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|TRADE UNIONS THROUGHOUT EUROPE HELD HUNDREDS OF EVENTS ON 28th. April as the forty-sixth Workers Memorial Day was marked. From Spain to Finland and from Ireland to Bulgaria demonstrations, publications, moments of silence, flowers and wreaths commemorated those who died due to workplace illnesses and accidents. In Spain over thirty events supported the programme of ten urgent and priority measures for preventing occupational risks laid out by the main union confederations CC.OO and UGT. The president of the Bulgarian transport unions laid flowers and a wreath outside the federation’s offices in memory of those killed and injured in accidents at work. Belgian unions published an examination of the EU’s REFIT programme of deregulation which explains how it will undermine health and safety standards and met the Minister of Labour to hammer home the point. The Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions (LIGA) in Hungary drew 78 human shapes on the ground by Budapest’s main railway station to represent those killed at||
work in 2014 and filmed a video of the reactions of passers-by. The Hungarian fatality figure is dwarfed by the Turkish equivalent of 1,886 (see below) recorded by the ‘Work Murders Almanac’ compiled by the families of thosekilled. They organised a meeting to tell of their experiences in seeking justice while supporters wore black as they marched along the main shopping street in Istanbul.
A German poster for WMD 2015
TWO SETS OF STATISTICS RECENTLY RELEASED in Turkey have agreed on the calamitous rise in deaths and injuries resulting from workplace accidents. Since the early 1990s the annual number of accidents has nearly tripled in the country. The worst year in the period surveyed was the last one, 2013, when 191,247 employees were involved, according to the Minister of Labour. In the same year 1,356 workers were killed while during the period 1992 to 2013 a total of 13,510 lost their lives at their workplace and overall 1.9 million had a work-based mishap. These figures are certainly an underestimate as they only include insured, formal employees, a minority of all those at work in Turkey. High numbers of sub-contracted and unregistered workers are employed in particularly dangerous sectors such as mining and construction. Employees who fell victim to long-term illness originating from exposure to substances at work are also excluded.
A report from the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects confirms the bad news for workers and brings us up to date as it highlights three disasters that happened last year. The Soma mine explosion (see issue 67), the collapse of a 30-storey block of flats in Istanbul and a flood at a mine in Ermenek contributed to the record-breaking figure of 1,886 deaths. The report argues that changes made to health and safety law following these incidents were not substantial and were ‘were implemented to mislead the public’. According to opposition M.P. Gürkut Acar ‘A majority of workers are forced to work for the minimum wage and under subcontractors, without unions or workplace security. That’s why workplace accidents have turned into workplace murders’.
Women’s health at risk from workplace sexism
A CONFERENCE ON ‘WOMEN”S HEALTH AND WORK’ recently organised by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) found that equal rights in the workplace are still a long way off. Sexual segregation and sexist stereotypes are still having a deleterious effect on the health and safety of female workers. The findings of a survey by Eurofound showed that, in the EU, 69% of managerial posts are filled by men while 67% of service and sales workers are women. Part-time workers are overwhelmingly women, 30% of female workers work less than 30 hours a week compared with 7% of male. However if child care and housework are taken into account many women with children are putting in 70-hour weeks. They are more likely to report pain in the shoulders, neck and upper limbs as well as poor general health and ‘mental health at risk’. The predominance of men in heavy industry and sectors with obvious exposure to hazards makes protective precautions more widespread whereas women tend to work in less regulated and unionised occupations and to suffer from subtler hazards such as bullying and harassment. Both this factor and under-reporting lead to fewer women gaining compensation or receiving rehabilitation. It seems that conditions for women workers have not approved since this conference was held three years ago quoting the slogan ‘Being invisible hurts!’.