2023-08-25 10:28

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The Future of CWU’s Health, Safety and Environment Structure Following Re-Design Of The Union

With the CWU’s Re-Design Special Conference having taken place this weekend, the consequences of decisions taken by Branch Delegates over the plans submitted by the NEC and full-time officers employed by the Union in their Re-Design document, which formed the basis of the Conference; will be discussed in future reports on this website.

In the meantime, there is no doubt that the concerns over the repercussions from the Conference, for the Health & Safety community in the CWU, and beyond into the wider Trade Union movement; will continue to be debated.

Not least because of a meeting which will be taking place on 28th November between Dave Ward, CWU’s General Secretary and the Unions’ Ten Health and Safety Forums; to discuss the Strategy Document produced by the Save Our Safety Campaign which is now in the name of the H&S Forums.

But also because Health & Safety organisation in the CWU, by and large was indeed excluded from the Re-Design Conference this weekend.

Here, Derek Maylor, Chairperson of the North West BT Unions Health and Safety Co-ord forum; discusses the value of the Union’s Health & Safety Department and the future of the CWU’s ability to defend, promote and improve the health and safety working environment and community environment of the Union’s 200, 000 members:

The line of the North West is that we are far from being against change but that change should be as part of continuous improvement in delivery of services to members; clearly the future of the CWU should be built around the needs of the members not the needs of Head Office or the needs of the Regions.   

We note that the CWU October’s action month on recruitment around organising in Call Centres focuses on Health and Safety in the workplace recognising the significant role that CWU Safety Reps play in the recruitment process and added value to the CWU, recognising the importance of the Health, Safety, and Environment Department.

Health, safety and environmental concerns are a great recruitment tool as the TUC recognises, here, by the fact they have recently celebrated 40 years of Union Safety Reps.

An exemplar of the value of Health, Safety and Environment to the CWU, the unionsafety.eu website covers the politics of HS&E as well as the practicalities such as advice; it is widely read by members and non-members in the UK, and accessed by Health and Safety professionals outside of the UK [we have the statistics and email contacts to support this] – highlights the CWU Health, Safety and Environment work and raises its profile in both the UK and internationally.

However whilst the Health Safety and Environment Dept. should not stand aloof from the CWU it should be the significant pillar within the reconstructed CWU, at the centre with other departments looking to it to check policy and actions for Health, Safety and Environment implications.     
We would be reticent on starting from questioning “why are you closing down the H, S and E Department” as too easy to say they are not, they are combining it, they are merely using back office resources in more efficient manner etc. Our opening gambit bid would be to “big up” Health, Safety, and Environment Department [and the rest of us] and what we do now [which is good] to what we want to do for the members, for the CWU and for our communities [which can be excellent, the best of any trade union].

Furthermore the Health, Safety and Environmental concerns of our members and their families do not stop at the factory gate but goes home with them. Safety in the community covers lots of issues from schools, roads and town centres etc; health from the GP, the hospital and to the Community Health Trust; the ever degrading environment around us and so on. The CWU should be leading on all such campaigns that improve the welfare of members and their families; we can be the “go to” union for resource advise and coordination on Health, Safety and Environmental matters within communities.    

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that 70% of incidents are due to management failures.

A primary role of CWU SRs is to investigating incidents and near misses to ensure that management’s accident investigations are ‘suitable and sufficient’ and to use the investigation to reduce the risks to member’s health, safety and welfare.

The report from an investigation may be used in court as evidence in support of a member but mainly offers the opportunity to make recommendations for safety improvements such as suitability of system of work, training and equipment.

The aim of the investigation will be to prevent a reoccurrence and not to allow a “blame culture” which prevents learning opportunities to make the workplace safer. No member should fear being reprimanded for reporting an incident. Sadly BT Gobal's Health and Safety Policy goes backwards to the old days of blaming and disciplinary action, and needs re-visiting by the CWU H&S Dept to make subsequent representations seeking change in policy.  

USRs will be aware of The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) as well as the Data Protection Act (DPA) and respect members confidentiality at all times.

There is no getting away from it - Brexit will hit workplace health and safety hard; Health and Safety was the main reason for the birth of the trade union movement and the current government attacks on trade unions will become an onslaught when we arrive at ‘post Brexit’ Britain.

Key areas of legislation that the Tory Government and their ministers have made clear that they intend to get rid of are:

• The Working Time Regulations 1998

• Directive 2006/25/EC - artificial optical radiation, the requirements of which the UK has struggled to implement.

• The Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2015 which were amended to include temporary structures and private households within the scope of ‘construction work’ in order to comply with EU Directives.

• The requirement for Employers to meet the cost of eye and eyesight tests for Display Screen Equipment work.

• The Agency Workers Regulations 2010.

We will need to coordinate Health, Safety and Environment campaigns outside our workplace’s, to Health and Safety professionals in organisations such as IOSH, IIRSM, RSPH and so on, locally, regionally and nationally at every opportunity so they take the issues back to their companies. We have contacts with HSE, and DoE consultations and dialogue via councilors into Local Authorities.

Members are better protected with a strong and robust CWU that adopts a prime focus on Health and Safety at work.

Would lessening the value of the Health, Safety and Environment Department safety make the workplace safer? 

Does lessening the strength and unity of CWU safety representatives around the country protect members better?

Does treating the efforts, the studying, the work commitment of hundreds of USRs throughout the CWU with utter contempt help members stay safe against ever aggressive cavalier managers and bullying tactics?

Lessening the organisational remit of the safety organisation within the CWU threatens our member’s health safety and welfare - let alone the environment issues and legacy we will leave behind, an area we have barely touched and where the CWU should be leading.

Source: Derek Maylor / unionsafety

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