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ISSUE 70 page 7

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Health & Safety
New EU health and safety programme will do nothing at best say unions
 THE NEW STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FOR EUROPEAN  HEALTH AND SAFETY policy, for the period 2014-2020,  was proposed in June last year  and will be followed up by a resolution on occupational health at the Council of Ministers in March. Unfortunately, despite consulting trade unions and other interested groups (see issue 63), the programme is very light on concrete actions. Although the recent two European Commissions presided over by Manuel Barroso are described as ’10 lost years’ by European Trade Union Institute researcher Laurent Vogel, the next 5 ‘Juncker’ years may be worse. This is because the attitude that health and safety regulations are generally a ‘burden on business’ appears to have taken greater hold in the upper echelons of the EU. Already, at the end of the previous Commission’s term, an agreement signed by both employers and unions in the hairdressing sector on harmful chemicals (see issue 53) and a revision of the directive on cancer-causing substances were blocked. Both these and a proposed new measure on back and other muscle injuries were stopped by referring them to the REFIT .
EULeaders
from a failure to prevent work-related cancers ... it is high time something was actually done at last to cut down workers’ exposure to countless carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins’. There is evidence that some Member States want more movement on this issue than the Commission’s vague promise to review the framework in 2016. The Italian official responsible for occupational health wants more effective prevention and Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands are thought to be in favour of an early review of the Carcinogens directive. It is not clear exactly what the eventual course of EU health and safety policy under President Juncker will be but the appointment of Mr.Stoiber as a Commission special adviser does not bode well. Instead ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol wants to ‘invite the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and [Employment] Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to take action to protect European citizens from death, disease and illness at work’.

Messrs. Ségol, Vogel, Juncker, Stoiber & Thyssen

exercise which is assessing the entire body of health and safety legislation for its  ‘impact’ on business. The results of this will not be known until 2016. Added to this obstacle was the creation of the ‘Stoiber’ group, a supposed committee of experts,10 of whose members were the personal appointees of German conservative politician Edmund Stoiber. Its claim that €40 billion would be saved by dismantling EU laws seems to have been based on an opinion poll. Trade unions and other concerned organisations want a much more active and progressive policy. At a conference in Rome held in December Mr. Vogel said ‘100,000 people die each year in the European Union

 

 

Deaths at work increase in Ireland
BEFORE THE FINANCIAL CRASH Ireland had a robust health and safety regime which was reducing numbers of deaths and injuries at work (see issue 51). However continuing cuts in the  funding of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have reduced their preventative capacity to the point where deaths at work rose by 17% last year. Agriculture recorded the worst statistics with an 87% increase; fully 55% of all work-related fatalities being in this sector in 2014. Martin O'Halloran, Chief Executive of the HSA, said that it was a particularly horrific year for the agriculture sector. ‘The number of fatal accidents that occurred on farms last year was the highest in over 20 years. In May of 2014 alone there were five people killed. It is particularly tragic that five children lost their lives on Irish farms last year’. The SIPTU trade union commented ‘SIPTU has on numerous occasions warned that such reductions on preventative services would inevitably lead to increases in work-related accidents, illnesses and deaths. Sadly it would seem our fears have materialised’. Health and Safety Adviser Sylvester Cronin linked the Irish situation to the general EU deregulation drive (see article above): ‘The Government must also stand up to the EU Commission ... or we will see more alarming increases in work related accidents’ he warned.

Ground-breaking worldwide deal on health & safety at Orange

TRADE UNIONS AT ORANGE, THE FRENCH-BASED MULTI-NATIONAL telecommunications company formerly known as France Télècom, have concluded an innovative agreement on health and safety. The deal covers the entire workforce world-wide and is expected to have particularly beneficial effects in Africa. It addresses access to health care and social protection, health monitoring, safety and well-being in the workplace, public health and pandemic prevention campaigns, e-health services and participation in public health campaigns. The company is committed to common standards and medical insurance for all employees and their families. The deal, which was largely negotiated by French and Polish union officials, sets up local health and safety committees to oversee its implementation




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