Tag Archives: ETUC

Europe: Heat deaths at work up by 40 per cent in the EU


The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)  has reported a significant increase in heat deaths:

The number of people dying at work due to extreme heat is increasing faster in the European Union than any other part of the world, new data shows ahead of International Workers’ Memorial Day.

According to estimates provided to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 80,800 people suffered injuries at work due to heat exposure in 2020 and 67 people died as a result of working in extreme heat.

Speaking ahead of International Workers Memorial Day on April 28, ETUC Confederal Secretary Giulio Romani said:

“On International Workers Memorial Day, we remember the dead and fight for the living.

“We cannot accept that every summer dozens of workers needlessly lose their lives because we have not adapted our working practices to the changing climate.

“On building sites or in warehouses, people are dying or being seriously injured because they are forced to keep working in obviously dangerous temperatures.

“Adapting working hours to avoid the hottest part of the day is common sense way to protect workers while maintaining productivity.

“The rising number of deaths across Europe shows employers are failing to do this, which is why the Commission must make it an obligation through legislation on maximum working temperatures.”

Read more: Heat deaths at work up by 40% in the EU

Europe: Asbestos victims urge EU to stop workplace cancer scandal #iwmd23


Victims of occupational cancer and their families are today, on International Workers Memorial Day, calling on EU leaders to give workers the highest possible level of protection from asbestos.

Around 90,000 people lose their lives to asbestos-related cancer in the EU every year, making it the leading cause of workplace fatalities.

Between 4 and 7 million workers across the EU are exposed to asbestos and that number is expected to grow by 4% over the next decade as a result of building renovations as part of the EU Green Deal.

The EU is currently reviewing the asbestos exposure limit but the European Commission and European Council want to keep it at a dangerously high level in order to minimise costs for businesses.

To show the consequences of such a decision, trade unions are publishing the testimonies of those whose lives have been blighted by cancer caused by exposure to asbestos at work. They include:

  •      Two sisters who lost both parents: “A disease with no possibility of treatment, terribly distressing for the whole family… it suffocates you.”
  •      A retired transport worker: “This is like a sword of Damocles. At any moment, I could pass away.”
  •     Two brothers who lost both parents: “Death was ultimately redemption from torment we had to endure.”
  •     Campaigner who lost parents and brothers: “Asbestos is still in buildings of the ’60s and ’70s, getting old, falling apart, being inhaled. People need to be aware.”

Trade unions are calling for the safest possible occupational exposure limit for asbestos: 1,000 fibres/m3 as recommended by the International Commission of Occupational Health and supported by the European Parliament.

That would cut the number of asbestos-related cancer deaths expected over the next 40 years from 884 to 26, according to a study for the European Commission.

However, the European Commission and European Council still argue that would be a “disproportionate burden on businesses” and want a limit which is ten times higher (10,000 fibres/m3).

That is same or higher than the current asbestos exposure limit in Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands, meaning their preferred limit would bring no benefit to a third of the EU’s population.

It would also see almost 10 times the number of people die from asbestos-related cancer (221) than if an exposure limit of 1,000 fibres/mwas adopted.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Claes-Mikael Stahl said:

“Although asbestos has been banned in Europe for almost two decades, its use has left a long legacy of pain and suffering which still sees tens of thousands of families torn apart by cancer every year.

“Workers have paid with their lives for low safety standards for too long. We know now that asbestos is Europe’s most deadly workplace threat so there is no excuse for half measures.

“The much-needed renovation of buildings as part of the Green Deal is going to lead to an increase in workers being exposed to asbestos. EU leaders therefore have a moral responsibility to provide them with the safest possible working conditions.

“On International Workers Memorial Day, it’s time for politicians to learn the lessons of the past and finally put people’s safety above profits at any costs.”

European Federation of Building and Woodworkers General Secretary Tom Deleu said:

“On this International Workers Memorial Day, we focus our attention on asbestos, a threat that is still out there, in private and public buildings, in schools, hospitals, in our homes.

“It is still killing construction workers, who inhale this deadly material every day in their workday whenever a renovation takes place. It is time to put workers lives and health before profit.

“Let us stop this pandemic. The Renovation Wave is vital, but it must be done in a safe way for workers. We have to lower the exposure level, we have to train these workers, we have to protect them.

“Ensuring workers’ safety, saving lives, is in the hands of the European Commission who must act and guarantee a level of protection of 1,000 fibres/m³.”

Case studies

Martin and Grega Velušček, family of victims – Read full case study

“After the diagnosis was confirmed, our mother was given all the care she needed, and alternative treatments were sought, including abroad. But life expectancy of these patients is less than a year, so the sufferer and those close to her have mixed feelings of hope, hopelessness, and disbelief. Last days before death of patients in palliative care are everyway psychologically exhausting.
“A year after our mother’s death, also our father felt pain in his back, and tests showed that he already had bone metastases and that he too had pleural mesothelioma. Alongside conventional treatment we tried to arrange immunotherapy treatment for him in Heidelberg, Germany. The most striking aspect of visit at that hospital was the doctor’s question as to whether our father was aware of the seriousness and incurability of the disease. The answer was, of course, yes. The hospital in Heidelberg carried out all the tests and, a good three months later, announced that treatment could be attempted. But by then our father was already dead.
“Facing a diagnosis that offers little hope of getting better was extremely mentally exhausting for both parents and the whole family. The time leading up to death was practically nothing but taking farewell, and death was ultimately redemption from torment we had to endure.”

Isidoro Aparicio, victim

“I have a series of scars on my lungs. Every six months I am checked at the hospital. I was never informed of the risk of my work. I started working in the Madrid metro in the 1960s. At first I was a driver and after passing a public competition I went to the workshops, in the pneumatics department. I was a technician and I had an assistant: he and I repaired the opening of the doors, which worked with asbestos belts. To make the asbestos stick a little better, we used to put it in our mouths. Real atrocities. All this information has been kept hidden.
“What angers me the most is that I have never been told anything and that the people responsible for this are getting off without a trace and none of those responsible have wanted to know anything about it. The medical team in the metro should also have known something.
“I underwent an operation and a lot of tests were carried out. When I went to see the results, the oncologist told me that my lungs were damaged. From now on I am being closely monitored.  I thank the trade unions, their lawyers, the prosecutor’s office and the labour inspector for their help.
“I get more and more tired. I used to love hiking in the mountains. Now I can’t do it anymore, because I get exhausted. This is like a sword of Damocles in which, at any moment, what I have inside of me could wake up and I could pass away. I would also ask that this sort of thing should never happen again. Politicians must apologise they have never apologised to us.”

Eric Jonckheere, president of Belgium Association of Asbestos Victims (Abeva) and victim

“I started as an activist against asbestos, only later did I discover that I was too a victim. My father died of mesothelioma, then my mother got sick too. She had me and my brothers tested to know if we had been in contact with asbestos. All of us had it. My parents and brothers ended up dying of asbestos exposure. Before dying, my mother moved a court action against Eternit and her desire was to make people aware of the dangers. The industry lied about the danger of asbestos and moved from Europe to less developed countries. I want to point the finger to the industry, because they move for profit, the health of their bank account is more important than the health of workers and peoples’ lives. They knew the dangers and they hid them from workers, from legislators, just for profit. Asbestos is still in buildings of the 60s and 70s, getting old, falling apart, being inhaled. People need to be aware of this. As president of ABEVA we help families, with paperwork, we give support. It is not only about those who are sick, for the families, everything is exhausting too. How do you explain to a multinational that the place next to you in bed is empty?

“I knew I had asbestos in my lungs, but then you move on, until the moment when you learn that you are the next in line. Everything you planned goes down the drain, it is like a tsunami that takes everything away from you: your health, your job, your plans. And in my lack of chance, I was privileged because I already knew that I had it in me, we did not waste any time with tests. I was one of the 5% who are operable, the doctors removed everything. So, two years later, here I am.”

Maria Jesús and Yolanda Masa García, family of victims – Read full case study

“Our father died in 1997 from mesothelioma pneumonia at the age of 66. A disease with no possibility of treatment, terribly distressing for the whole family… it suffocates you. When the symptoms worsened, the doctors told us about the possible link between their activity and this disease in the direct members of the family. When he died, my sister was 26 years old, and I was 32. My mother, Matilde García Lopez, a housewife by profession, became a widow at the age of 65.
“During this time, we received news periodically of colleagues of my father who were passing away. In January 2003, my mother began to suffer from back pain, which became progressively worse. Everyone thought it was caused by muscle pain, bad posture… This pain increased and after several medical tests at the University Hospital of Palencia, the University Hospital of Valdecilla and confirmation during a visit to the University Clinic of Navarra, she was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in May of the same year. This type of cancer is specific to direct contact with asbestos due to coexistence and handling of work clothes. She died on 24 September 2003. Since our family has been suffering from the terrible scourge of asbestos.”

Lenie Stormbroek, victim

“I never thought I would get sick from asbestos. I had heard of it, but always thought it occurred in men who had worked a lot with asbestos. We think it comes from the demolition and rubble work my father used to do. He ensured that old buildings, sheds and stables were demolished and the rubble was removed again. My father’s company moved around my parental home, which sometimes also contained asbestos-containing debris from my father’s demolition projects. From a young age until I got married, I regularly helped my mother beat and clean my father’s work clothes and my brother who also worked in the company. We suspect that I developed mesothelioma because of this. Until recently I didn’t know how dangerous asbestos really is.”

Juan Carlos, trade union representative

“In 2003 the social security bodies asked for information about train parts containing asbestos. A report was made which was kept hidden from the workers. The unions then went to court, where the report was made public by the police. We did not find out about this report until 2017. Metro de Madrid did not inform any workers until 2017, so the prosecutor’s office said that there was a crime against the health of the workers.
“7 people in charge of Metro were charged, but they were middle management. The directors are politicians of the Community of Madrid, who were not charged.  The old trains had asbestos everywhere, for example the floors, the paint and the brakes. In 2005 we started to build new trains without asbestos, but we are still finding parts with asbestos because we have been asked to move parts from the old trains to the new ones.
“In the Madrid metro we have 14 deaths due to asbestos and 7 sick colleagues. Most of the workers who have contracted this disease are already retired, due to the long latency period of this disease. We believe that there are colleagues who died without knowing that it was due to asbestosis.
“Thanks to the work of the trade union, these compensations were achieved, as well as a map of asbestos where all the continuous pieces are included. The union has managed to get the Social Security to carry out medical check-ups for workers who have been retired for many years. This was not easy, because as they were no longer workers the right and obligation to undergo medical examinations did not apply anymore.
“For active workers, what they demand from us is the possibility of an early retirement, as it is very likely that they will contract the disease in the future. We also demand more comprehensive medical examinations. If only X-rays are used, the asbestos is found when it is already too late for the disease. We want CT scans to be used. We also want a lower level of exposure to asbestos”.

Marco Galuppi, victim

In 2016 Marco Galuppi was diagnosed a neurodegenerative disease due to the exposure to chemicals and mutagens and carcinogens substances like asbestos link to his work as a firefighter. He was a chief of firefighters in Frosinone, Lazio (Italy). He has stopped working and he is slowly waiting his death.

In 2017 the doctors made a link between his profession and his illness.

Here is the full story of the firefighters federation of CGIL: Particella_Pazza_25-1.pdf (fpcgil.it)

Europe: Asbestos victims urge EU to stop workplace cancer scandal – ETUC – #iwmd23

Victims of occupational cancer and their families are today, on International Workers Memorial Day, calling on EU leaders to give workers the highest possible level of protection from asbestos.

Around 90,000 people lose their lives to asbestos-related cancer in the EU every year, making it the leading cause of workplace fatalities.

Between 4 and 7 million workers across the EU are exposed to asbestos and that number is expected to grow by 4% over the next decade as a result of building renovations as part of the EU Green Deal.

The EU is currently reviewing the asbestos exposure limit but the European Commission and European Council want to keep it at a dangerously high level in order to minimise costs for businesses.

To show the consequences of such a decision, trade unions are publishing the testimonies of those whose lives have been blighted by cancer caused by exposure to asbestos at work. 

Read more here:


Europe: Workers’ Memorial Day – 30,000 more preventable workplace deaths expected by 2030


Almost 30,000 people may lose their lives at work in the EU over this decade without action to make workplaces safer, trade unions are warning on International Workers’ Memorial Day.

The number of fatal workplace accidents fell slowly over of the last decade, although progress was far from steady with deaths rising again in 2019, according to Eurostat data.

Another 27,041 workplace deaths should be expected between 2020 and 2029 if change continues at the same pace as during the last decade, an analysis by the European Trade Union Institute has found (see Notes below).

Workplace deaths are not expected to fall at all in Spain, are set to get even worse in France and wouldn’t end in Europe for more than 30 years.  They could though be ended by 2030 if the political will existed.

Number of workplace deaths expected this decade and year in which fatal workplace accidents will be eliminated in selected member states if 2010-2019 trends continue:

Poland: 563 deaths – 2027
Portugal: 481 deaths – 2030
Romania 1,451 deaths – 2036
Austria: 694 deaths – 2037
Italy: 3,434 deaths – 2042
Germany: 3,143 deaths – 2044
Czechia: 851 deaths – 2052
France: 7,803 deaths – Never
Spain: 3,191 deaths – Never

EU27: 27,041 – 2055

The findings come as the European Trade Union Confederation launches a manifesto for zero death at work which calls on European leaders to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk” on saving the lives of working people.

The manifesto – which has been signed by Ministers, MEPs, trade union leaders and top occupational health and safety experts – called for an increase in workplace health and safety training, inspections and penalties to end workplace fatalities by 2030.

Half a million fewer workplace safety inspections are taking place across Europe now than at the start of the last decade, the ETUC’s analysis of International Labour Organisation data has found.

As well as workplace accidents, the ETUC are also calling on EU leaders to do more to end the scandal of cancer, which still takes the lives of over 100,000 people every year, as well as protecting workers from increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Claes-Mikael Stahl said:

“Nobody should leave home worried about whether or not they will make it back to see their family after work. But that’s the daily reality for many workers, often because of irresponsible employers cutting corners to increase profits and politicians who attack common sense safety rules and inspections for ideological reasons.

“Thousands of people are still losing their lives every year in brutal – and avoidable – accidents on construction sites, in factories and at other workplaces. Millions of people have also died after being exposed daily to cancer-causing substances at work.

“While workplace deaths might seem like something from another century, these tragedies are set to keep happening in Europe for at least another 30 years. That isn’t inevitable though.

“On International Workers’ Memorial Day, we remember the dead and vow to fight for the living. If politicians are willing to act, we could achieve zero deaths at work by 2030. It’s high time the lives of working people were made a priority.”


Projection based on the European statistics on accidents at work database (ESAW), linear regression was used to predict the number of fatal accidents at work in the years to come. The number of fatal accidents at work were predicted separately for a selection of Member States, and for EU27 as a whole. For EU27, time predicted yearly fatal accidents with R² = .63, F(1, 7) = 11.7, p = .01.

Source: ETUC

Ireland: ICTU supports the ETUC’s Zero work deaths campaign on 28 April


Thursday 28th April 2022 – Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living

Congress,  along with the Government, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), Ibec, and the CIF will collectively mark Workers’ Memorial Day Ireland on April 28th  at the national and annual commemorative event to remember people killed, injured, made ill and bereaved through work-related accidents.

Congress President Kevin Callinan will be joined by Sharon McGuinness, CEO of the Health & Safety Authority, and Minister Damien English TD who will lay a wreath in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance on behalf of the state to remember those workers we have lost. They will be joined by members of the Deasy family, whose son Lorcan died in a construction accident.

In Ireland in the ten year period between 2012 and 2021, 481 people were killed in work-related incidents and many thousands more were severely injured or made ill. In 2021, 38 people were killed in accidents. We know that in addition to these official figures, we have also lost many front-line workers to Covid-19 over the last 2 years.

Part of the tragedy of these losses is that we actually know how to stop workplace fatalities and injuries. The evidence is there. It involves workers and managers cooperating to create safe systems of work, to assess hazards and to reduce risks. It involves education and training for workers and management and support for the role of safety reps in our workplaces. It requires monitoring, prevention, protection, and reporting. And it also requires compliance measures including inspections, and penalties for those who do not take their legal and moral responsibilities seriously.

Congress will therefore be supporting a new campaign promoted by the European Trade Union Confederation for “Zero Deaths” at work. Zero death at work is not a utopian dream. The trend in fatal workplace accidents is down and eradication of fatal accidents is achievable. Every death at work is one too many.

The EU’s current health and safety strategy says “All efforts must be deployed to reduce work-related deaths as much as possible, in line with a Vision Zero approach to work-related deaths”. These are fine words, but the actions promised in it will not achieve zero deaths. However, we know that the tools exist to make this happen. It just needs commitment and political will. We need the EU, our own government, our partners gathered here today, and trade unions also, to “walk the walk” rather than “talk the talk”.

This means a concerted joined-up effort to

–   Prevent workplace accidents and occupational diseases, stopping exposure to hazardous and cancer-causing substances and being ready for further pandemics

– Making the physical and mental health of workers the point of departure when organising work and designing the workplace.

While fatal accidents are declining, occupational diseases are increasing. Some 100,000 workers in Europe die every year from occupational cancer due to exposure to hazardous substances. Long working hours and psychological pressure at work cause heart-disease, stroke, depression, and suicide. Bad posture, repetitive movement and heavy lifting cause backpain and other ‘musculoskeletal’ disorders and in turn cause depression and people being unable to work.

Source: ICTU


Europe: 28 April – Workers Memorial Day: HEALTH AND SAFETY IS YOUR RIGHT!


With 1 in 3 people working from home, and those at the workplace taking special precautions, COVID-19 shows the life and death importance of health and safety at work.

Among the 530,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the European Union* are uncounted thousands of workers who got it at work. We mourn their loss and offer condolences and solidarity to loved ones. We also remember those who died in the last year from work-related cancer and other illness and accidents at work: over 100,000 in Europe alone.

While vaccination offers hope, health and safety must remain an absolute priority in the coming months and beyond. Health and safety are not gifts from the authorities or a good employer: health and safety at work is YOUR right. A right that unions fight for!

In the European Union ‘Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity’**. EU law***

  • obliges employers to provide healthy and safe workplaces,
  • requires all workers to be protected by health and safety law, and
  • gives workers the right to information and consultation on health and safety, and to designate safety representatives.

It means employers are responsible for obvious risks such as exposure to dangerous substances, heavy lifting or repetitive movements, as well as other less widely acknowledged risks such as work-related stress, harassment and bullying.

Despite clear rights, health and safety is far from a reality for all workers. One in three workers in Bulgarian, Slovakia and Spain and almost half in Czechia and Greece who must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at work are only provided it sometimes or not at all. During the COVID crisis many essential workers, among which women are overrepresented in the care and cleaning sectors, have not had adequate PPE. The same applies to precarious workers, whose limited social protection gives them no choice but to continue working, even if they have coronavirus symptoms.

Many workers have not been able to socially distance. Homeworking carries its own risks like increased domestic violence (up by a third in some EU countries during lockdown), longer hours unable to disconnect, and a lack of appropriate equipment at home. The growth of workers in digital platforms leaves increasing numbers of workers without proper protective equipment – only 35% of platform workers say their platform had taken measures to assist them in the pandemic.

Trade unions and safety representatives play a vital role in ensuring health and safety. Any working person who cares about their own health and safety at work should join a union and find out if they have a safety representative. A trade union can help to ensure that a safety representative is appointed and listened to by management.

Trade unions fight for better health and safety in the workplace and in law. Unions have obtained from the EU occupational exposure limits for many cancer-causing substances and are fighting to get tougher limits and for more substances. Unions are seeking stronger legal obligations on employers to tackle stress and back pain (and other so-called musculo-skeletal disorders). Unions are also pushing for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to implement its centennial conference decision in 2019 to make occupational safety and health a fundamental right at work.

Health and safety are not just for Workers Memorial Day or even the pandemic – it’s your right and for life – literally!

*As of 25 February 2021

**Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, art. 31

***Occupational Health and Safety Framework Directive,1989


Europe: Commission must rethink ‘astonishing’ omission of workers’ health and safety from work programme | ETUC

The ETUC is using Workers Memorial Day to appeal again to the European Commission to prioritize workplace health and safety in its plans for the next five years in light of the coronavirus crisis.

Trade unions first raised the alarm last September when occupational health and safety was omitted from Ursula von der Leyen’s political guidelines, pointing out that every year there are 4,000 fatal accidents at work and 120,000 people die of work-related cancer.

Despite that, the Commission continued to overlook this matter of life or death when it published its work programme for 2019 to 2024 in January.

The ETUC is now writing again to the Commission President to urge her to reassess her priorities in light of the coronavirus crisis, which has been responsible for hundreds of deaths at work.

In a separate letter sent to Nicholas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, today the ETUC and its affiliates have called on him to ensure Covid-19 is recognised as an occupational disease.

Our appeals come on Workers Memorial Day, the international day of remembrance for those who have lost their lives at work which is routinely observed by the European Commission.

The ETUC is calling on the European Commission to:

  • Include a plan for zero workplace deaths and the elimination of work-related cancer to its work programme for 2020.
  • Add Covid-19 to the EU directive on the protection of workers from risks related to exposure to biological agents to ensure the most effective and strict prevention measures
  • Enlarge the scope of the recommendation concerning the European schedule of occupational diseases to cover all professions exposed to Covid-19 at a higher level than for the general population
  • Enforce existing legislation in member states after a dramatic drop in workplace inspections in many countries

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Per Hilmersson said:

“The omission of health and safety from the European Commission’s agenda was astonishing before the crisis considering there are still 4,000 fatal accidents at work and 120,000 people dying of work-related cancer every year.

“In light of recent events, it would be grossly negligent to keep turning a blind eye to this matter of life and death.

“Yet workplace health and safety is still not given the importance it deserves in the Commission’s roadmap towards lifting Covid-19 containment measures. The exit strategy needs to have a hazard-based approach, with proper prevention measures put in place before we can return to work.

““It is high time for Ursula von der Leyen and her team to prioritize occupational health and safety, of which there was no mention in her political guidelines when elected Commission President and of which is still no mention in the recently leaked Commission work programme.”

Latvia: ETUC paziņojums Starptautiskajā darba aizsardzības dienā 28. aprīlī

ETUC paziņojums Starptautiskajā darba aizsardzības dienā 28. aprīlī

Global: Trade unions across the globe are marking 28 April – ETUC

#IWMD20 Have a look at trade union actions across the world 28april.org

? Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living #Covid19 #Coronavirus

Europe: On 28 April ETUC remembers those who died from corona virus at work

ETUC has today shared 28 April materials for general use prepared by their communication department.

The aim is to make a solid connection between the current Covid 19 crisis and more general health and safety issues.

ETUC has provided the materials in formats for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (and also in editable formats so you can edit – add your logo and translate), a statement signed by ETUC and European sectoral trade union federations, and a list of short texts we will use with the visuals on social media.

ETUC will publish the statement and start posting on social media from Friday 24 April, with new posts every day until and including Tuesday 28 April.

You are encouraged to use the materials as you wish, to translate and adapt, and also to share/like ETUC posts . ETUC has full rights for photos so you can use them too. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #IWMD20, we are also using #CoronaVirus and #Covid19 .

ETUC webpages