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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in UK Trade Unions' LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
10:27 am
Unions make work safer
Trade unions are by far the best vehicle to win better safety at work, transport union RMT has said.

The union's comments came on Workers' Memorial Day, 28 April, which saw the biggest ever list of commemorative events in the UK and worldwide. RMT said that Britain's new corporate manslaughter law still lets killer bosses off the hook - and that unions remain workers' best friend.

'After the Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar rail crashes that killed 49, 20 years after the Piper Alpha rig disaster saw 167 workers die, five years after four of our members were killed by a runaway trolley at Tebay, profit is still being put ahead of safety,' RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

'The trade union movement has fought for years for a corporate manslaughter law that would finally make individual bosses shoulder responsibility for the needless deaths their negligence causes,' he said, but added the law 'will not deliver justice because it won't put killer bosses in the dock, and slapping fines on corporations is simply not enough.'

The union leader concluded: 'The message has to be: if you want to be safer at work, join the union and fight alongside your workmates to make your boss take safety seriously.'

Unite called for more rights for union health and safety representatives to maximise this union safety effect. Health and safety officer Rob Miguel said the high injury rates on construction sites showed 'we need greater powers for union health and safety representatives to inspect these sites. Increasing their power means reducing the chances of injuries and fatalities in the future.'

Workers' Memorial Day
Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
9:51 pm
Depression hidden because of work stigma
A third of people with clinical depression say they have been turned down for jobs because of their mental health problems, a study has found. More than two-thirds (71 per cent) feared that disclosing their depression to colleagues would have a detrimental impact on their careers, according to the research.

The charity Depression Alliance (DA) spoke to 288 members for the study and found almost half (46 per cent) said having a job helped them to recover. However, members felt there was still a stigma attached to the illness. Many also felt they had been discouraged from taking on exciting projects (51 per cent), had been avoided by colleagues (48 per cent), had received snide comments (47 per cent), and had been passed over for promotion (50 per cent).

This was given as a reason why only a quarter of people with depression informed their personnel department of their condition.

Emer O'Neill, the DA chief executive, said people with depression needed greater support at work. 'Having a job is very important to people with depression so employers and colleagues need to have a much greater understanding of the challenges faced by people with depression, in order to provide the support they need to contribute fully,' she said.

The report found many workplaces do not have structures in place to support their employees. More than nine out of ten (91 per cent) of those questioned said they did not have access to support when required, and more than one in seven (13.6 per cent) said they did not have access to any support at all.


Current Mood: frustrated
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
9:19 pm
Council fined over gardener's death
York Council has been fined £20,000 after the 'entirely avoidable' death of a gardener crushed by a mower on an embankment. The council, which had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, was also ordered to pay £20,425 in prosecution costs, including the £9,332 cost of a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation.

Frank Smith, 54, was fatally injured in May 2005, after the ride-on lawnmower he was using slid down a slope and hit a wall before flipping over on top of him. The court was told the manufacturer advised against the mower's use on slopes steeper than 19 degrees, a figure since reduced to 17 degrees. The section of embankment where Mr Smith's machine slipped was 25.4 degrees. The mower was not fitted with a roll bar, or seatbelt, which do not come as standard.

Consultants hired by the council to conduct a risk assessment had not advised the authority to purchase the roll bar. Recorder Jonathan Hill QC said the risk assessment was inadequate and lacked sufficient detail to give guidance to employees, while managers and supervisors had not attended the training course junior staff were sent on. 'There was a serious and substantial inadequacy in the working systems in place,' the QC added. HSE principal inspector Keith King said the problems from using an unsuitable mower 'were compounded by the fact that the machine did not have roll over protection and a seat belt to protect the driver in the event of it rolling over. That is exactly what happened in this case and all of these factors contributed to the council worker's tragic death.'


Current Mood: cynical
Monday, March 31st, 2008
6:10 pm
Cyber bully pledge for teacher
The government has promised action to protect teachers from bullying through mobile phones and the internet. The move comes after teaching unions this month raised concerns about the impact of cyber bullying on teachers and pupils.

Schools secretary Ed Balls told the NASUWT conference this week the 'cyber bullying taskforce' for England will seek ways to stop pupils targeting teachers. He added that he wants cyber bullying of teachers to be a 'serious disciplinary offence.'

Until now, the government taskforce has focused on how cyber bullying in England affects children.

The measures being suggested by the government include the setting up of a hotline on which teachers could report incidents of cyber bullying, and examining how government could work with the internet industry to combat the problem.

Mr Balls told the NASUWT conference: 'Bullying is never acceptable and we will do all we can to prevent it in all its forms. The law requires head teachers to take action to prevent all forms of bullying. It also gives school staff statutory power to punish bullying whether that occurs in or out of school. We already give schools advice on the practical measures they can take to tackle bullying, including guidance on dealing with cyber bullying. But I want to go further.'

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said she welcomed the news that the taskforce was to look at teachers' experiences. 'I am pleased the government accepts that we need strong policies in schools which focus on teachers. Increasingly, teachers' lives are being destroyed by what pupils are doing.' She added: 'Relying on industry self-regulation to resolve this problem is the equivalent of waiting for hell to freeze over.'

A survey this month by teaching union ATL found 16 per cent of teachers had been victims of cyber bullying and of those more than half had received silent calls or been the victims of videoing, which has been posted on websites such as YouTube.


Current Mood: cynical
Monday, March 10th, 2008
8:58 am
Two for the price of one offer
Refurb sector 'unacceptable' on safety

Around 300 sites were shut down during a Health and Safety Executive February blitz on over 1,000 refurbishment sites around Great Britain. 'Over one in three construction sites visited put the lives of workers at risk and operated so far below the acceptable standard that our inspectors served 395 enforcement notices and stopped work on 30 per cent of the sites,' said HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger.

'We stopped work on site immediately during approximately 300 inspections because we felt there was a real possibility that life would be lost or ruined through serious injury.' He said HSE inspectors 'were appalled at the blatant disregard for basic health and safety precautions,' adding: 'It is totally unacceptable that so many lives have been put at risk and we will take all action necessary to protect workers, including closing sites and prosecuting those responsible. The construction industry should take ownership of this issue and do more to tackle poor standards on sites.'

Last year over half of the workers who died on construction sites worked in refurbishment, and the number of deaths on refurbishment sites rose by 61 per cent.

More here.

USA: Latino workers most likely to die

Each year, nearly 6,000 workers die on while working in the United States. Since the federal government began compiling these statistics, the number of workplace fatalities has been fairly constant - except among Latinos.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Latino workers' fatality rate was 21 per cent higher than all workers in 2006. This is against a backdrop where the US overall is already a more prolific workplace killer than most wealthy nations.

The US Department of Labor reports that in 2006, there were nearly 1,000 Latino workplace-related deaths in the US. That's the highest number since 1992, when BLS began collecting the data. 'It doesn't surprise me to hear that statistic,' commented Len Welsh, chief of Cal-OSHA, California's workplace safety enforcement agency. He said his agency is largely complaint-driven, and Latinos often don't complain.

'Union shops are more likely to complain to us about hazards than non-union shops, and workers who are native speakers of English are more likely to complain to us than workers who are not.' Welsh said safety agencies have been turning to Latino union and community groups to act as intermediaries, encouraging Latino workers to report dangerous work conditions.

One is the union-oriented Labor Occupational Health Program at University of California-Berkeley. Suzanne Teran, the bilingual training coordinator for the UC-Berkeley programme, said one of the biggest challenges is informing Latino immigrants that they have the right to work in a safe environment. Notions that workers have safety rights and can call in the enforcement agency 'are not the ones they grew up with in their home country, and so that's something that really needs to be addressed.' She added that Latinos - especially those who are working illegally in the US - are often working in the most hazardous jobs but fear deportation if they report dangerous work conditions to OSHA.

More here.

Current Mood: disgusted
Thursday, March 6th, 2008
11:29 am
DWP: 12,000 more jobs to go
PCS has condemned the Department for Work and Pensions Three Year Business Plan published today for failing to deliver improvements for service users and extending the privatisation of welfare provision.

The Plan runs from 2008 to 2011 and includes proposals to reduce staffing levels by 12,000 and close 200 more offices.

The exact details of the office closure programme is not yet known. The breakdown of job cuts are Jobcentre Plus 7,000–8,000. Pensions and the Disability and Carers Service 2,500–3,000 and the other Business Units absorbing the remaining 1,000–1,500 job cuts. These numbers do not include the Child Support Agency.

Despite the Department admitting they have not been set any headcount reduction targets, they claim the Plan is a result of the Government’s 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (5% administrative cost reductions). However other Civil Service Departments have shown there are alternative ways to reduce spending.

Users of the DWP and staff alike know there are already real problems with service delivery. There is an increasing reliance upon clients (including pensioners) accessing services through the use of the internet, an over-estimation of IT capabilities and the introduction of Lean processing for staff. These initiatives do not improve the client or staff experiences of the Department and can often waste money rather than provide savings.

The DWP has already lost 30,000 staff and 600 offices in the last three years.

In 2004, the then Chancellor for the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, said “to go further than that would put the delivery of services at risk.”

PCS has not been consulted about the current Plan and we fear it could have an abysmal impact on service delivery.

They suggest alternative ways to reduce spending including stopping -
The use of consultants and chauffeur driven cars
£2.67 billion being wasted on private contracts
Excessive targets

The Department should be listening to the people who deliver the service, services users and their representatives – instead we risk the welfare state being run in the interests of shareholders rather than the people it was created to help.

Further privatisation comes as a huge blow to staff who are already in dispute over the imposition of a below inflation pay offer, which sees 40% of staff receive no pay rise this year. The Department needs to settle the pay dispute so it can keep hold of experienced and committed staff who can deliver on the Government’s priorities.

The DWP is currently charged with a number of high profile initiatives including -

Reducing child poverty
Achieving 80% employment rates
Introducing the ESA
Reducing fraud and error rates
Increasing recovery of overpayments
Introducing personal pension accounts
Reducing pensioner poverty
Setting up C-MEC
Implementing shared services for other Government Departments
Introducing the Flexible New Deal
Moving lone parents from IS onto JSA

Essentially, the DWP is being asked to deliver more than it has previously done with less staff and fewer offices.

PCS believes this is a recipe for disaster, and one that is avoidable if senior decision makers act now by reviewing the Business Plan.

Purely personal (and possibly unwelcome) comment

Come the day you need the services of a welfare agency, I'm prepared to bet that while you stand in the hugely long queue or wait several days for the phones to be answered, you won't be thinking, "Oh, yes, five years ago the government cut staffing and closed offices. That'll be why everyone here looks as if their dog's died and only have two minutes per client." You're far more likely to be thinking, "Why are the staff working for this outfit so crap?"

I've read comments - even on LJ - along those lines, and it just makes my blood boil.

So now you know.

Current Mood: bitchy
Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
9:14 pm
Mystery worker reveals temp exploitation
Agency working is being used to undercut the terms of employment of permanent workers, the union Unite has warned.

The alert came after a Unite member went 'undercover' to experience the plight of agency workers. The union says he found an insecure world of work where no national insurance was paid, contracts of work did not exist and no workplace training or basic safety equipment was provided.

Mystery agency worker, Simon, who spent six weeks working on agency contracts in the Midlands, said: 'I am a union activist so I thought I knew what to expect in undertaking this work but what I saw shocked and depressed me. Even as a skilled manufacturing worker I barely earned above the minimum wage, I had illegal deductions taken from my pay, I had to work dangerous machinery without any training and without the legally required protective equipment and these jobs came via so-called 'legitimate' agencies.'

Health and safety training was minimal, he said. In one case, his job involved handling extremely hot plastic, yet he was provided inadequate protective equipment. In another firm, there was no accident book and Simon was told the company was 'laid back' about such basics.

Link to the TUC agency workers website

Current Mood: blank
Monday, February 18th, 2008
8:01 pm
Go on, work your proper hours!
Nearly five million people are putting in an average of over seven hours unpaid overtime a week.

If they worked all their unpaid overtime at the start of the year, 22 February would be the first day they'd get paid, which is why the TUC have named this date 'Work Your Proper Hours Day'. It is calling on workers to mark this day by turning up for work on time, taking a proper lunch break and leaving when they're meant to - we know, hardly radical.

TUC wants you to spread the word to colleagues, friends and family. You can order workplace posters and postcards for your workplace - up to 100 each for free from the dedicated Work Your Proper Hours Day website.

This year, TUC is scouring the country to find the best and worst workplaces for unpaid overtime, and is publishing an online work-life map showing where workers are fine and workers are fried. A new interactive quiz on the website will help you to find out if your workplace is afflicted with the unpaid overtime bug and rate your workplace for managing your hours. And you can pass on your experiences for inclusion on the TUC rant blog.

Link to the worksmart website

Current Mood: bouncy
Thursday, February 14th, 2008
1:49 pm
Training won't prevent back pain
If employers do not lift a finger to reduce manual handling at work and just rely on training in 'safe' lifting they'll not stop workplace back injuries, researchers have concluded.

Commenting on study findings published last week on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) website, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'This is an important piece of research. It shows that employers shouldn't be relying on their employees lifting heavy weights 'correctly' to prevent back injury, but instead should be reducing the weight of things that need to be lifted manually. The Health and Safety Executive will now have to review its advice on manual handling as a matter of urgency.'

He added: 'If employers want to protect their staff from the pain of back strain, they should not be banking on their staff using the correct techniques to lift heavy objects at work. The best way to keep staff injury free is to make sure that everyone understands the importance of not lifting heavy weights on their own.'

The authors of the Finnish study said a 'no lifting' policy might be more effective than training in correct lifting techniques. They reached this conclusion after looking at eleven studies: eight studies dealt with health workers who manually handled patients, the other three looked at baggage handlers and postal workers. All the participants in the studies worked in jobs where there was strain on the back and where there was the potential for alleviating any strain through an intervention such as training.

None of the workers in the studies were actively seeking treatment for back pain. The researchers found no difference in back pain in studies where one group received training and the other did not. Training compared to minor advice (a video) showed no effect on back pain after a year.

The researchers wrote: 'Many health professionals are involved in training and advising workers on lifting and handling. Even though there may be other reasons to continue this practice, this review does not provide evidence that it prevents back pain.'

Link to the research on the BMJ website

Current Mood: cynical
Monday, January 28th, 2008
7:05 pm
Work stress causes heart disease
Stressed workers suffer a greatly increased risk of heart disease, a study of UK civil servants has found.

Stressful jobs have a direct biological impact on the body, the research indicated. The study reported online by the European Heart Journal focused on more than 10,000 British civil servants, part of the ongoing Whitehall II study. Those under 50 who said their work was stressful were 68 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than the stress-free. Between 5 and 10 per cent of the group were chronically stressed. Physical effects were more pronounced on weekdays, pointing to a work link.

The stressed had less time to exercise and eat well - but they also showed signs of important biochemical changes. As well as documenting how workers felt about their job, researchers monitored heart rate variability, blood pressure, and the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. They also took notes about diet, exercise, smoking and drinking. They then found out how many people had developed coronary heart disease (CHD) or suffered a heart attack and how many had died of it.

Lead researcher Dr Tarani Chandola, of University College London, said: 'During 12 years of follow up, we found that chronic work stress was associated with CHD and this association was stronger both among men and women aged under 50.' While these younger worker seemed to be more at risk, the findings were the same regardless of the status of the worker. Previous studies had suggested those in lower employment grades may be more at risk. 'We did not find strong evidence that the effect of work stress on heart disease is worse for those in lower grades - the effect of stress was pretty much the same across different grades,' said Dr Chandola.

'However, later on in the study, some parts of the civil service underwent considerable change in their working environments, including privatisation. We are currently exploring whether the effects of these changed work stress levels, partly brought about by privatisation, are particularly deleterious for those in the low grades of the civil service'.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: 'This provides further evidence that stress is not just a major cause of mental health problems but is also often behind serious, and sometimes fatal, physical diseases.' The Whitehall II researchers have previously identified lack of control as the most important factor raising stress at work, with those in low-status jobs who were required to follow the orders of their bosses more stressed and likely to die sooner.


Current Mood: discontent
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
7:05 am
Train firm attacks attacked workers
Northern Rail is docking the pay of staff who have been attacked at work, rail union RMT has said.

The union is warning industrial action is an option in the row with the rail firm, which operates in the North East, Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire. It says the company only gives staff time off with full pay if they suffer 'severe physical injury.'

The problem came to light after a conductor who had been physically assaulted and threatened with a bottle was told that he would receive only his basic pay rather than average wages, because the latest in a string of attacks on him had not been serious enough. 'This is shocking and completely unacceptable, and the union will do whatever is necessary to get this shameful policy change reversed,' RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

'It is nothing short of despicable when a loyal worker who has suffered a string of assaults is told that the latest attack wasn't serious enough to warrant paying his full wages while he recovered and is then told that he may lose his job if he is assaulted again. Only last April the company reassured our reps that staff who needed time off after serious verbal abuse would receive average pay - but they are now saying that staff will receive only their basic pay if an assault does not result in severe physical injury.'

The union leader concluded: 'Northern say they have merely clarified the rules, but the reality is that they are clamping down on the victims of abuse rather than those who dish it out, and I have had calls from members who are absolutely furious about the company's hypocrisy.'

BBC news report

Current Mood: cranky
Monday, January 14th, 2008
8:35 am
China: Exports come at a high price
Nearly a decade after some of the most powerful companies in the world - often under considerable criticism and consumer pressure - began an effort to eliminate sweatshop conditions in Asia, worker abuse is still commonplace in many of the Chinese factories that supply Western companies, according to workers' rights groups. The groups say some Chinese companies routinely shortchange their employees on wages, withhold health benefits and expose their workers to dangerous machinery and harmful chemicals, like lead, cadmium and mercury.

In recent weeks, a flood of reports detailing labour abuse have been released. In a 58-page report, the New York-based National Labor Committee scolded Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, for not doing more to protect workers. 'At Wal-Mart, Christmas ornaments are cheap, and so are the lives of the young workers in China who make them,' the National Labor Committee report said.

Many experts say part of the problem is cost: Western companies are constantly pressing their Chinese suppliers for lower prices while also insisting that factory owners spend more to upgrade operations, treat workers properly and improve product quality. Many brand-name companies, like IKEA, have shifted the overwhelming majority of their manufacturing operations to China.

Brought to you from a sweatshop in China
Monday, December 10th, 2007
6:40 pm
Amazon branded worker a druggie
Internet giant Amazon wrongly branded a worker a druggie and fired him, an employment tribunal has heard.

Khalid Elkhader was awarded £3,453 in compensation after managers at the firm's west of Scotland facility told him he had tested positive for amphetamine and fired him. This case follows a report in Hazards magazine last month that accused the firm of using drug tests 'as a punishment'.

In this latest case, the 33-year-old targeted by Amazon had never taken drugs and was shocked when a random test on 18 September last year was returned positive. He appealed and was asked to take a second test. Amazon claimed the test was also positive, and dismissed him in October 2006 for misconduct. It was only after he took Amazon to a tribunal that he learned the second test had actually been negative.

He was awarded the compensation after the Glasgow tribunal ruled his sacking was unfair.

Both samples held by the company were destroyed before he could arrange independent tests. However, a test by his own doctor was negative. Khalid, who had worked for Amazon for two years, said: 'I'm happy now. I didn't care about the money, I just wanted to clear my name. Everyone who has been dismissed for this should fight for their rights because you can prove you are innocent. Amazon should give people a chance because there isn't a lot of work in this area. They need to change their drug testing procedures.

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007
1:26 pm
Support the PCS DWP pay campaign
PCS DWP Group Pay Campaign 2007

Why are civil servants going on strike on Thursday and Friday?

• The Government have insisted that pay rises for public sector workers are below inflation increases. But for staff in DWP the limit is to be capped at 1% per year over the next 3 years, with no increase at all for many in 2008. Meanwhile inflation is over 4%.

• DWP management have just imposed a 3 year pay offer despite it being rejected by a 3 to 1 majority of PCS members. Now they are refusing to even talk to the unions about this.

• DWP staff perform vital jobs in getting unemployed people into jobs and paying pensions and benefits to millions. Every citizen uses the DWP during their life. The staff who work there should be valued for this work.


I thought civil servants were well paid?

Civil servants in DWP are on very low wages. Over half of DWP staff are paid less than £17,700. Some are on as little as £12,500 a year. Thousands have to rely on tax credits to make ends meet. It is a national scandal that the government stands back and lets city workers get £8 billion in bonuses while saying that civil servants must accept paltry pay raises to keep inflation in check.

The pay might be poor but aren’t civil service jobs for life?

Not any more. In DWP alone we have lost over 25,000 jobs in the last three years, with still more cuts planned by the government. Hundreds of our members are currently under threat of compulsory redundancy and face an uncertain future. Management have refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, even though there is no real need for any in DWP.

How can I support PCS members?

• Write to your MP supporting the PCS campaign for fair pay.

• Send a message of support to your local PCS Branch or PCS DWP Group office, 34 Lisbon Street, LEEDS, LS1 4LX. Or email: Leeds@pcs.org.uk
Monday, November 26th, 2007
8:42 am
Migrant worker misery is a pub grub ingredient
Food and snacks eaten in pubs, canteens and on trains across the country could have been prepared by migrant workers working in 'Dickensian sweatshop conditions', a union is warning clients and customers.

Unite is concerned that young Polish workers, some of whom are members of Unite, employed by salad and vegetable preparation company Just Prepared are forced to work all day in sodden clothing, cannot access toilets during a shift without permission and at times work up to 16 hours a day. They have no contracts of employment, no training in the safe use of knives and inadequate protective clothing. One worker cut himself on the hand so badly he almost severed a ligament, but was prevented from obtaining necessary hospital treatment. Two young Polish workers were dismissed when they spoke out.

Unite is challenging their dismissal and wants the employer to address urgently employment and health and safety abuses at the company. Unite regional industrial officer, Adrian Jones, said: 'These workers have experienced a very distressing time at the hands of their employer, who made the most of their vulnerability and isolation to work them as hard as they possibly could without due regard for the workers' health or safety. It is Dickensian, more in line with the nineteenth than the twenty-first century and another case of the sweatshop abuse of migrant workers.'

Although the employer operates in the gangmasters-regulated sector - this covers agriculture and food processing - the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has no remit to intervene to protect these workers because the company is supplying a product and not labour. 'This is a serious loophole,' he said. 'Bad employers do not fear the law, either because they know they can escape detection or because, as in this case, the law does not reach them.'

Unite press release

Current Mood: determined
Wednesday, September 19th, 2007
3:34 pm
Something (as far as I'm concerend) of a "wtf is this?"
Brown dilutes union power at conference

Union leaders have backed off from a confrontation with Gordon Brown at his first Labour conference as Prime Minister.

Mr Brown has apparently secured victory over the unions in his attempt to dilute their influence at the conference. After this year’s gathering at Bournemouth they will no longer be able to table topical motions and inflict embarrassing defeats on the leadership in the full glare of national publicity.

Union leaders had threatened to stop Mr Brown ending the system of votes on “contemporary resolutions”, which have often caused the leadership trouble. After talks at Downing Street on Monday, however, they have agreed to allow his plans to go ahead, with a review in two years. Union and party sources said that they could have defeated Mr Brown but did not want to sour his first conference as leader.

At yesterday’s preconference meeting Mr Brown’s proposals were carried by 26 to 4, with backing from the key unions. One union source claimed that the outcome was a “two-all draw”.

And they agreed to this? What are they on?
Monday, September 10th, 2007
9:54 am
Study reveals exploitation of migrant workers
Thousands of Polish and Lithuanian workers are being exploited at work in the UK, a new report commissioned by the TUC has revealed.

Since 2004 when 10 new states joined the EU, more than 475,000 Polish and Lithuanian workers have come to work in the UK. This study by Compas, a research unit based at Oxford University, shows that most found insecure and poorly paid employment, with more than half of those surveyed encountering problems at work. A quarter of the workers in the study reported having no written contract, a figure that rose to nearly a third amongst agency workers.

The study also found migration has re-introduced the 'tied cottage' - where employers provide accommodation at a cost and use it to increase their control over migrant workers. Nearly a third of the workers in the report were living in accommodation provided by their employer, and as a result endured excessive hours - due to their employment being linked to where they lived - and poor living conditions.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'This study reveals systematic abuse of migrant workers which is tantamount to modern day slavery. Too many unscrupulous bosses are getting rich by exploiting migrant workers and the full force of the law should be used against those profiting from such appalling ill treatment.'

A new TUC guide, 'Living and working in the UK: Your rights', written with the Citizens Advice service, gives advice for new arrivals on living in the UK and on possible problems at work. The guide notes: 'Everyone has worked in places where the boss tries to cut corners to keep costs down: union health and safety reps have the power to make employers protect their staff.'

From here: http://www.tuc.org.uk/newsroom/tuc-13657-f0.cfm
Monday, September 3rd, 2007
10:00 am
From Canada
Very interesting comment from Canada, "Within activist circles, people have been pretty much certain since Quebec City at least that at least a substantial number of the truly violent protesters who "mar" demonstrations are in fact undercover police provocateurs, based on a number of factors -- the fact that nobody ever knows who they are, that often people who have been seen instigating violent acts never have charges pressed against them, and that nebulous feel that can never quite be substantiated."

From here

here and

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
9:33 am
Equality a long way off
Public sector union UNISON has said a damning final report from the equalities watchdog echoes the union's earlier calls for the government to do more to improve women's role in the workplace and in society. Looking at measures such as pay and power, support for families, and access to public services, justice and safety, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) warns that sex equality is still generations away.

Its 'Completing the revolution' report says it will take another 45 years for women to receive a similar-sized pension to men, and 20 before women working full-time will earn the same pay as their male counterparts. The part-time pay gap will take 30 years to close.

UNISON national women's officer Sharon Greene said the finding were not news to the union. 'We have been fighting for years for equal pay and fair pensions for women, and for measures to improve the work-life balance of both women and men,' she said. The report highlights just how much more needs to be done, she added. 'There is no justification for the pay gap between men and women. We know the reasons why it exists and action is needed now to address those causes - women should not and will not wait another 20 years to see fair pay.'

Getting with the gender agenda

Commenting on the 24 July launch of the report, EOC chair Jenny Watson said: ' Today, most women work, many men no longer define themselves as breadwinners and both sexes often struggle to find the time they need to care for others in their lives.' She added: 'A country that channels women into low paid work, fails to adequately support families and forces people who want to work flexibly to trade down in jobs pays a high price in terms of child poverty, family breakdown and low productivity.

This is a challenge that Gordon Brown's new government urgently needs to address.' Minister for women Harriet Harman said: 'This report rightly recognises that despite the fact that women's lives have transformed dramatically, there is still inequality between men and women in our economy and society that needs to be tackled.'

In October, the EOC will be absorbed into the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR), which will also deal with race and disability equality issues.

[Link to the EOC news release]
Monday, July 30th, 2007
9:02 am
CWU action on mail strains
Postal union CWU has launched a new guide to tackle the high rates of workplace strains suffered by mail delivery staff. It says musculoskeletal injuries in Royal Mail are running at over 10 times the rate for workplaces overall.

CWU national safety officer Dave Joyce said the company's track record on safety 'isn't good enough, in fact it's four times worse than the transport industry.' He added HSE 'aren't too impressed either' after a programme of delivery office inspections.

'The purpose of the new CWU 'Safe working on delivery guide' is to help our local safety reps and unit reps ensure the risks to health and safety on delivery work are properly controlled... Managers need to start listening to our safety reps and working with them, becoming problem solvers, deploying safety improvements, being compliant with the law, deploying risk control measures and safe systems of work.' He concluded: 'We're in difficult times but health and safety can't be side-stepped and delivery office managers, working with CWU health and safety representatives and delivery staff is the best way of realising health and safety benefits all round.'

From here
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