Campaigning, recruiting and organising around health and safety

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2013 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2013

Conference recognises the importance of health and safety as a campaigning, organising and recruiting tool, particularly in the light of the government’s continued assault on the health and safety regulatory system, including:

1)cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authority budgets resulting in the continued reduction in the number of workplace inspections;

2)the dumbing down of HSE advice, guidance and Approved Codes of Practice;

3)ill thought out legislative proposals such as the removal of the ability of an employee to enforce a civil claim for workplace injury on the grounds of a breach of workplace regulations, and of the removal of the self employed from the scope of health and safety legislation.

Health and Safety reps with their protected functions are ideally placed to play an active role in the campaign against the assault on health and safety and the government’s wider attacks on public services and trade union facility time. Health and Safety reps have the right to:

a)investigate potential hazards, dangerous occurrences and complaints relating to employees’ health and safety;

b)make representations on matters arising from the above and general matters affecting the health, safety and welfare at work of employees;

c)carry out inspections;

d)be consulted on any measure at the workplace which may affect the health and safety of employees;

e)take sufficient paid time off during work hours to perform their functions and undergo the necessary training.

The cuts to public services have led to an agenda of almost perpetual organisational change resulting in increased stress levels and other detrimental effects on the health and safety of the workforce. Safety reps’ right to paid time off means that safety reps are ideally placed to fight and campaign against this agenda.

In addition health and safety is inextricably linked to equality and other wider negotiating agendas including health and safety issues linked to gender, age and reasonable adjustments for disability. Safety reps have a key role to play in these areas too.

If safety reps are to play these roles it is vital that UNISON recruits more safety reps and also ensures they receive the right training, sufficient paid time off and are representative of UNISON’s membership as a whole taking into account all the equality strands.

It is for this reason that UNISON has re-launched its Safety-in-Numbers (SIN) campaign with the aim of increasing the number of safety reps. SIN is currently being rolled out nationally.

The recent success of UNISON’s National Health and Safety Seminar demonstrates the importance of health and safety. However it is important to build on this success and therefore this Conference calls on the National Executive Council to continue to:

i)produce material as and when required to promote and encourage branches to participate in the SIN campaign;

ii)work with UNISON’s Learning and Organising Services (LAOS) to improve the training UNISON provides for safety reps;

iii)produce guides and other material highlighting the importance of health and safety and the various health and safety issues to the different groups within UNISON covering gender, ethnicity, age and all other protected characteristics;

iv)use guides, factsheets, bulletins, the website, Twitter and other forms of social media to promote the role of safety reps and provide bargaining advice to assist Safety Reps get the time off they are entitled to;

v)produce negotiating guides linking health and safety to UNISON’s wider agendas such as equalities and the cuts to public services;

vi)work in partnership with the TUC, HAZARDS, other trade unions, its partners in Europe through the ETUC and EPSU, charities and pressure groups to combat the government’s reckless attacks on health and safety.