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|SINCE 2002 THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION HAS BEEN PROMISING a revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens directive, When sustained pressure from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) was added to by the Dutch EU Presidency at the start of the year hopes grew that the current five cancer-causing substances to which exposure at work is legally limited would be joined by up to fifty more (see issue 74). These fifty cause about 80% of the 100,000 deaths from work-related cancers occurring across the EU each year. In May the Commission announced that the directive would be amended so that another 13 substances would be given ‘binding occupational exposure limits’ (OELs). Unions immediately criticised the ‘minimalist’ content of the revision: ‘No article of the directive has been improved. Only Annex 3 on OELs has been modified substantially’ said Laurent Vogel of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). However he also saw an upside ‘the positive thing is that the legislative process is now open and it will be possible to amend this initial proposal’. The Commission itself has said that it will propose OELs for a further 12 chemicals by the end of the year. The ETUC would like at least the fifty priority carcinogens to be limited. immediately criticised the ‘minimalist’ content of the revision:||
‘No article of the directive has been improved. Only Annex 3 on OELs has been modified substantially’ said Laurent Vogel of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). However he also saw an upside ‘the positive thing is that the legislative process is now open and it will be possible to amend this initial proposal’. The Commission itself has said that it will propose OELs for a further 12 chemicals by the end of the year. The ETUC would like at least the fifty priority carcinogens to be limited. There are other problems with the amended directive as it stands. The OELs chosen are often higher than those already obtaining in some Member States. For example crystalline silica, often produced in the construction industry by sand, gravel clay, stone etc. (see issue 69), would be limited to 100 micrograms per cubic metre. Yet in Spain, Denmark and Finland, as well as in the U.S.A., the OEL is already at 50 micrograms. Five million EU workers are exposed to this substance. Nonetheless Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary, said ‘Although some of the exposure limits are inadequate, and some substances are not included, this is a significant step forward ... the European Commission has finally listened to demands to protect workers better from work-related cancer’.
An ETUI poster campaigns against work cancer
Fairness at work makes you healthy
A SURVEY CARRIED OUT BY THE UNIVERSITIES OF STOCKHOLM and East Anglia has concluded that employers who are fair in their procedures on topics such as pay, promotion and bonuses are likely to have healthier, more satisfied and more productive workforces. The study asked nearly 6,000 workers in Sweden to rate their health between 2008 and 2014. It also asked them about ‘procedural justice’ in their employment, in other words did they feel that they were consulted by management and was it their perception that procedures at work were fair. The researchers found a clear link between perceived fairness and good health. The findings tend to support the observation that many employees have to take time off because of work-related stress. Iain Birrell of employment law solicitors Thompsons commented that ‘Sadly, many employers see the solution as being to sack the ailing colleague, rather than fix a lack of procedural fairness. Many organisations would see a real benefit from heeding this analysis’.
|EU may ban Roundup chemical|
|A TITANIC STRUGGLE BETWEEN chemical companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the European Commission and the Member States has ended with the weedkiller constituent glyphosate having its possible ban delayed. A routine reassessment process, which the EU conducts every fifteen years on all pesticides, turned controversial following a World Health Organisation (WHO) report linking the substance with cancer. The Monsanto company, makers of Roundup, which contains glyphosate, had hoped that a European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) report last November, based on industry information, that concluded there was ‘no carcinogenic hazard to humans’ would be enough to see its licence renewed. However a determined campaign by 45 NGOs was enough to prevent a majority in several Member State votes on the issue. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will now conduct a wider review of all weedkillers containing glyphosate and publish its conclusion late next year. The European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) was in no doubt, urging the Commission ‘to ban glyphosate in the EU and to’ … safeguard … ‘frontline agricultural workers from the consequences of injecting massive quantities of toxic chemicals into the environment’. In the U.K. the GMB union added ‘Employers should be substituting products containing glyphosate with safer alternatives that pose no health risk’.|