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ISSUE 50 page 7

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Health & Safety
More stress agreements in France as Télécom suicides go on
 FOLLOWING THE SIGNING OF A NATIONAL STRESS agreement in France in 2008 unions and employers in both the public and private sectors have concluded deals based on it. Meanwhile the most prominent case of stress at the workplace, France Télécom, has struggled to convince both trade unions and outside analysts that its new management team is going far enough to change the company culture which has produced 43 suicides in the last two years. A Ministry of Labour survey asked all 1,500 French companies with more than 1,000 employees if they had a stress agreement or action plan. Of the 900 that replied about one third had already signed some kind of deal with unions while most had opened negotiations. Attempts to ‘name and shame’ the remaining firms ran into trouble as a list published on a Ministry web site was criticised as inaccurate. In the publlic sector 5.2 million workers in the civil service, local authorities and hospitals are now covered by a  ‘health at work’ agreement which states that a Health, Safety and Working Conditions Committee must be set up wherever there are more than fifty employees.
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Highlighting the ‘complexity and even opacity of organisation’ at France Télécom the document says that forced transfers and work site closures should cease and advocates the rebuilding of confidence in the company’s human resources and occupational health services. Management have promised to recruit 3,500 people this year and change the assessment of manager performance pay to take into account employee satisfaction but insist that ‘we don’t have a magic wand that we can wave and just fix the problem in a few weeks’. However Technologia believe that they have a few weeks to change the leadership style as another nine employees have taken their own lives this year. Unions regard the measures announced so far as inadequate and Nabyl Beldjoudi of the Force Ouvrière union said that the plan sounds like a series of emergency responses and does not represent a comprehensive national strategy to deal with 'psychosocial risks'.

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It also puts the burden of proof with regard to accidents onto the authorities, establishes a post for monitoring health and safety, improves workplace medical systems and renovates staff redeployment. Seven out of the eight relevant unions signed the deal with the public authorities. At the dominant French telecommunication company a report by consultants Technologia has come up with 107 recommendations, based on interviews with 500 workers, to remedy oppressive management practice and reduce stress.

 

 

Another mine disaster in Turkey prompts further union criticism

YET ANOTHER EXPLOSION IN A TURKISH COAL MINE (see our last issue) has increased the pressure from unions for an improvement to the system of health and safety. Responding to a death toll of 13 at Balikesir in February Tayfun Görgün, president of the Dev Maden-Sen trade union, said that the number of inspectors was ridiculously low and safety audits were carried out at the offices of the Ministry of Labour instead of on site. The mine was closed after an accident in 2006 but subsequently re-opened.

Maintenance focus for 2nd 2-year safety campaign

Following last November’s successful conclusion to the first two-year campaign by the European Agency For Safety And Health At Work (OSHA), the agency is  continuing the idea. Its healthy workplaces campaign, which kicked off on 28 April, the  World Day for Safety and Health at Work, will zero in on safe maintenance. Taking in two European Safety Weeks in October this year and next, the campaign will hold Good Practice awards in April 2011 before the closing event in November. Its objectives are to raise awareness of the importance of maintenance for workers’ safety and health, and of the risks associated with it and the need to carry it out safely, As regards employers it seeks to raise awareness of their legal responsibilities to carry out safe maintenance, and of the business case for doing so using appropriate risk assessment. The ultimate aim, is to help to reduce the number of people who are being hurt or are experiencing ill health as a result of inadequate maintenance or lack of maintenance. Already backed by the EU presidency and covering 30 countries the campaign is looking for participants and partners from a range of organisations including employers in the public and private sectors, trade unions and safety representatives, professional associations, safety and health institutions and training providers.

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