10 Days Remaining
pic: Alan Bruce / Creative Commons

Monday 28th
posted by Joana Ramiro in Britain

As thousands mark Workers' Memorial Day, trade unions take the government to task over fatal occupational illnesses, cuts to health and safety and workers' rights

The government is putting thousands of lives at risk due to health and safety neglect, the TUC warned today — on Workers’ Memorial Day.

As thousands commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day — honouring all those killed or injured in work-related accidents — a new TUC inquiry revealed that over 20,000 people still die of occupational illnesses every year.

“With the UK ranked just 20th in the health and safety risk index of 34 developed nations, we’ve hardly got a record to be proud of,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

The coalition is accused of neglecting the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), cutting the body’s state funding by over 40 per cent and even referring to it as a “burden for business.”

In some areas lack of resources has meant local authorities have had to slash workplace inspections by 93 per cent.

What is more, law changes pushed through by the Conservatives made claiming compensation for injury or illness harder to place.

Cuts to legal aid and changes to No Win No Fee perimeters have resulted in workers who have won their cases against neglecting bosses having to use up to a quarter of their damages payout on legal fees.

“There is a real danger that further cuts and deregulation will destroy the workplace safety culture that has existed in Britain for many decades,” added Ms O’Grady, “with a disastrous effect on workers’ health and safety.”

Those self-employed are next in the line of fire, with the government keen on dispensing many from health and safety protections.

The changes to legislation have gathered plenty of criticism as, according to statistics, self-employed people are twice as likely to die at work.

TUC is now launching a 10 points measures for safer work to be published nation-wide.

The list emphasises the need for legal reforms focusing on occupational health and general preventive measures in workplaces liable to introduce workers to carcinogens and other dangerous substances.

Most of all the document stresses the responsibility of employers towards their staff particularly in the public sector.

In Wales the first minister Carwyn Jones will be attending the day’s celebrations.

Trade unionists and relatives of those fallen victim of accidents at work will be laying a wreath at the TUC Permanent Workers’ Memorial in Cardiff.

In London black balloons will be released next to the Building Worker statue honouring all those who died at worksites.

The construction union Ucatt held a protest at the Qatari embassy in the early hours of today in remembrance of the hundreds of workers prematurely dying in the country every year.

Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy and Bassetlaw MP John Mann will take part in the action “to remember the dead and fight for the living.”