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OCTOBER 2003 NEWS

BRITAIN
Union claims moral victory over bullying BBC
An employment tribunal has criticised the BBC for its attempts to discredit a veteran TV journalist who stood up to the corporation, labelled broadcasting's top bully. NUJ member Laurie Mayer, known to millions as a BBC newsreader, lost an unfair dismissal case but claimed a "moral victory," however, after the tribunal strongly criticised BBC management.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

AUSTRALIA
Union condemns "culture of abuse" at airports
Airline workers in Australia are threatened, assaulted, and even stalked, by abusive passengers on a daily basis, new union research shows. Preliminary findings of an Australian Services Union (ASU) survey of 314 workers at 14 airports found 95 per cent had experienced air rage.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
UNISON calls for action on mesothelioma
Urgent action is needed to increase awareness of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, public service union UNISON has said. By 2010, more than 10,000 people a year are expected to die from asbestos-related diseases. This will make asbestos the biggest occupational killer by far and about three times as deadly as the roads.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

USA
Unions sue government for better safety standards
Two US unions have filed legal proceedings against the Labor Department in a bid to win better safety standards. The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) suit against US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, seeks to compel the official safety watchdog OSHA to set safer metalworking fluids standards.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Scottish Exec "complacent" on NHS violence
UNISON Scotland has accused the Scottish Executive of complacency on violence to health service staff. UNISON is demanding a six point action plan, including a joint management-unions staff charter, a standard definition of workplace violence, training courses and charges against anyone guilty of physical abuse of NHS staff.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Police fail to arrest retail crime
Thugs and thieves see the retail sector as a soft touch and expect to get away with the offence, shopworkers' trade union Usdaw has said. It says latest police performance tables do not include retail crime as a measure of police performance, something the union wants to change.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

NIGERIA/BENIN
Child slaves rescued from granite pits
Seventy-four child slaves, some as young as four years old and none older than 15, have been rescued after being forced to smash granite in a Nigerian quarry for a year. The children told their rescuers that at least 13 of their young companions had died in the past three months - worn out by smashing and carrying rocks and sleeping, without adequate food, in the open.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Teachers refuse violent pupils
Teachers are increasingly making a stand against pupil violence and refusing to allow dangerously aggressive youngsters back into the classroom, a union survey has found. Research for NASUWT found that so far this year, members in 25 schools have organised ballots to refuse to teach out-of-control pupils.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Xmas comes early for shopworkers
Shopworkers are rejoicing at plans to ban larger stores from opening on Christmas Day. Retail union Usdaw says the move vindicates its three-year campaign on behalf of its 250,000 shopworker members.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

NEW ZEALAND
Union bargaining to save lives at work
Strengthening workers' ability to bargain collectively will reduce workplace fatalities and improve New Zealand's dismal health and safety record, the country's top union official has said. Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) president Ross Wilson said a May 2003 law increasing the union role and creating union safety reps (Risks 105) should be amended "so it does not merely allow collective bargaining, but actively promotes it."
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Seafarers working a dangerous 85 hour week
More than half the seafarers operating in UK coastal waters are working "dangerously" long hours, a union backed study has found. Most seafarers working on ferries and tankers around the UK coast get no opportunity for six hours of uninterrupted sleep and more than 45 per cent are working more than 85 hours a week, according to ships' officers' union Numast.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

CANADA
Asbestos industry dirty tricks campaign revealed!
An asbestos industry dirty tricks campaign to give the deadly fibre a healthy gloss has been uncovered. A paper in the November 2003 edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (AJIM) concludes: "Researchers complicit in this manipulation seem to be motivated by a variety of interests, including a desire to support an important national industry and a pre-existing ideological commitment to support corporate interests over worker or community interests."
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Stress is costing British firms £1.24bn
British industry is haemorrhaging a "massive" £1.24 billion a year because of stress-related sickness and lost productivity, according to a survey. The HSE/Personnel Today study concludes: "The only reason Britain has kept pace at all is because we work the longest hours in Europe. We are having to work harder and longer to maintain our position in the pack, less inspiration means more perspiration."
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Bereaved families criticise Scots justice
The criminal justice system in Scotland has been criticised by families bereaved as a result of workplace fatalities.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

USA
One in four asthma cases linked to work
Over a quarter of all asthma cases could be related to work, according to a new study. Dr George Delclos, co-author of the study, published in the October 2003 issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, said: "If you were to intervene in these cases, you might be able to reduce cases of asthma by around 26 per cent in adults," equivalent to the proportion of asthma attributable to the workplace.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Payout for demoted jail worker
A woman who suffered a breakdown following demotion from her prison job could get £400,000 in compensation. Jacqui Beart, 39, said she was demoted from her administrative post after asking to change her working hours. She subsequently suffered depression and never returned to work at Swaleside Prison.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Outsourcing, staffing and downsizing are safety issues
Safety just got serious - a new Health and Safety Executive guide says restructuring, reorganisation, outsourcing and downsizing are not just buzzwords, they are key safety issues.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

AUSTRALIA
Striking builders to march over workplace death
Construction workers angry over the death of a 16-year-old labourer will stop work on 27 October to march on the New South Wales (NSW) parliament and demand jail sentences for bosses who are slack on safety.
Risks 129, 25 October 2003

BRITAIN
Protest at NHS bullying epidemic
Half of health visitors, school nurses and community nurses working in the NHS have been bullied by their managers, according to a union survey.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

AUSTRALIA
Pubs to ban smoking
Smoking in pubs and clubs is to be phased out in New South Wales. The state government has establishing a working party, to include representatives from pubs and clubs, the NSW Cancer Institute and relevant government officials, to work out the details.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Union puts the brakes on emergency speeding charge
Unions have won their first victory in the battle to protect workers from pointless speeding prosecutions aimed at workers delivering emergency medical supplies including blood and human organs.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
UNISON calls for tough line on NHS violence
Health union UNISON has called for a tougher line to be taken on members of the public who are violent or abusive towards NHS staff.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Co-op report vindicates shop union violence campaign
Almost 50 Co-op stores were subject to armed robberies last year and there was a 39 per cent increase in the number of physical attacks on staff, a new report has shown.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Red tags are like "red rags to a bull"
Workers at a Leicester factory have banned overtime work and taken part in selective work stoppages after bosses introduced a Big Brother-style monitoring system forcing them to wear red tags on breaks.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Manslaughter charges over yard death
Police have charged a man with manslaughter over the death of Plymouth yacht yard worker Benjamin Pinkham. Mr Pinkham, a 21-year-old heating engineer, of Saltash in Cornwall, died six days after suffering serious burns in a 3 February explosion at Princess Yachts International.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Dangerous directors get off scot free
Only two company directors or senior managers in Scotland have been convicted of health and safety offences since April 1999, according to the Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA). It adds that no director or company in Scotland has ever been convicted of a homicide offence following a work-related death, compared to eight company directors and five companies convicted of manslaughter in England and Wales.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
US case raises microchip cancer compensation hopes
Microchip workers in Scotland hope a lawsuit against electronics company IBM in the United States could strengthen their case for compensation. Workers from the National Semiconductor plant in Greenock have already opened compensation claims and believe that the IBM case could strengthen their hand.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Workers twice as likely to whistle while they work
People are now twice as likely to blow the whistle on workplace wrongdoing as they were five years ago - and safety has moved to the top of their concerns, according to a report from whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work. A PCaW analysis shows that the top two issues dealt with by its helpline, which received 561 calls last year, are now safety risks and financial misconduct - each making up 30 per cent of calls.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Staff accidents cost NHS millions
Staff accidents are costing the NHS around £170m a year, according to the House of Commons public accounts committee. There were 135,172 accidents involving NHS staff at work last year, up more than a third on 2001, with needlestick injuries identified as a particular problem.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
£50m to protect health workers
Hospital workers will be sent on training courses on how to deal with workplace violence under a £50 million government plan. Health secretary John Reid has ordered extra protection for the 1.3 million NHS doctors, nurses, hospital workers and paramedics after latest figures showed the number of assaults on them had soared.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Quickie consultation on safety
Health and safety minister Des Browne has launched a quickie consultation on A strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond. He said: "The strategy recognises that HSE cannot do it all, we must get everyone involved in health and safety pulling in the same direction."
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Union ESCAPE from dangerous substances
Over half a million workers every year suffer ill-health caused by dangerous substances at work, according to the TUC. It is urging union safety reps to keep a six point "ESCAPE" route in mind when raising safety issues relating to the use of dangerous substances with their employers.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

IRAQ/USA
Union report accuses US over media deaths
The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group with over 500,000 members in more than 100 countries, has called for a "global campaign to expose the secrecy, deceit and arrogance of the United States authorities" surrounding the killing of up to seven journalists during and after the Iraq war.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
Government chokes on workplace smoking ban
The government has stated a blanket ban on smoking in public places cannot be justified at present, but says a code of practice on smoking in public places was still being considered. It is still defending discredited voluntary approaches, however.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

USA
Senate backs ban on genetic discrimination at work
The US Senate has voted with an overwhelming majority to approve legislation that would prohibit companies from using genetic test results. Employers would be barred from seeking most genetic information, and from using any such information to influence hiring or promotion decisions. Employers could, however, require testing to monitor potential ill effects from workplace exposure to hazardous substances.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003Hazards gene screen webpages

BRITAIN
Sick and tired transport workers lay siege to Downing St
Transport and General Workers' Union members have laid siege to Whitehall to demonstrate against long hours in the transport industry. TGWU says the long hours culture, in which many drivers frequently work a 70 hour week, is known to lead to dangerous levels of fatigue.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003ITF Road Transport Day of Action website and background on the ITF day of action worldwide

USA
B
uilding boss pleads guilty to manslaughter
A US subcontractor has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the deaths of five workers killed in a Manhattan scaffold collapse. The guilty plea from Phillip V Minucci, president of Tri State Scaffold and Equipment Supplies Inc., to a single count of second-degree manslaughter was in exchange for a sentence that state Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller said will not exceed four to 12 years.
Risks 128, 18 October 2003

BRITAIN
How to opt back in to a 48 hour working week
Most UK workers are protected from working more than 48 hours a week on average unless they voluntarily sign an opt-out from working time rules. But as one in four people are forced to sign the opt-out, the TUC is issuing Time's up for long hours, a how to guide to opting back in to a 48 hour working week.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

GLOBAL
Violence and stress at work guide
A new International Labour Organisation (ILO) publication, Preventing and responding to violence at work, "outlines in detail a reliable and effective methodology for developing workplace violence prevention and response programmes."
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

AUSTRALIA
Jail back on the menu for bad bosses
Deadly Australian employers could soon face jail time as industrial manslaughter proposals resurface with strong political and union support. Negligent bosses face up to 25 years jail if their workers are killed under industrial manslaughter laws before the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Legislative Assembly, one of Australia's regional governments. "We plan to have this legislation passed by November," says ACT industrial relations minister Katy Gallagher. "We take this very seriously."
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

AUSTRALIA
Bullying at work on the rise
One in seven workers in the Australian state of Victoria was bullied in the past six months and almost a quarter were aware of a colleague being bullied, according to an official survey. The news comes as unions in Australia launched initiatives to tackle violence and bullying aimed at women and young workers.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

EUROPE
Small needn't mean dangerous
Small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) pose the biggest work safety challenge for the European Union (EU), according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. The Bilbao-based agency examined 18 successful occupational safety and health assistance services to SMEs, ranging from industry-wide projects to highly focused initiatives in 14 member states and concluded poor safety standards are not inevitable.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

GLOBAL
ILO seeks safer shipbreaking
Existing international and national regulations do not provide specific protection for workers in shipbreaking, one of the world's most hazardous occupations. An ILO convened October conference in Bangkok sought to revise and adopt guidelines for responsible ship dismantling and the provision of support for improved safety and health in shipbreaking, so there are sound national frameworks for responsible ship dismantling.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

GLOBAL
World's drivers act to keep death off roads
Over a quarter of a million road transport workers in 65 countries will use a day of action on Monday 13 October to warn policymakers and all road users that "fatigue kills." Organised by international trade union body the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation), the day of action is now in its seventh year, and has been instrumental in achieving changes in laws and regulations around the world that limit the length of time workers can be expected to stay at the wheel.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

NEW ZEALAND
Airline drugs tests unlawful, say unions
A legal challenge to Air New Zealand's plans to drugs test its workers has reached the courts. Six unions, led by the EPMU, say the airline has no legal right to test its 10,000 employees for traces of drugs or alcohol and wants the court to issue permanent injunctions preventing Air New Zealand from implementing the policy, and a precedent-setting declaration that the proposed policy was unlawful and unreasonable.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

SOUTH AFRICA/USA
Apartheid lawyer launches workplace health campaign
The lawyer who sued some of the world's biggest corporations over apartheid has launched a fresh case, demanding damages on occupational health grounds. New York-based Ed Fagan has threatened lawsuits against 13 companies with involvement in South Africa, accusing them of routinely exposing staff to unsafe working conditions.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

THAILAND
Fatal accident jail sentences too lenient
The bereaved relatives of 36 people who died in an explosion at a Thai canning plant have called on justice minister Pongthep Thepkanchana to monitor their appeal against the "too mild" sentences handed down to the factory's management team. Two managers received six and four month jail terms.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

USA
Employers play a deadly game
Wishing workplace injuries away is becoming the cut price alternative to genuine safety practice. US website Confined Space reports that from 1 October Los Angeles Times employees in the pressroom, mailroom, machine shop and other parts of the workplace will be rewarded to the tune of $50.00 a month (£30), if employees from their team do not take time off with on the job injuries.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

USA
Immigrant workers speak up for safety
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), "is mobilising to protect the rights of immigrant workers who now comprise the majority of the workforce in much of America's meat and food processing industry." The move comes as part of an historic bus trip - the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride - that has crossed the US advocating greater protection for immigrants.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

BRITAIN
Public safety enforcement is a postcode lottery
The safety of the public and employees is being put at risk, because cowboy employers feel at liberty to flout health and safety laws across the UK. A new report from public sector union UNISON concludes that postcodes and not risks determine the level of health and safety enforcement undertaken by local authorities. Safety lottery: How the level of safety enforcement of health and safety depends on where you live looked at the local authority enforced sector
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

BRITAIN
Union fights HSE plan to axe safety inspectors
The union representing Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors, is increasing pressure for a properly funded workplace safety inspection regime. Prospect says that under the new criteria an employee could suffer a scalping, serious multiple fractures or lose the top of up to three fingers before an inquiry is even launched in his or her workplace.
Risks 127, 11 October 2003

USA
Laws save lives and money
When it comes to environmental and workplace safety, the benefits to communities, workers, society and the economy far exceed the costs, a new study from the White House's Office of Management and Budget has concluded.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

Copyright Earl DotterUSA
Crew accused of mutiny over 16.5-hour workday

Twenty-five Latino crew members aboard the Seattle-based Ocean Phoenix - North America's largest fish processing vessel - are being accused of mutiny after objecting to an extension of their already 16 hour working days.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003 • Photo from Earl Dotter's The Price of Fish exhibit

USA
Rescue worker suicides add to tragedy toll
At least three New York emergency workers involved in rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center on September 11 2001 have taken their own lives, union officials say. Philip McArdle, the health and safety officer for the 8,600-member Uniformed Firefighters Association, knows of about a half-dozen suicide attempts by other firefighters since September 11.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003More information on work-related suicides

GUATEMALA
Murdered on Del Monte's banana plantation
Standing up for your rights in Guatemala's banana plantations can cost you more than your livelihood, it can cost you your life. A lawsuit against Del Monte alleges that the $2 billion (1.2bn) multinational conspired to kidnap, torture, and unlawfully detain union leaders. The US government is attempting to frustrate the court proceedings.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003 • Updates on the campaign from Rights Action, Labor Education in the Americas Project (LEAP) and Banana Link

GLOBAL
ILO takes on service sector stresses
An October meeting of top experts will set out next week to tackle the growing workplace scourges of stress and violence in the service sector. A panel convened by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and comprising government, union and industry specialists will attempt to agree a global ILO code of practice.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

AUSTRALIA
Esso payout to worker's children
The teenage children of a man Esso tried to blame for the huge Longford gas explosion in 1998 have awarded compensation of Aus$100,000 (41,200) each after Australia's Supreme Court found they had suffered psychological injury. The payouts to the children of plant worker Jim Ward brought to almost Aus$2.4 million (almost 1m) the total Esso has been publicly ordered to pay in criminal compensation to families affected by the blast.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

CANADA
Organising beats stress
Enough workplace stress: organizing for change, a new guide from Canadian public sector union CUPE, "contains concepts, solutions and strategies that can effect meaningful change in CUPE workplaces across the country. Equipped with this guideline, members can identify and eliminate workplace stress hazards."
Risks 126, 4 October 2003 • Enough workplace stress: organizing for change [pdf format]

GLOBAL
Road unions warn that fatigue kills
Global transport unions' federation ITF has declared Monday 13 October 2003 the 7th annual International Road Transport Day of Action. ITF says more than 250,000 workers in 65 countries take part in the worldwide protest day against excessive working hours for professional drivers.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003ITF Day of Action webpages

BRITAIN
Amicus takes on asbestos in Euroweek
Amicus is "encouraging safety representatives and members to take an active part" in this year's European Week for Safety and Health. It says its Euroweek campaign focuses on asbestos disease and the new legislation requiring employers to keep registers of employees exposed to asbestos.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
Critics wide-eyed at drug tests cheek
A UK company is pushing a new gizmo it says will tell bosses if workers are under the influence of drugs or drink. Hampton Knight, the firm distributing the 10,000 US-built portable eye scanner, told business leaders the device is able to tell if employees have taken anything from alcohol and cannabis to hard drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or heroin.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
Lung disease affects three million
An estimated three million people in Britain have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a potentially fatal condition commonly linked to smoking and workplace exposures.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
Prosecution over Paddington crash
Thames Trains is to face prosecution for the Paddington rail crash, in which 31 people died. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that it is to begin a prosecution of the rail company, four years after the crash. The company had earlier said it would sue HSE for failing to stop its safety breaches.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
HSE improves safety laws after union challenge
Workplace safety and fire regulations are to be changed to allow employees and employers to claim damages for breaches of the regulations, the Health and Safety Executive has announced. The move comes after a legal campaign by firefighters' union FBU, which argued successfully that UK safety law had loopholes that allowed employers to evade responsibility when they failed to comply with legal risks assessment.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
New union reps to raise safety in smaller firms
The TUC has welcomed government support for a new breed of union safety rep. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Andrew Smith told the Labour Party conference on 2 October that the government would provide 3 million funding over three year for more "roving safety reps," who will promote health and safety in small and medium workplaces that do not necessarily have union members.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003 More on union roving reps and the union safety effect

BRITAIN
Shop attack every minute of the working day
Retail union Usdaw says a shopworker is attacked or abused every minute of the working day. The union says in 2002, over 16,000 shopworkers were physically assaulted, nearly 49,000 were threatened with attack and 70,000 were verbally abused.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
Dock workers stand up for safer ports
Dock workers' union TGWU says European Commission plans to open up access to port services will compromise safety, especially if ship owners take advantage of plans for self-handling of cargo rather than using dock labour.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
TGWU launches organising drive
TGWU general secretary-elect Tony Woodley has launched a new 7-point charter for commercial vehicle drivers, calling for better and safer working conditions and more humane work hours and rest breaks.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
Equity secures record payout for acrobat
An Equity member who plunged from a harness at the Millennium Dome has won 510,000 in compensation. Performer Suzy Barton, 34, suffered horrific injuries when she fell 20 feet onto concrete in front of crowds at the London attraction.
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

BRITAIN
Amicus to "twist government's arm" on corporate crime
A trade union says it intends to increase the pressure on ministers if the government fails to introduce a corporate killing law. Mike McCartney, Amicus AEEU's head of education, commented: "If the government will not honour their commitment to legislate for corporate killing then Amicus will twist their collective arm until it does."
Risks 126, 4 October 2003

 

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