Organising around Health & Safety

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2019 Community Conference and Seminar
2 November 2018

Conference notes with concern that across UNISON the number of accredited Health & Safety (H&S) representatives continues to decrease.

This is of particular concern to the Community Service Group where, out of a collective membership of almost 75,000 members, less than 200 across all our nations/regions are accredited Health & Safety Representatives.

Conference further notes that currently the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) are arguing for:

a. Loosening the current linkage in the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (as amended) between union recognition and safety representative appointment to enable unions to represent members in workplaces where they are not recognised, effectively generalising the rights currently possessed by Equity and the Musicians’ Union;

b. The extension of the duty to consult over Health and Safety matters to those in control of businesses and undertakings in relation to all categories of workers (not just employees); and;

c. The empowering of representatives to issue ‘provisional improvement notices’ and to ‘stop the job’ in situations of serious and imminent risk.

In addition, the IER argues Health and Safety should be encompassed within a new system of sectoral collective bargaining.

Conference believes that these recommendations, which are supported by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Rebecca Long Bailey MP, would improve the working lives of UNISON members within the Community sector and beyond.

Should this change to the legislative framework be enacted, it would assist UNISON to recruit Health & Safety representatives in the community sector and be of assistance to members working for charities and housing associations in workplaces that do not enjoy trade union recognition.

All the evidence collected over the lifetime of the Community Service Group relating to our members’ experience of violence at work, the effects of unsafe working practices on our mental health, lack of safeguarding of staff, poor sickness leave policies and the erosion of good Health and Safety practice clearly demonstrates the need to address these issues.

Conference therefore calls on the Community Service Group Executive to:

1. Continue to work with the National Health and Safety Committee to ensure that the issues raised by Community members are contained within their bargaining agenda.

2. Work with regions and branches to prioritise the recruitment of Health and Safety representatives within our sector.

3. Regularly disseminate information about the role and function of Health and Safety representatives to members in Community.

4. Work with UNISON Labour Link, NEC and other stakeholders including lobbying political parties in positions of power and influence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to promote the need for legislative change in relation to national Health and Safety law, consistent with UNISON’s mission to safeguard our members at work.