2023-08-25 10:28

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CWU Health & Safety Community Request Meeting With CWU's GS
Ahead Of Re-Design Conference

Following months of speculation, rumour and denials regarding the future of the CWU's Health & Safety Department and any future organisation within the CWU supporting the hundreds of Union Safety Reps across all constituencies, all regional health & Safety Forums have written to the Union's general secretary requesting an urgent meeting with him and the Head of the H&S Dept, to discuss their serious concerns.

The letter which was sent to the GS last month has been met with a recognition of the need to meet the Health & Safety community of the CWU ahead of the November conference and is seen as a positive response from the GS to the serious concerns that Health & Safety Reps across the Union have for the future way in which the CWU addresses the adverse environment which will follow the country's leaving of the EU and the intended attacks on worker's rights and on health & safety at work legislation which this Government sees as barriers to Trade.

In the letter, which was penned by a group of ASR/USRs from both Postal and T&FS constituencies; the H&S Forum heads express their concerns:

As a regional chair, I would like to raise concerns over the possible dissolution and merger of the Health, Safety & Environment department. 

I believe that this would serve no useful purpose to the Union and in fact could be potentially damaging. The CWU Health, Safety & Environment department is one of the smallest departments, with an equally small budget, however,  I believe it is the most important and one of the most productive and successful departments in our organisation.

Pointing out that: "The department’s successes and achievements on behalf of the membership and indeed the Trade Union movement as a whole are remarkable and widely recognised by many organisations outside our trade union.", the letter continues:

One campaign group Hazards.org described safety reps as ‘A volunteer army of lifesavers’.

In direct reference to the above quote, any removal of the Health, Safety and Environment department would in effect be tantamount to sanctioning all CWU Health, Safety and Environment Reps into working like an ‘Army without a regiment’.

To many of our members in the CWU, the workplace Health, Safety and Environment representative is the face of the union. 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 find the coming years increasingly difficult. It is for this reason a stand-alone Health, Safety and Environment department is crucially important. 

Indeed, says the letter, as far as the CWU's Health & Safety department is concerned, it's standing within the TUC is of the highest and it rightfully commands huge respect.

In evidence for the continuation and expansion of the department, the H&S Forum heads give the following major points in their letter:

  1. Health & Safety remains one of the most important issues for our members and our union going forward

  2. Health & Safety is the main reason why workers join a union, a sentiment echoed recently this month by TUC General Secretary Francis O’Grady.

  3. Health, Safety and Environment reps  are more regularly in contact with our members than any other representative, due to their statutory  visits on inspections/investigations & committees and sell our union on a daily basis to our membership

  4. The changes in the employer organisations where we have representation demand a very strong H&S structure and the H&S department is crucially important as the first line of defence

  5. Non frontline departments may need to be slimmed down, so that we can begin to recognise the true value of the H&S department and in fact try to grow it, to show that the recognition afforded by outside organisations is matched by the CWU.

Based on the above points, the letter requests a meeting with the CWU's General Secretary, Dave Ward:

This issue warrants discussion at the highest level, I am therefore respectively requesting a confidential meeting with yourself as general secretary of the CWU and also Dave Joyce as national HS&E officer to discuss these urgent concerns.

Whilst the agreement to meet with them is being viewed as a positive step by the H&S Forum heads, time is indeed of the essence for any such meeting to have any affect on what is being discussed behind closed doors at CWU HQ.

With the impending timetabling of the November Special Re-Design Conference and the Standing Orders for the conference being published by the SOC and the National Executive Committees final meeting to agree the conference policy papers, any such meeting may well not be able to influence any changes to the way in which conference is formatted and the decision as to just who can submit motions to the conference for debate.

Unless the meeting with the CWU's General Secretary takes place prior to the above which is encumbered with a strict timetable of deadlines in order for the the November 3rd Conference to go ahead, many view the situation as a fete accompli with the Union's Health and Safety community being disenfranchised and unable to influence or even submit motions to the debate.

It is interesting to note too, that the Retired Members community is in the same position with it now looking likely that both the Health & Safety and Retired Members organisations within the CWU will no longer exist after their fate is decided by mainly IR groups within the CWU.

With a limit as to the number of motions any one Branch is able to submit, will they concern themselves with other than industrial relations and political aspects of Re-Designing the CWU?

Highly unlikely say most commentators on this issue, pointing to the fact that the Re-Design document, and the basis for the NEC's policy documents being agreed this month; doesn't even mention Health & Safety other than in a negative and factually incorrect paragraph 8.

But far more importantly, the key aim of the leadership of the Union is to make the Union industrial and politically based, and with no room for either retired members or health & safety structures it seems.


Source: H&S Community / C Ingram /CWU

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