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CWU General Conference 2019 Report By Co-ord Chair

The NEC were instructed to formulate a strategy and campaign to ensure that workplace suicide is recognised in legislation. If any worker takes their life in the workplace, or indicators exist to suggest it may be work related, it should be immediately investigated as a potential work-related suicide with the burden of proof being imposed on the employer to demonstrate that the suicide was not work related.Due to the impact of poor Mental Health on our members, we will campaign and use all existing tools at our disposal to get a Minister for Mental Health.

Pic: Derek MaylorThe current Mental Health Act (1983) is not fit for purpose and a review of the current legislation is urgently required. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that is administered to protect HIV negative people from contracting HIV. It is currently provided in Scotland through the NHS and  in Wales it is available in genitourinary clinics as part of a 3-year trial.

In England there is a PrEP Impact trial going on involving 10,000 but it is not available at the point of need as described in both Scotland and Wales. Being on PrEP means you don’t have to worry about the status of your partner because you’re protecting yourself. It is a well-studied, evidence based method of avoiding HIV transmission. The CWU will write to write to the  hvm Health Secretary and put forward the arguments that exist to help enable much easier access to PrEP.

The Menopause is the last stage in a woman’s reproductive life, and like the other stages, one which brings with it many physical symptoms and effects. It is noted that despite the many varied effects of the Menopause on women’s mental and physical health it is not currently covered under the Equality Act (2010). This must change and that the Menopause should become a protected characteristic.

The Civil Liabilities Bill, which the government say will tackle a whiplash “epidemic”, hides a £1.3bn annual gift to the insurers, a loss to government coffers of £146m a year, and an assault on access to justice that will impact hundreds of thousands of people whose claims have nothing to do with whiplash. It means a doubling of the small claims limit, below which injured people don’t get their legal fees paid. Up to 40% of those injured at work will lose their rights.

Thousands of workers will be left fighting insurers on their own and in their own time. Injured people whose claim has a value of up to £2,000 – thousands of people a year – will be expected to take on well-funded insurers on their own. We welcome the ongoing opposition to the Bill from Usdaw, Unite, GMB, Unison, RMT and will support the campaign.

There needs to be better legislation on medical implant regulations and it was decided to lobby government to hold full investigation the use of implants et up a register for those who have had implants to have regular ‘ check ups and run an awareness campaign.

Every year in the UK, around 3,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and two women lose their life to cervical cancer every day and yet there are still women not taking up the offer of smear test, a simple test which can save their life. Early detection and diagnosis of cervical cancer or pre-cancerous cells is paramount to a positive outcome and according to the National Audit last year, less than 72% of eligible people were screened in 2017-18.

There are  five million women invited every year for screening but  over one in four don’t attend. We will coordinate a campaign during Cervical Screening Awareness Week 2019 (10 - 16 June 2019) to make sure women in the CWU are aware of the importance of having a regular smear test and address the issues cited as reasons for not having a smear test such as embarrassment, not realising it can actually reduce the risk of cervical cancer, not wanting to get undressed in front of a doctor or nurse or worrying it will be painful.

We will highlight the need for the introduction of a Stress Risk Assessment to be used in every workplace in the UK and the full implementation of the stress management standards.

The CWU will work with organisations such as the TUC and the Hazards Campaign to maintain the importance emphasis on improving occupational health standards and the treatment of Ill health at work both physical and mental and to develop effective strategies working with Unions to ensure employers compliance.

The CWU Mental Heath Strategy’ (MHS) group is developing a working relationship with organisations and a joined up training programme. We need a more effective methods of communicating with members, support for reps who deal with members who have mental health issues and for those reps affected by the increasing stress of the job. A comprehensive Mental Health Strategy will be one of the Union’s key objectives over the coming year and the major national event and each Region will organise an event with the assistance of the national MHS group to embrace and help develop the Union’s mental health strategy.

The planet is facing an emergency. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others realise this and the CWU will be at the forefront of campaigning for change. Younger generations will experience the worst impact and the Labour movement must have conversations with young climate strikers and all groups who can tackle climate change. Funding must guided towards renewables and industries that are part of a Green Industrial Revolution. 

The issue can no longer be pushed away to the future and the current system of free for all capitalism is unsustainable. On a planet of finite resources there can not be infinite growth and the working classes will be the first to bear the brunt of climate breakdown.  We will establish a working group to coordinate a CWU led environmental campaign, working with the Labour party, the TUC etc. Promoting a green economy supporting a programme of environmental issues and promoting strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts that climate change has on workers around the world.

The CWU  recognise the problem of disposable one use plastics, over 8 million metric tons of plastic are ending up in our oceans every year and there are already 150 million metric tons of plastic there. To put this in perspective it is the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic ending up in the ocean every minute of the day. The CWU will  work with the TUC and Labour Party to investigate ways of drastically reducing the use of these single use plastics.

Conference remembered the tragedy of the fire at Grenfell tower in 2017 and its horrendous human cost with lives lost and trauma suffered, many families have been torn apart by this disaster. Poorly fitted gas pipes, fire doors not fit for purpose poor water supply and a single stairway for evacuation in the event of fire all contributed to the disaster that we have all seen. All these faults were registered by tenants groups challenging the authorities.

Former Grenfell residents say their complaints about safety and conditions in the tower were repeatedly ignored by the organization and council. We have the educational facilities to train resident groups to challenge power and defeat complacency. We have also developed a health and safety mind-set that has transferable skills to tenant associations.
The residents had a deficit of power in challenging the poor practices however the union greatest strength, is speaking truth to power.

The CWU will campaign with all political and interested parties for funding to train tenant and resident groups in health and safety. This could help create a database of grievances that could empower residents to break the hold of finance, furthermore it could help create union structures in tenant groups.

Derek Maylor 28 April 2019.

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