Deadly depression as precarious work becomes the norm In a recession-ravaged world, even if you’ve got a permanent job, you feel insecure. If you’ve got a temporary job, you are permanently insecure. Hazards examines the lasting health damage caused to an increasingly disposable workforce. Hazards 119, July-September 2012
HSE is broke
Not what we bargained for
USA: OSHA initiative to protect temporary workers
Temporary employees in the US will be better protected from workplace hazards, the official safety enforcer has pledged. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent a memorandum to the agency’s regional administrators directing field inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their legal safety responsibilities and newly created code in their information system to denote when temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations.
OSHA news release and OSHA temporary workers memo • More on temporary worker health and safety • Risks 603 • 4 May 2013
Britain: Deregulating agency work a mistake
Government plans to repeal regulations which control how employment agencies operate and replace them with a system of self-regulation will lead to more exploitation, the construction union UCATT has warned. Under the government’s proposals included in a consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which closed on 11 April, the Employment Agencies Act and the existing regulations covering employment agencies would be scrapped.
UCATT news release and full consultation response • Risks 601 • 20 April 2013
Britain: More firms using zero-hours contracts
Almost a quarter of Britain's major employers now recruit staff on zero-hours contracts that keep workers on standby and deny them regular hours. According to government estimates, 23 per cent of employers with more than 100 staff have adopted the flexible contract terms for at least some staff following a surge in the number of public sector services contracted out to private providers.
The Guardian article and related comment • More on the health impact of insecure work • Risks 600 • 13 April 2013
Brazil: McDonald’s gets $4m fine for zero hours contracts
In Brazil, fast food giant McDonald's was this year fined US$4 million for operating a zero-hours scheme under which workers sat in the "break rooms" without being paid, until the employer determined there were a sufficient number of customers for hours to be counted. The court ruling required McDonald’s to eliminate the working time scheme throughout Brazil and ordered it to provide healthy meals to its workers.
IUF news report • Equal Times • More on the health impact of insecure work • Risks 600 • 13 April 2013
Britain: Workman fined for friend's fall through roof
A self-employed maintenance worker has been fined after a casually-employed friend fell through the roof of a disused factory. The injured man, in his forties, suffered a broken elbow when he fell three metres through the asbestos cement roof at a disused rubber factory at Bullo Pill, Newnham, in the Forest of Dean on 4 September 2012.
HSE news release and falls webpages • Hazards insecure work webpages • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
USA: ‘Expendable’ insecure workers need protection
A new report is urging the US government’s safety regulator to step up efforts to protect the soaring number of ‘contingent’ insecure workers. The report notes that contingent workers are disproportionately racial minorities and often come from vulnerable socioeconomic backgrounds.
At the company’s mercy: Protecting contingent workers from unsafe working conditions, CPR, 2013. AFL-CIO Now blog • The Pump Handle • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Horror death in a small firm
The dangers of informal work in small firms has been highlighted by a workplace tragedy. Welder Martyn Heal, who was paid £60 a day cash-in-hand for three days a week, died over four months after being badly burned when his shirt caught light while working on a gate, an inquest heard.
Western Daily Press • The Bristol Post • More on the dangers of precarious work • Risks 590 • 26 January 2013
Britain: Quick fire move leaves workers dangerously insecure
A government move that will make it easier to for firms to fire their staff will do nothing for the economy but will leave workers much more insecure, the TUC has said. The warning came after ministers announced the 90-day consultation period before large-scale redundancies can take place is to be cut to 45 days from April 2013.
TUC news release • BIS news release • BBC News Online • More on job insecurity and health • Risks 587 • 22 December 2012
Britain: Job fear is affecting the health of UK workers
The harsh economic climate, austerity-related job cuts and job loss fears in those still in work is having a real impact on the health and well-being of workers, according to the newly published findings of a TUC safety survey. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: “Fears about how austerity is affecting peoples' jobs and their families is having a real impact on the health and well-being of UK workers.”
TUC new release and biennial survey of safety reps • More on insecure work and safety • Risks 581 • 10 November 2012
Britain: Agency worker regulations criticised by Unite
Unite has warned against complacency as many agency workers are being poorly treated, the current Agency regulations have too many loopholes and the enforcement of the legislation is not strong enough. An independent survey by Unite showed that in the vast majority of workplaces that employ agency workers (78 per cent of those surveyed) these workers are still second class and are not getting equal treatment.
Unite news release • Risks 580 • 3 November 2012
Canada: Union warning on ‘survivor syndrome’
An epidemic of ‘survivor syndrome’ is affecting overworked and demoralised workers in workplaces shedding staff as job fear grips the working population, a Canadian public sector union has warned.
PSAC news release • More on health and safety and insecure work • Risks 576 • 6 October 2012
Global: Unions challenge agency labour ‘explosion’
The ‘massive expansion’ of insecure agency work is undermining employment and safety standards and should be reversed, unions worldwide have warned. “Employment via agencies, labour brokers, dispatchers and contractors is being used to wholesale replace permanent, direct employment,” said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of body IndustriALL.
IndustriALL news release, Stop precarious work campaign and The Triangular Trap report. More on health and safety and insecure work • Risks 576 • 6 October 2012
USA: Work in a depression is depressing
Watching people lose their jobs all around you will make you sick, even if you hold onto your own job, new research has found. Researchers from the University of Michigan examined the impact of the current ‘Great Recession’ found perceived job insecurity “was associated with significantly higher odds of reporting fair or poor self-rated health at the time of interview, symptoms over the past 2 weeks suggesting major or minor depression, and an anxiety attack in the past 4 weeks, even after adjustment for workers' socio-demographic characteristics and previous health problems.”
Burgard, Sarah A; Kalousova, Lucie; Seefeldt, Kristin S. Perceived Job Insecurity and Health: The Michigan Recession and Recovery Study, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 54, issue 9, pages 1101–1106, September 2012. The Pump Handle • More on health and safety and insecure work • Risks 576 • 6 October 2012
Britain: Women’s work gets more insecure
Falling numbers of women in full-time work and a rise in their self-employment and involuntary part-time and temporary employment has left women increasingly insecure at work, a TUC economic report reveals. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Replacing full-time jobs with low-paid, insecure work will drive down wages and keep this country mired in recession.”
TUC news release and Economic report: Women and work • Hazards insecure work webpages • Risks 574 • 22 September 2012
Global: Insecure work leaves workers ‘trashed’
A global epidemic of insecure work is leaving a trail of sick and injured workers in its wake, a new report had concluded. ‘Trashed!’, published in the workers’ health journal Hazards, says the “most reliable product of many modern workplaces is now insecurity, with those in permanent jobs fearing the axe in the name of automation or austerity, and a growing slice of the workforce already outsourced or semi-detached from employment, on zero hours contracts, temping or skirting around for scraps in the informal economy.”
Hazards magazine and insecure work webpages • Industriall news report, leaflet and details of the 7 October 2012 precarious work day of action • Sign up to the ‘Stop precarious work’ cause • Risks 573 • 15 September 2012
Britain: Job insecurity linked to soaring hospital admissions
Rising numbers of people are being admitted to hospital with stress caused by the recession, official figures have revealed. A total of 6,370 people were hospitalised with stress in the 12 months to May, a seven per cent rise on the previous year and 47 per cent up on 2007/8 when the economic crisis hit, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIS).
HSCIC news release and full report • The Independent • Morning Star • Risks 573 • 15 September 2012
Britain: Labour to review of bogus self-employment
The Labour Party is to launch a review into bogus self-employment. In his speech to the TUC Congress in Brighton, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: “On the issue of bogus self-employment in the construction sector and more widely, I am determined that we look at this issue again.”
Ed Balls’ speech to TUC • UCATT news release • Daily Mirror • Risks 573 • 15 September 2012
Australia: Insecure work is making workplaces less safe
The rise of insecure work in Australia over the past few decades has made employees less able to speak up for their rights and workplaces less safe, Australia’s top union body has warned. ACTU president Ged Kearney, speaking on United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day, said a constantly changing workforce often meant that safe systems of work were not fully-implemented, and casual, contract and labour hire workers were also less likely to speak up if they thought something was unsafe because they feared the sack.
ACTU news release and Ged Kearney’s speech • 13 September 2012
Britain: Labour to review of bogus self-employment
The Labour Party is to launch a review into bogus self-employment. In his speech this week to the TUC Congress in Brighton, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: “Construction is one of the most important industries,” adding: “Let’s work together to make it stronger, safer and fairer for the future.”
Ed Balls’ speech to TUC • UCATT news release • Daily Mirror • 13 September 2012
Hong Kong: Nurses, cops and teachers at greater risk of suicide
Nurses, police officers and teachers are more prone to suicide than people in other work, figures released by Hong Kong University's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention. Hong Kong's focus this year for World Suicide Prevention Day – 11 September - is employment as it found self-perceived job insecurity may further increase suicide risk.
Hong Kong Standard • 13 September 2012
USA: Lawsuit highlights warehouse subcontracting perils
The warehousing industry typically involves complicated layers of companies using, owning, operating and staffing warehouses, making the sector ripe for labour abuse. Warehouse worker groups, including the union-based Warehouse Workers Uniting (WWU), have long argued that unrealistic and escalating productivity quotas are among the things that lead to high chronic and acute injury rates in warehouses.
In These Times • Risks 572 • 8 September 2012
Britain: Bar blacklisters from official contracts – MP
Labour MP Jim Sheridan has called for construction firms guilty of blacklisting trade unionists to be barred from publicly funded projects. The MP, speaking at a 27 August Blacklist Support Group protest outside the Glasgow HQ of construction giant Balfour Beatty, said: “Any contracts from British taxpayers' money - don't give them to criminals like Balfour Beatty who are blacklisting people.”
Jim Sheridan MP news release • Morning Star • Blacklist blog • Risks 571 • 1 September 2012
Britain: Balfour Beatty boss accused of perjury
A blacklisted construction worker has accused a top executive of construction giant Balfour Beatty of perjury. Colin Trousdale, a blacklisted electrician and UNITE member from Manchester alleged the company’s human resources director, Gerry Harvey, had sent a letter to the court asserting “there is no blacklist, we are not blacklisting you, you are paranoid” – but his blacklisting file contained company documentation proving this wasn’t true.
Blacklist blog • Risks 571 • 1 September 2012
Canada: Alberta erases farm workers deaths
The Alberta provincial government in Canada has been condemned for removing farm fatalities from reports on occupational deaths. Alberta Federation of Labour says the move is an example of how ''agricultural workers are being erased in Alberta.'' The federation says the province announced its plans on a government website and offered no meaningful explanation for the change. Alberta is the only province in Canada where farm workers aren't covered by occupational health and safety laws.
OHS • Risks 570 • 25 August 2012
Australia: Study confirms insecure work is dangerous
New official Australian research showing casual workers are 50 per cent more likely to be injured at work is solid proof that insecure work leads to unsafe working environments, the country’s top union body has said. ‘Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age, 2009-2010’, published by national safety regulator Safe Work Australia, found that casual workers without leave entitlements reported 54 injuries per million hours worked compared with a rate of 35 for those with leave entitlements.
Safe Work Australia news release. Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age, 2009-2010, Safe Work Australia, 30 July 2012 [pdf] • ACTU news release. ABC News • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Canada: Temp workers are falling through cracks
Complex employment relationships, gaps in the regulatory system and job insecurity can leave low-wage temp agency workers more vulnerable to workplace injuries, according to new research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health. Researcher Ellen MacEachen and colleagues found “that low-wage temp agency workers are less well protected because of the complex working relationship in which they find themselves.” At Work, Issue 69, IWH, Summer 2012 and related research presentation, The management of OHS and return-to-work issues in temporary work agencies [pdf] • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
USA: Groundbreaking law to protect temporary workers
Temporary staffing agencies in Massachusetts will no longer be allowed to send temporary workers to jobs without informing workers of the name of their employer, the wages they will be paid, or the basic safety training they need to protect themselves from jobs that are often hazardous. The law, which will come into effect in January 2013, has been welcomed by safety campaigners, who say it shines a light on those temp agencies operating in the darkness of Massachusetts’ underground economy, where worker injuries are often unreported and millions of dollars in overtime and minimum wages are unpaid.
Governor of Massachusetts Office news release • MassCOSH news release • Temporary Worker Right to Know Act • Boston Globe • Risks 569 • 18 August 2012
Japan: Officials probe bogus radiation readings
Subcontracted workers at Japan’s earthquake wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station may have been forced to submit bogus reports on their radiation exposures so they could remain on the job longer. An official investigation began last week after media reports of a cover-up at the plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters.
Washington Post • The Guardian • Risks 566 • 28 July 2012
USA: Agency work can kill
Lax regulations, loose enforcement and employer resistance to union health and safety committees inflict a ghastly toll of illness, injury and death on the job, the global foodworkers’ union federation has warned. IUF was commenting after the grisly death of a contract worker at a US Nestlé plant, a tragedy it says provides further evidence that agency workers face even greater risks due to their precarious employment status.
IUF news release • MASSCOSH news report • Risks 566 • 28 July 2012
Britain: Teens ‘narrowly escaped death’ at work
A Derbyshire manufacturing firm and its director have been fined after two teenage agency workers ‘narrowly escaped death’ in a fall from a platform above a heap of supermarket trolleys. Derby Crown Court heard that the two 18-year-olds were helping to put scrapped trolleys into a skip using a makeshift lifting platform designed by Storetec Limited director Brian Crossan to fit a forklift truck.
HSE news release • Derby Telegraph • Risks 561 • 23 June 2012
Job insecurity -
the deadly hazards
of precarious work
Insecure work is not just unfair, it's downright unhealthy. Hazards challenges the dangerous shift to increasingly precarious work.
precarious work campaign
On 7 October 2012, the World Day for Decent Work, the IndustriALL Global Union is calling on trade unionists and labour rights activists to join the global fight against precarious work.
Join the fight on Facebook • Invite others • Background materials • Campaign webpage
RESOURCES• ACTU secure jobs, better future website