Sharing experiences of prioritising action against employers offensive

Meeting  3 UK and global threats to health and safety organisation

Ian Tasker of STUC spoke on Threats to health and safety in Scotland. He illustrated the higher rate of work harm than in England and Wales, the  need for devolution of enforcement and regulation of health and safety; the Smith Commission, the Action Plan for Scotland and he linked workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses with austerity and poverty.

Hugh Robertson made clear that trade deals such as CETA and post Brexit trade deals are the biggest threat to health and safety See Global threats

Hugh also made the excellent point that the HSE boasts of GB having the ‘best health and safety in the world’ with low fatality and injury figures is only because our manufacturing is outsourced to  Asia where making those same goods probably causes more deaths,  injuries and ill-health now than when they were made in this country.

Omana George, Director of Asia Monitor Resource Centre, AMRC,  spoke about the huge health and safety risk facing workers in almost all sectors  in Asia – now the workshop of the world – and especially affecting informal, unorganised workers. She described the work of AMRC and of ANROEV, the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims. She described how about ten years ago they began to focus more on occupational ill health thinking the worst  disasters of factory fires were over… But then they started happening all over again. Omana George AMRC

Campaign meetings

One of the six campaign meetings to end the day was run by Sarah Wiktorski from the ‘Better than Zero’ campaign. It was very inspiring describing  their work in Scotland with trade unions and the Scottish TUC. the actions were led by young people who used challenging and innovative activities against zero hours contracts and working practices which include having to pay multi millionaire restaurant owners a percentage of their earnings. (See YouTube clip below).

Another inspiring campaign meeting was run by Barry Faulkner of UNITE on the health and safety problems experienced by vulnerable workers at the Shirebrook depot of Sports Direct . He described how those workers fought back with the aid of union and community groups .

TTIP meeting Summary

Legal Update from Stephen Nye  and  Satinder Bains from Irwin Mitchell

Asbestos update: JUAC papers here https://www.teachers.org.uk/help-and-advice/health-and-safety in our health and safety A to Z, under ‘A’.  The 2nd and 3rd are all about the impact of academisation or attached

Final plenary

The final plenary on Sunday started with Sarah Wiktorski on the  ‘Better than Zero’ campaign and was followed by David Hardman, UCU, who along with colleague Mark Campbell was victimised then sacked from London Metropolitan University. David for his activities on stress as a safety rep.

Sanjiv Pandita, ex Director of AMRC and now working with the Hazards Magazine and Campaign and activists round the world to set up a Global Occupational Safety and Health, GOSH, network to combat the global threats to our lives and health. Sanjiv talked about the huge manufacturing companies employing 50-80 thousand workers in enormous hangars who make our phones and trainers. He showed pictures of the slums they are forced to live in because of the poverty wages they are paid, reminiscent of the UK Victorian slums during the industrial revolution. Sanjiv reminded us of the way global capitalism pits us against each other,  and exports hazards and ill health to other workers to make the products we buy and use and why we must work together globally to fight back, hence the need for GOSH.  He talked about the lack of accurate reporting of deaths, injuries and illness caused by work in Asia, which means that India’s high work death rate appears, theoretically, comparable to that of Denmark! He showed a rough recalculation, using Hazards Magazine/Campaign estimates,  that pointed to the the death toll in Asia being at least 4 million workers per year! PowerPoint presentation

We also heard from Blacklisting Support Group campaigner Royston Bentham on their great achievements and what must be done next. Royston praised and thanked John McDonnell for all the support he and Jeremy Corbyn have given the blacklisted workers and how they have fought alongside them every step on the way through Scottish enquiries and court cases. See the Hazards magazine feature Victory!

Dave Smith’s updated book, Blacklisted: The secret war between big business and union activists, is now on sale from the New Internationalist.

The Hazards Campaign demands  were read out and  voted upon before John McDonnell, shadow chancellor got up to speak and told us we would  have all of those and  more.

John McDonnell met his promise to speak to the conference, made months ago in less hectic times, and came early and stayed late, talking time to talk knowledgeably to delegates about their specific issues. As John had been criticised for not doing anything for workers, the irony of his commitment was not lost on the delegates.  John’s speech promised that health and safety and trade union rights would be at the top of the agenda of the Labour opposition and any future government led by Jeremy Corbyn.  he accepted our demands, added to them and invited us to send him a paper which he promised to put to the shadow cabinet for debate.

There were many highlights from the conference, plenty of networking and sharing of information including: the reps that talked about the lack of welfare-toilet facilities available to them because they were drivers or weren’t being released to be able to take toilet breaks; the terrible slum conditions people are working in in Asia who make phones and trainers; the lack of protection and enforcement for UK workers, and finally the inspirational speech by John McDonnell who offered the support of the Labour Party to Health and Safety reps and the Hazards Campaign.

We were reminded again to send a postcard to Theresa May to put pressure on the new Prime Minister to support and not erode health and safety legislation. http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/postcard

 

 

Hard Labour: Shadow chancellor John McDonnell to act on workplace health and safety

John McDonnell says the Health and Safety Executive’s regulatory mission has been compromised by its new profit motive. Brexit threatens worse to come. But the shadow chancellor says your protection is a ‘red line’ issue for Labour – and that means delivering a strong safety regime underpinned by restored trade union rights.

Quoted in Hazards magazine, he said “the whole basis of health and safety protection in this country is bound up with the development of the trade unions and health and safety advances are bound up with the trade union movement and the organisation, representation and pressure they can bring to bear, on employers and government.

“Health and safety advances go hand in hand with trade union advances. We cannot establish an effective health and safety regime in this country unless we restore trade union rights as well.”

Read the full story in Hazards magazine.

Labour pledges to listen and act on workplace health and safety

CLEAR MESSAGE Labour would tackle Britain’s safety malaise and give unions the rights they need to secure good, safety work, John McDonnell said.

CLEAR MESSAGE  Labour would tackle Britain’s safety malaise and give unions the rights they need to secure good, safe work, John McDonnell said.

John McDonnell told  the Hazards 2016 conference the Health and Safety Executive’s regulatory mission has been compromised by its new profit motive. Brexit threatens worse to come.

But the shadow chancellor says your protection is a ‘red line’ issue for Labour – and that means delivering a strong safety regime underpinned by restored trade union rights.

Further details Workplace 2020 Consultation

 

 

Legal aid should be extended to all families of those bereaved by work

Commenting on the 25 July 2016  Guardian interview with the soon to step down chief coroner Peter Thornton QC, Hazards Campaign spokesperson Hilda Palmer said:

“The Hazards Campaign and FACK have long called for ‘equality of arms’ for all families of those killed by work.

“While we welcome what the Chief Coroner says, we want the right to legal aid to ensure representation at inquests to be the right of all families of those killed by work, whether or not any arm/emanation  of the state is directly involved. Otherwise more injustice, unfairness  is created.

“Families up against the companies who killed their family members need to be legally represented but frequently are not. This means there is inadequate examination of the issues, the failings of the companies themselves, and of the state regulatory/enforcement system that is intended to keep work safe, hold employers to account and contribute to preventing future deaths.”

See: Chief coroner calls for legal aid provision in state-involved inquests, The Guardian, 25 July 2016

Conference workshops in full swing

Hazards conference 2016: pictures and quotes from the opening plenary session

Opening plenary session

Chair Doug Russell, USDAW
Speakers
Hugh Robertson, TUC, Protecting health and safety after Brexit
Aida Ponce del Castillo, ETUI, Post Brexit solidarity
Anne Raynal, ex-HSE senior medical inspector, HSE occupational failure
Steve Tombs, Open University, Better regulation: Better for whom?


Hugh Robertson, TUC


All photographs copyright Jawad Qasrawi, Hazards magazine

Send the PM a message

To mark the start of the Hazards Conference 2016 the Hazards Campaign is inviting you to join the postcard campaign to remind the new Prime Minister Theresa May that the effective regulation and strict enforcement of safety laws saves lives.

postcardrearThousands of postcards have been produced and will be freely available at the conference. Additionally an electronic postcard mailing tool has been developed so you can lobby the PM electronically.

The text of the card is as follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

We warmly welcome your determination to tackle inequalities across society.

One of the most damaging inequalities is in occupational health and safety, which contributes greatly to the mortality and morbidity gulf between rich and poor.

Effective regulation and strict enforcement of safety laws saves lives. Please do not neglect them.

Use Brexit to improve not erode health and safety protection for all workers.

Yours sincerely

Hazards conference 2016: Building the resistance and defending our lives

News release [Immediate]

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, will address Hazards 2016 Conference on 31st July

The Hazards Campaign annual conference, Hazards 2016, runs from Friday 29th to 31st July at Keele University. 350 safety reps from all unions from all over the UK, and from all types of workplace, will gather to listen to informed and inspirational speakers and to participate in workshops and meetings under the theme ‘Building the Hazards Resistance to support Safety Reps to defend our health and safety in post Brexit world’. 

Hilda Palmer, acting chair of the Hazards Campaign and one of the organisers says:

“We are especially delighted this year to welcome John McDonnell to speak to our final plenary on Sunday 31st July.  John has been an active and steadfast supporter of workers, trade unions, the Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine in campaigning for better health and safety for many, many years. Through the Trade Union Coordinating Group John has run successful parliamentary lobbies and hosted International Workers Memorial Day meetings in the House of Commons.

“He is a regular and popular speaker at trade union conferences as he understand the issues workers are facing far more clearly than many,  and was one of the first to speak out against zero hours contracts, blacklisting, other abusive work practices, the need for  a maximum temperature,  and the effects of austerity and neoliberalism on workers terms and conditions, especially on our lives and health. 

“John McDonnell was instrumental in the campaign against Blacklisting, helped to set up the Blacklist Support Group and has supported it through thick and thin. John is a great supporter of workers’ struggles and frequently visits picket lines to show solidarity with workers fighting for decent workIn Parliament he has been a great advocate for workers health and safety and rights generally.” 

John McDonnell will speak at the final plenary of Hazards 2016, which is  the largest health and safety conference for safety reps in UK, run by Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine. Speaking ahead of the conference John McDonnell said:

“After a long term decline I am very worried that workplace deaths and diseases are on the rise again. Workers deserve the protection of strong employment rights, trade union rights and a safety watchdog that is up to the job.

“Six years of Conservative-led government have allowed rogue bosses to exploit an increasingly insecure and abused workforce. Labour will protect people at work, rather than create a world where the likes of Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley can get away with whatever they want.

“Working people earn this country’s wealth and run our public services; these are essential tasks for which no-one should pay with their life.”

Hilda Palmer adds:

“The Tories’ fanatical obsession with deregulation is bad for your health. After a long term decline workplace deaths are rising and workplace diseases are rising. Workers need a regulatory with sharp teeth but the HSE and Local Authority enforcement have been captured by business to the detriment of workers.  Hazards 2016 will discuss the state we are in due to 6 years of Tory/Coalition deregulation and the threats from Brexit and new trade deals. 

“Safety Reps will gain updated information, learn new organising and campaigning tools and set actions to defend workers lives and health in the coming year.  Hazards 2016 will discuss the state we are in due to 6 years of Tory/Coalition deregulation and the threats from Brexit and new trade deals.” 

More information: Hilda Palmer Tel 0161 636 7557  0079298 00240

For notifications of Hazards Campaign news and activities visit our sign-up page

Hazards 2016 http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/hazconf2016bookingform.pdf

Hazards 2016 Programme: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk/?cat=7

Buy me: HSE pimps out its services as regulating takes a back seat www.hazards.org/safetypimp/buyme.htm

HSE is all talk: How it became unsafe to leave policy to the safety regulator www.hazards.org/votetodie/alltalk.htm

John McDonnell supporting Blacklisted workers at High Court: http://www.hazards.org/images/h134poster1000.jpg

Confirmed: Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will speak at the Hazards 2016 conference

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP will speak at the final plenary session of the Hazards conference 2016 ,  the largest health and safety conference for safety reps in UK, run by Hazards Campaign, 29-31 July. He says:

“After a long term decline I am very worried that workplace deaths and diseases are on the rise again. Workers deserve the protection of strong employment rights, trade union rights and a safety watchdog that is up to the job.

“Six years of Conservative-led government have allowed rogue bosses to exploit an increasingly insecure and abused workforce. Labour will protect people at work, rather than create a world where the likes of Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley can get away with whatever they want.

“Working people earn this country’s wealth and run our public services; these are essential tasks for which no-one should pay with their life.”

More details on the Hazards 2016 conference