Construction confederation BWI member, CFDT, made a 28 April call to have heat recognised as ‘bad weather’ and thus allow workers to stop their work.
Construction confederation BWI member, CFDT, made a 28 April call to have heat recognised as ‘bad weather’ and thus allow workers to stop their work.
BWI affiliate ACV conducted a ceremony with invited Italian unions to commemorate the Italian workers who worked in the mines in Belgium.
FTGB, another BWI affiliate, reported the results of a survey investigating the impact of atypical working hours on workers’ well-being (weekends, nights, etc.). The headline finding is that ninety per cent of workers on atypical hours will not “be able to last until 65 years old!”
In France, BWI member CGT conducted several activities to mark 28 April including a meeting at the Ministry of Labour, a protest
at a construction site of Grand Paris and the installation of a plaque in tribute to victims of occupational accidents and diseases.
On April 28, International Workers Memorial Day, we mourn those killed at work and pledge to fight hard for the living by winning safer workplaces.
In 2022, the ILO’s International Labour Conference agreed to include the right to a safe and healthy workplaces as a fundamental right at work alongside the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association, equality, no forced labour and no child labour.
Exposure to pesticides regularly kills or destroys the health of thousands of agricultural workers. A shocking report in 2021 estimated that there are 385 million cases of unintentional, acute pesticide poisonings annually including 11,000 fatalities among farmers and farmworkers.
This year, the IUF is joining with global unions and national federations to demand more effective control of the international trade in hazardous chemicals. There are more than 350,000 chemicals circulating in the global economy, supposedly controlled by the Rotterdam Convention; however, the labour movement has been highly critical of the Convention for its weak procedure resulting in the failure to control paraquat and asbestos. Also concerning is the influence of the pesticides industry over the application of the Convention.
Currently, the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure for hazardous chemicals and pesticides ensures that countries exporting pesticides must seek the prior informed consent of the importing countries before shipping; however, to list products using the PIC procedure requires consensus. This requirement, initially introduced to foster cooperation, has instead evolved into a veto mechanism that is now threatening the viability and effectiveness of the Convention. A small group of countries continue to block the listing of several highly hazardous substances.
In May 2023, the 11th Conference of Parties for the Rotterdam Convention will be meeting in Geneva, and the IUF along with sister global unions will be campaigning for the adoption of a new annex to the Convention which will allow parties who want to share information about a substance considered dangerous by the Chemical Review Committee to do so, even when the listing of the substance has been blocked by a failure to reach consensus. Listing on the new annex will require a 75% majority vote. Furthermore, for chemicals listed in the new Annex VIII, explicit prior informed consent will be required from the importing country before the hazardous substances can be shipped.
In addition to union support, the amendment is strongly supported by many countries and numerous experts including three UN Special Rapporteurs: Marcos Orellana, Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights; David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; and Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.
They have issued a joint statement which recognizes the importance of the Rotterdam Convention as a “tool to advance the right to information and effectively prevent exposure of people, soil, and water resources to toxics” but criticizes the procedure which allows a handful of countries to “persistently block the listing of hazardous chemicals.”
Click HERE to read the IUF’s press release.
On International Workers Memorial Day, BWI affiliates across the Pan European region gathered together to raise their voices and demand that occupational health and safety become a reality in every workplace across the continent.
Over the last year, BWI affiliates throughout Europe signed over 100 Declarations with employers and employer associations to recognise occupational health and safety as a fundamental worker’s right. Many BWI affiliates decided this year to return to employers who have signed the said declarations and meet with workers to see if the situation had improved over the year.
Tajikistan’s building workers union was able to arrange 27 union meetings with 500 workers employed in different construction sites. Workers voiced their full support for BWI “Make It Happen” campaign as they conceded that occupational health and safety remains a major concern in the construction industry.
Over 50 activities were organised by BWI affiliates across Europe to support BWI’s “Make it Happen” campaign, including meetings with workers, issuance of trade union statements and videos, TV interviews, conferences, and workshops.
37 unions throughout the Asia Pacific region organized various mobilisations, concerted actions, and other activities to support the adoption of workplace health and safety as a fundamental worker right. This was in response to BWI’s call to its affiliates to push governments and employers to implement the said right as it marked the 2023 International Workers’ Memorial Day. The unions in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, and the Philippines organised demonstrations, held meetings to raise awareness on workplace safety, and distributed free personal protective equipment (PPE). In other places, unions and the employers collaborated on joint actions to reaffirm their commitment to upholding safe and healthy working conditions.
In Nepal, the BWI-Nepal Affiliates Committee (BWI-NAC) organised a campaign action at a construction site in Bhaktapur. Crecentia Mofokeng, BWI Regional Representative for Africa-MENA, joined the activity. She was in Nepal for the Homenet International Congress.
In South India, the TKTMS organised a march that culminated in a town hall meeting attended by construction industry employers’ representatives. The INCWF sponsored a health and safety training at two cement plants in the state of Karnataka. At the same time, the Rajasthan state’s RPKNMS and AHBWU held popular activities to raise OSH awareness among stone quarry employees. Elsewhere in India, BWI affiliates TCTU, AIKTMS, DANMU, MAMU, NMPS, CFBWU, OKKS, OFMFPWU, RWO, INBCWF, SGEU, PMLU, AHPWDIPHCWU, CLU, HKMP, BMS, BMS Gujarat, BNKMU, UPGMS, and KSCWCU also reported IWMD-themed events.
For its part, the ACE-EU in Pakistan convened a joint training with employer representatives to promote OSH as a fundamental and implementable right of workers., while the PFBWW called for a workers’ meeting at the IFI-funded Tarbela Dam infrastructure project and the BWF led awareness activities in the brick kiln industry.
Meanwhile, health and safety rallies and meetings, led by BBWWF and BSBWWF, dominated the marking of the IWMD in Sri Lanka.
The NUBCW organised a legal and advocacy course in the Philippines to lobby for the implementation of OHS laws in the country. In addition, the NUBCW held an anti-sexual harassment training and lecture for Engineering Equipment Incorporated unions, as well as their human resource professionals and workers.
The SERBUK in Indonesia and the BWTUC in Cambodia honoured the day with a series of campaign actions and mass mobilisations. They asked their respective governments to prioritise workers’ health and safety and their right to safe workplaces.
Finally, Malaysia’s UFES, TEUPM, and STIEU, as well as Myanmar’s BWFM, continued OSH campaigns to raise
April 28th is widely known as both International Workers Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work, but recent findings show that commemoration and awareness raising are failing to alleviate the plight of workers.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), in their report Occupational safety and health in post-pandemic workplaces, highlight how European workers are exposed to more risks now than before the pandemic. In speaking with over 27,000 workers throughout all 27 Member States, the report found that, on average in Europe, certain risks became more prominent. Exposure to time pressure/overload increased to 26.5%, psychosocial risks to 25%, while 66% of workers have experienced health problems caused or made worse by their work.
While there has been a general consensus post-COVID that workplace mental health must be spoken about more openly, participants across the EU are divided in their view whether disclosing a mental health condition would have a negative impact on their career: 16% ‘strongly agree’ and 34% ‘agree’ vs 13% who ‘strongly disagree’ and ‘32%’ who ‘disagree’. Awareness raising has clearly failed to change the culture within many European workplaces, with 27% of respondents reporting that stress, depression or anxiety has been caused by, or made worse due to their work.
Yet again we see non-binding initiatives resulting in workers suffering.
Trade unions have continually called on legislators to act in a more meaningful manner to eradicate exposure to risks in the workplace, with Europe’s mental health epidemic the latest in a line of preventable tragedies affecting workers and their families. While we move towards a vision of zero deaths at work in Europe, we match this ambition with an ominous reduction in workplace autonomy, increased surveillance of workers, the use of automation to determine workload and speed, and the introduction of digital tools without the necessary human oversight or training. These contradictory approaches are seen most clearly in our use of awareness raising campaigns to reduce the burden on workers, only for employers to escape any accountability when issues arise.
The pandemic afforded us an opportunity to re-imagine working life in Europe, and to re-orientate how we sought to balance professional and private life. It is now abundantly clear that we have failed to seize the opportunities presented to us in increased digitalisation, while the prospect of high-quality sustainable jobs for our green transition remains ambiguous at best. As the latest statistics show us, if we seek to make a real change, the window to do so is closing.
There is no denying that European workplaces have improved health and safety measures compared to the issues facing previous generations, but the rise in precarious working environments and arrangements, mental health problems caused/exacerbated by exposure to psychosocial risks, digitalisation without due diligence and automation of workloads has created a new series of problems for future generations. On both International Workers Memorial Day/the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, should we not seek to consolidate our victories, not work against them?
BWI affiliates across Africa and the Middle East (AME) celebrated this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day together with unions from across the world under the theme ‘Make It Happen’. In an effort to celebrate and raise awareness of occupational health and safety (OHS) as a fundamental right and implement it in workplaces, affiliates were encouraged to conduct joint activities with employers and sister unions, hold thematic trainings and workshops, encourage the fulfillment of the “BWI OHS Joint Declarations,” and push further the campaign on various platforms.
True to form, unions in the region rose to the occasion. From 20 to 30 April, 21 BWI Africa and Middle East affiliates from 16 countries observed IWMD by visiting organised workplaces, conducting workplace inspections, convening thematic social dialogue meetings and OHS trainings, and hosting collaborative national conferences and seminars. Similarly, on 1 May, three trade unions demonstrated their commitment to the campaign by calling their respective governments and employers to recognise OHS as a fundamental right during national federation-led rallies and workers’ meetings in countries where they are based.
ILO Conventions 155 and 187 are classified as fundamental conventions – meaning that they are considered fundamental principles and basic rights, like the elimination of child and forced labour.
Despite their importance, neither convention has been ratified by 11 OECD countries! No G7 country – all OECD members – has ratified both Conventions.
“The OECD has a critical role to play in promoting workers’ health and safety”said Veronica Nilsson, Acting General Secretary of TUAC. “Ratification of ILO core conventions is a key step to ensure that all workers benefit from a safe and healthy working environment.”‘
“TUAC urges all OECD countries to ratify both conventions immediately.”
“Ratifying universally agreed ILO fundamental conventions is also vital to encourage responsible business conduct and ensure that workers’ fundamental rights are respected in OECD countries and throughout supply chains” added Nilsson.
The OECD promotes occupational safety and health through a number of initiatives and committees, and in a number of including areas including air pollution, chemical hazards, risk management and labour market policies. The OECD also promotes responsible business conduct – and occupational health and safety is an obvious part of it.
‘Convention No. 155 on Occupational Safety and Health provides for the adoption of a coherent national occupational safety and health policy, as well as action to be taken by governments and within enterprises to promote occupational safety and health to improve working conditions.’ https://www.ilo.org/century/history/iloandyou/WCMS_211520/lang–en/index.htm
‘Convention No. 187 is designed to provide for coherent and systematic treatment of occupational safety and health and promote recognition of existing conventions on occupational safety and health’ https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_091437/lang–en/index.htm
Last year unions around the world succeeded in making health and safety a fundamental right at the ILO, and now, workers are making that hard-fought victory a reality by organizing for safer jobs – in particular organizing union health and safety committees.
On International Workers Memorial Day, 28 April, UNI Global Union remembers those who have lost their lives or suffered injuries at work, and we also redouble our commitment to preventing harm on the job. Occupational health and safety (OSH) committees are the first line of defence against unsafe conditions.
These committees have become more critical than ever in the aftermath of Covid-19. Even though the worst of the pandemic has hopefully passed, inadequate personal protective equipment, a rise in third-party violence, excessive hours, a punishing pace of work and growing strain on workers’ mental health are persistent, serious complications.
But workers have been fighting back, and through their unions, they are making their jobs safer.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said:
“The cost-of-living crisis spurred a wave of strikes and workplace actions, but just as important, the pandemic reinvigorated organizing around health and safety.
“An untold number of workers either died or are suffering long-term consequences because they contracted the virus at work. But Covid is not the only serious hazard workers are facing. They are being pushed to the limit by employers who want more production in less time and for less wages. This squeeze takes a physical toll on workers’ bodies while the pressure frays mental health.
“That is why we are standing with unions everywhere to make work safer and strengthen health and safety committees. Work should be a source of dignity and empowerment not harm, disease and loss. One injury is too much, and one death is too many.”
Last year, UNI reached a breakthrough global agreement with outsourced customer service giant Teleperformance. The agreement includes the creation of elected union health and safety committees that will address issues of employees both on-site and remote workers. It provides for training of health and safety representatives and a process to identify and remediate any workplace hazards.
To address psycho-social risks, the agreement limits surveillance on the job by stating that monitoring will be “proportionate to business needs” and “respect the worker’s right to privacy.” Teleperformance will notify workers of how the company uses surveillance tools, like cameras and AI monitoring, as well as how the data is used to evaluate performance.
UNI has stood with affiliates globally who are building their capacity to organize for safer jobs and stronger unions. For example, we supported UniPHIN in Nepal, where OSH committees have become critical in organizing hospital workers. UniPHIN began training workers about health and safety in 2021 – during the pandemic’s peak. Through this training, the union organized and created OSH committees that helped workers secure PPE, mental health support and time off.
“For many workers, UniPHIN was a source of hope and we were able to organize new members in a difficult time,” said Pratima Bhatta, UniPHIN Secretary Treasurer and Organizer.
Starting in 2016, the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Hipermercados Tottus (SINATHIT) in Peru conducted campaigns to educate workers at Tottus hypermarkets about their right to choose their own health and safety representatives, resulting in the union being well represented on the OSH committee despite company interference. The union invested in training and organizing workers around OSH issues, resulting in a drop in injuries and a stronger union.
That union power was put on display when young union representatives, galvanized through OSH activity, organized sit-ins at Tottus stores across the country, forcing the company to make concessions in bargaining a new contract, resulting in major wage increases. The union emerged stronger as a result of members’ solidarity and determination, showing that OSH committees not only prevent injury but enable organizing around other issues.
Occupational health and safety is a fundamental right, but without unions, we have seen that workers’ rights get disrespected. On International Workers’ Memorial Day, we join with unions from around the world to secure safe jobs through organizing. and emphasizing the importance of OSH committees,” said UNI’s Hoffman.
The ITUC’s International Workers Memorial Day materials are here.
Go to 28april.org to find events in your community.