Thursday, 2 April 2009

Health and safety reps beat bosses' no chairs rule

The unpopular OTP ('Operational Transformation Project') working pattern imposed clunkily by NHSBT management on blood collection teams a few years ago has many flaws according to donor carer staff. One which caused great health concern, with a increasing rise in occupational health referrals, was the attempted removal of chairs for staff from donor sessions.

Union health and safety reps from across the staffside worked together and fought hard against this ruling, using the law as a weapon. A great coup was achieved by getting in the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out an inspection. The HSE is an under-funded body that rarely visits workplaces.

The HSE report released in March this year fully backed up what health and safety reps had been arguing. Following this blow to their authority management had no choice, in the light of hard evidence, but to accept the findings of the HSE's report and replace chairs. This is a fantastic victory achieved by union reps that will benefit collection teams everywhere.

Health and safety law can be a valuable tool for workers. Over the years union activists have pushed to make it rule in our favour. The fight to improve working conditions goes on constantly. At the extreme end unsafe working can kill and make people seriously ill. Each year more people die through their work than from war.

The ILO (UN International Labour Organisation) estimates that 337 million accidents occur on the job annually, while the number of people suffering from work-related diseases is close to 2 million. These mistakes amount to approximately 2.3 million deaths each year, with 650,000 of them due to hazardous substances – double the number of a few years ago.

Don't forget Workers Memorial Day, 28th April every year across the world. It is a day to remember those who have been killed by work, but also to fight for better health and safety in the present, as reps in NHSBT have been doing.

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Union official's last minute hot air

Last week (26/03/09) the Evening Mail ran this story covering the closure of Birmingham's blood processing, quality monitoring and NAT labs. Tomorrow will be their final day.

Please click for a larger readable version.

Read the story online here.

It is based on a press release from full time Unite officials. This blog has objections from the very first sentence which says: 'Union leaders are trying to halt controversial plans...'.

There can be no doubt that throughout this entire campaign 100% of the energy, sweat, tears and sleepless nights have been spent by unpaid union stewards, active members and their workmates. In fact there are quite a few well-remembered instances of union leaders and officials discouraging and obstructing NBS workers' campaigning efforts.

That is not to say that these officials have not been part of active struggles earlier in their lives, but in the case of the fight against NBS restructuring it is not true to say that they were part of it other than to make vague grand rhetorical statements for press releases.

Now this blog steps down from its soapbox to accept that the choice of wording in the first sentence was made by the journo. The real issue is - what good are statements like these after it is too late to save the Brum blood centre? More of a fight was needed a long time ago. As mentioned above, this was not made easy for us.

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