Ahead Of IWMD 2018 Safety Reps Call For Expansion Of CWU H&S Department
In the month of this year's International Worker's Memorial Day and with less than 1week to go to the CWU Annual Conference in Bournemouth, the Union's Health & Safety community is calling for an expansion of the Health & Safety Dept as part of the Union's Re-Design project currently being discussed at Branch level prior to the deadline of 11th May for the submission of Branch comments and answers to a set of questions based on the Re-Design document.
The message from the Union's USR/ASRs is clear in that any Trade Union wishing to be fit for purpose and ready to fight to defend worker's rights and for the expansion of those rights, needs to ensure it's Health and Safety Department and it's Health & Safety structures and resources are solid and have the resources required to fight against the onslaught of attacks which will inevitably come from our leaving the EU, and especially as part of any US/UK Trade Deal!
Health and Safety was originally the sole reason for the emergence of Trade Unions way back in the the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Today in the 21st Century,health & safety at work concerns remain a major reason for workers to join a Trade Union, and with attacks on the laws of the EU in this country on food safety, environmental pollution, discrimination legislation and support for those with mental health problems sure to come as has already been stated by this Tory Government and warned about by Trade Unions and various organisations across Europe and the UK; now is not the time to diminish or abandon Health & Safety policies procedures and structures of any Trade Union.
Expansion is key as far as CWU Safety Reps are concerned as the detrimental effects upon the Union of abandoning or merging the H&S Dept with another becomes clear.
Whilst CWU HQ remains silent about their plans for Re-Design, the booklet which was sent to Branches has added fuel to the fire of speculation and concern in that it questions the validity of Regional Health & Safety Structures and by extension therefore of the whole department, and one with the smallest departmental budget of all. The current thinking around the USR community in the Regions and Branches is that it is to be merged with Legal and Medical.
Speculation began following a regional conference held earlier this year during which a throw away line from Tony Rupa from Legal Services that "Legal Services and Health & Safety go hand in hand" as he approached the rostrum to give his presentation, was picked up on by several Safety Reps in attendance.
As one ASR told this website at the event:
"Legal services are there to reimburse members who suffer injustice, health and safety stops the injustice from happening - they are two different strands."
As has been reported elsewhere on this website, a group of CWU Safety Reps, so concerned at the direction health & safety at work is going in the UK, and will do so after Brexit; they have put together a petition which is hosted on the 38 Degrees website; calling for ALL Trade Unions to strengthen and focus their resources on Health & Safety ahead of Brexit:
"HEALTH & SAFETY was the main reason for the birth of the trade union movement. There is no doubt with the current government attack on trade unions and a possible all out onslaught when we arrive at ‘post Brexit’ Britain, Trade Unions will no doubt find the coming years increasingly difficult.
Against this, the major change to Health & Safety culture in the CWU, is commonly believed to being proposed as part of Re-Design which will shift the focus from being pro-active and campaigning which has earned respect well outside the Union and with both employers and the TUC and other Trade Unions, and has literally saved lives and avoided injuries; into one of being re-active and compensation focused as will be the case in any merger with the Union's Legal Department.
Safety Reps question the ability of the Union to have run the superb Dangerous Dogs Campaign which saw the CWU H&S Dept bring our member's employers on board, especially the Royal Mail, and team up with pressure groups to run a campaign that resulted in changes to the law and stiffer sentencing for owners of Dangerous Dogs; without a stand-alone H&S Dept
Some of the things being suggested as being necessary to make the Union fit for purpose in any post-Brexit environment are:
1 An expansion of the existing Health & Safety department in terms of staffing levels.
2 A substantial increase of it's currently smallest budget amongst departments and an increase of resourcing.
3 The introduction of a national Health & Safety Advisory Committee along the lines of current advisory committees.
4 The introduction of an annual Health & Safety conference similar to those for Women and Equality Depts
5 The continuation of our current H&S Regional and above Branch level structures
6 A requirement for all sub-committees of the NEC to interface with the H&S Department on any issues/policies/ IR issues that have an impact upon the Health SAfety and Welfare or our members in the workplace.
7 The introduction of an 'audit process' in which all CWU/Employer agreements are scrutinised prior to being signed off by the appropriate Officers to ensure there are no conflicts with existing health & safety agreements and H&S legislation of the country.
As with all things in a vacuum, something has to fill it and with the plans for Re-Design being reflected in organisational changes within CWU HQ mixed with silence from within, speculation and fears for the Union's direction will naturally be rife. With denials of any plans being developed on health & safety, the experience of denials and then the very thing that is being denied coming to fruition; is playing heavily on many peoples minds.
ASR/USRs will be hoping that things will become clearer after Conference on 22nd April and that they won't have to wait for the Branch Consultation process where Health & Safety will certainly be, as it was at the recent national briefings; not even being mentioned.