Web Editor, Chris Ingram reports on the development of the Save Our Safety Campaign, from the first meeting of a group of USRs in the North West, to a national campaign:
Faced with the serious risk of the CWU’s Health Safety and Environment Department being abolished at worst, or at best; being merged with the Legal & Medical Department as part of the Re-Design Project; a group of North West Safety Reps from both constituencies got together to formulate a campaign aimed at saving the CWU’s smallest department, but the most influential upon our member’s employers when it comes to workplace heath, safety and welfare.
Outside of the workplace, in the communities in which CWU Union Safety Reps are active, in the wider trade union movement and exterior Health & Safety organisations such as IOSH and the HSE; the National Officer, the department and the CWU are highly respected, and indeed amongst MPs dealing with community based health & safety concerns such as dangerous dogs and environmental issues.
Meeting in March the campaign to ‘Save Our Safety’ first meeting took place in the North West with ASRs and USRs from both the Postal and T&FS constituencies to put together the skeleton upon which the national campaign was to be built.
Shortly after this first meeting, and following the circulation by CWU HQ of the Re-Design document, it became clear that Health & Safety within the CWU both in terms of the department and of the existing regional structure of health and safety forums; were now under serious threat of being retired to the pages of CWU history books.
A radical and urgent approach was now needed in order to alert the Union’s health & safety community of the urgent need to defend the existing health & safety department and structures which were about to be ended if the Re-Design document as it stood; became the national policy of the Union.
One of the first things to be developed was the campaign’s publicity machinery.
It was agreed that publicity of the campaign would be based around the unionsafety website, because it was already well established, with editorial freedom and content overseen by CWU USRs in the North West
This would become a campaign in three stages, with clear and specific outcomes identified from the beginning:
The status quo is not acceptable.
The CWU needs a better funded Health, Safety &Environment Dept; an annual national seminar along lines of Equality Conferences; an automatic future proof reading of all CWU policy in order to ensure it acknowledges and deals with, the Health Safety and Environmental ramifications for members.
It was decided at this first meeting that any campaign would need to be noticed or it would fail and be ignored. Once the Health, Safety, and Environment Department within Redesign is a topic matter and noticed, the publicity campaign could then be re-formulated to show the unique commitment that the Union’s health and safety community has to the needs of the CWU and it’s membership; both at work and in the community.
Secondly, a survey of CWU’s Area Safety Reps and USRs highlighting the threat to the H&S Dept and National Officer and seeking their opinion on what was being proposed, was developed.
Thirdly, a petition hosted on the 38 Degrees website to the TUC was initiated,which would identify the need for all Trade Unions to focus on being resourced and strengthened in order to defend health and safety legislation in view of the imminent attacks which would come from Brexit; and leaflets and letters to be used later on in the campaign.
Further meetings took place in the North West as the number of ASR/USRs joining the campaign increased across the region, and a strategy was worked out which would become the basis of the campaign moving forward to becoming a national campaign.
Contacting all of the CWU’s Health & Safety Forum officers and reps was central to this and the opportunity of the forthcoming CWU Annual Conference and the annual heath & safety fringe meeting which was always highly attended; became the focus for the launch of the campaign to ‘Save Our Safety’
As it turned out, the fringe meeting was the best of all the conference fringe meetings in terms of attendance at this year’s CWU conference which gave the North West campaign group success in the promotion of the campaign group’s 38 Degrees petition to the TUC to ensure that H&S receives a boost and greater commitment from Trade Unions; and leafleting on the floor of conference in order to promote the campaign website, Unionsafety.
As a result, the concerns around Re-Design of all USRs and leaders of the CWU's Health & Safety Co-ords at the meeting became coalesced and the national campaign to ‘Save Our Safety’ was launched.
The newly formed campaign ‘steering committee’ came from the meeting at conference with the wider involvement of the Union’s Heath & Safety community and the North West campaigners.
All of a sudden, with the Health & Safety Forum Chairs ad Secretaries on board, the Campaign which originally started with a few concerned ASRs and USRs in the North West, mushroomed and grew into a major national campaign – Save Our Safety.
Opportunity was taken by delegates at conference to promote health and safety and the Save Our Safety campaign, with even one H&S Forum Secretary taking the opportunity during his moving of a Conference motion to request that NEC members sign the petition to the TUC on boosting health & safety organisation and resources within all trade unions, including of course, the CWU which is proposing the direct opposite with its Re-Design of the Union.
Even the TUC Risks weekly news briefing featured the campaign’s 38 Degrees Petition to the TUC in April, the month of the CWU Conference.
Following the momentous meeting of all H&S Forum leaders following the fringe meeting at Conference, further meetings took place of the steering group, which now included the H&S Forums in the North. Information and proposed decisions were cascaded to all H&S Forums around the country
This culminated in a letter from all ten H&S forums requesting a meeting with the Union’s General Secretary to discuss the future of Health & Safety and it’s structures within the CWU and in order to provide the supporting evidence, including the 38 Degrees petition and the Save Our Safety Survey results; as part of our proposals for the strengthening of the Union’s H&S structures.
The success to date of what started as a small group of ASR/USRs in the North West and then growing into a national movement can be seen as culminating with the meeting with the CWU’s General Secretary at CWU HQ last month.
As a result, the Save Our Safety campaign group and the ten H&S Forums are busy putting together a strategy document which will be presented to the General Secretary in a future meeting, with the aim of it being part of the Re-Design document that is debated at the Special Conference on Re-Design scheduled for 3rd November in Bournemouth.