Thursday, August 30, 2012

People protected at work by the General Council

Those experiencing blog-related stress as a result of reading earlier posts reviewing the report to be put to next month's Congress by the General Council of the TUC will be relieved to know that we have reached Chapter 7 "Protecting People at Work" which deals with health and safety.

If you remember that the fight for the "Ten Hours Bill" in the 1840s was a campaign for safety regulation then you can see that this is, rightly, one of the oldest concerns of our movement. In the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this is also the area of union work in the UK in which relatively meaningful and worthwhile tripartism is most resilient.

Nevertheless, the chapter commences with a report of the TUC's campaigning activities to defend health and safety (as distinct from campaigns on particular health and safety issues).

In general, the report suggests that the worst of the Coalitions threats to safety regulation have been seen off.

The Lofsted report didn't do too much damage, except in its proposal to exempt self-employed workers from regulation and the "Red Tape Challenge" was itself challenged by the extent of support for safety regulation.

However, the level of resources for and activity by, the HSE are causes for concern. In general, union organisation has to be the best way to ensure that employers are aware of (and compliant with) their responsibilities.

Whilst statutory regulations remain intact (if inadequately enforced) the same cannot be said of the civil legal rights of workers to sue for compensation if necessary.

The report warns that the implementation, in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, of proposals made previously by Lord Justice Jackson (including the deduction of costs from damages) will have negative implications both for workers and for the ability of unions to support us.
I'm immediately reminded that I need to read up on this, which is another reason to welcome having read the General Council Report (rather than waiting for them to make the film) (Bob Hoskins as Brendan Barber?)

A coordinating role for all unions in relation to health and safety is a further justification for the continued existence of a trade union centre - and health and safety is perhaps one area in which the TUC's predisposition to Committees and tripartism is least inappropriate.

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