CWU and TUC Condemns Tory Government Announcement of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Board Appointments – Ideological Anti-Trade Union Attacks Openly Continue as Government ‘Lackey’ Board Members are Appointed to Replace Trade Unionists and Diminish Trade Union Influence on UK Health & Safety Regulation and Social Partnership:
This is to update Branches, Regional Health and Safety Forums and Health and Safety Reps on the Government (DWP) announcement this month on a number of new appointments to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Board. The TUC, CWU, all UK Unions and the Hazards Campaign have collectively condemned the appointments which has caused outrage across the Trade Union and Labour movement.
The Lord Robens Committee report of June 1972, made recommendations to the UK Government of the day which were endorsed and enacted in the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, and established the Health and Safety Executive enforcement body and its controlling board. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 10(2), Schedule 2, entitled ‘Establishment of the Executive’, it states that the board (initially the Commission) should be a “Tripartite” body consisting of a Chairman, 3 members from employers, 3 members from trade unions and up to 4 others from organisations such as local authorities and professional bodies. Parliamentary debates of the day back in 1972/74 recorded that in the first place there will be consultation with the C.B.I., the T.U.C., local authorities and others concerned about how best to achieve the Robens objectives and that the role of the trade unions and consultation was to be greatly strengthened. All of these appointments however are qualified in the Act as follows “as he (the Minister) considers appropriate. (My emphasis/definition in brackets).
For 40 Years the process of appointing the Trade Union HSE board members was carried out in consultation with the TUC who would put forward nominees. That principle was left untouched even through the 18 years of anti-trade union Thatcher Tory government period but it was ended by the current Tory Government and previous Tory led coalition in 2014, when they undermined the independence of the UK’s safety system when Ministers refused, for the first time in history, to appoint a TUC-nominated candidate to the HSE board. TUC nominated Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was rejected and instead the Department for Work Pensions (DWP) choose Jonathan Baume, the retired general secretary of the First Division Association (FDA), which represents the interests of senior civil service managers. Baume who was ‘hand-picked by the Tory government wasn’t supported or nominated by a single trade union, including the his own former Union the FDA who confirmed that it did not support Baume’s application to the HSE Board – they supported the TUC nomination! Baume who has connections within the Tory Party and several other paid government jobs is hardly a ‘Workers Representative of choice’ these days. The tripartite system which had survived almost intact for 40 years under Labour and Tory governments alike, created by Lord Robens report recommendations being adopted by Government, to ensure no decision could be made without the support of both employers and employee representatives had been ‘broken’ and was now blatantly under attack by the Tories .
As a result of the appointment of Baum in 2014, the three TUC candidates on the TUC Board were reduced to two!
Earlier this Month, September 2016 witnessed a further outrageous blow struck against Trade Union influence in UK Health and Safety when all three of the ‘Employee’ seats came up for appointment. It wasn’t a surprise when Jonathan Baum who’s first period of office had come to an end was reappointed. However the holders of the other two Trade Union seats Sarah Veal of the TUC and former GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny were both retiring. Kevin Rowan of the TUC was appointed to replace Sarah Veal ok but Paul Kenny’s seat wasn’t even advertised and neither was the TUC consulted as they should have been! Instead the government appointed a former employer and business leader to a seat on the board of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that is reserved for a representative of workers’ interests. The Health and Safety at Work Act which requires the Secretary of State to appoint three employee members of the HSE after consulting organisations representing employees, and three employers’ members after consulting employers’ representatives was totally ignored. The DWP announced the new HSE Board Member replacing Paul Kenny was Susan Johnson OBE who retired last year as Chief Executive of the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service. She is also the former Chief Executive of Northern Business Forum, and Executive Director of Business Development for the Yorkshire Regional Development Agency. She was a director of Greggs plc, Legacy Trust UK and Network Rail. She is currently a Commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission; a Director with the Planning Inspectorate, a Director of the Sports Ground Safety Authority and Local Partnerships; a Trustee of Durham University; and an Independent Director on the Risk and Audit Committee of Gentoo Group. It was news that shocked the TUC as Johnson is not from any trade union, she is not a health and safety activist or a safety representative, she was not nominated by any union body.
The UK’s ‘tripartite’ health and safety system is in tatters. Firstly, the Tory Government rejected TUC nomination to the HSE Board Mat Wrack, FBU General Secretary and TUC General Council member two years ago, and instead appointed ‘lackey’ Jonathon Baum to one of the three Trade Union HSE Board seats and now in 2016 with two Trade Union HSE Board Seats up for appointment they replace outgoing GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny, who retires this month, with another Government ‘lackey’ by firstly not advertising the seat, secondly not consulting the TUC and finally by putting a ‘Boss’ Susan Johnson in a vacant Trade Union Board Seat. Johnson has excellent qualifications for an employer’s representative on the HSE but there isn’t anything in her past that remotely qualifies her to speak for workers and Trade Unions! Yet here she is sitting on the HSE board representing employee interests. How on earth can that be allowed to happen, it’s a true outrage?
As a result of the appointment of Johnson and re-appointment of Baum in 2016, the three TUC candidates on the TUC Board were reduced to one!
In the UK the only organisation that is normally recognised as representing employees is the TUC and the Government has always accepted that. However no consultation with the TUC took place and they weren’t even allowed to put in a nomination because the seat wasn’t advertised – another first for this corrupt government.
The decisions not to appoint Matt Wrack and not to advertise Paul Kenny’s seat and not to replace Paul Kenny with a TUC nomination shows exactly what this terrible Tory government wants, which is a compliant board, there to administer the organisation and make sure it delivers what the government wants. It wants to suffocate any independence, any workers’ voice and any challenge to their jaundiced view. All the other so-called independent members of the HSE Board are either retired or semi-retired consultants!
The Tory government’s approach is to create a ‘complaint’ HSE board that will not challenge them on their deregulatory and cuts agenda and who will help them manage the 45 per cent cut in government funding over ten years. The board is not only getting less representative, it is becoming near invisible, with most board decisions now taken behind closed doors. In 2010, the year after the Conservative’s ousted the Labour government, ten HSE board meetings were public. But then HSE’s openness started to evaporate. By 2014, HSE was holding just eight board meetings in public. In 2015, it fell to 6. In 2016, just two HSE board meetings will be open.
The move is the latest in a series of government actions to silence the voices of working people on health and safety at work. Many of the joint industry groups that gave advice to the HSE have also been disbanded. And the right of trade unions to nominate members to the board of the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority was recently abolished.
The government cannot appoint an employer to represent workers. It’s a blatant abuse of rules that are there to ensure a fair balance between workers and bosses. The HSE works best when employers and unions work together as equal partners, as intended by the Health and Safety at Work Act. By rejecting the consensus approach, the government is sending out a dangerous signal to bad bosses who put staff at risk by cutting corners. Along with the Trade Union Act, it’s a further attack on the ability of trade unions to protect the health and safety of working people.
This is an appalling decision which has outraged every Trade Union. The TUC is objecting in the strongest possible terms, raising the matter with the Secretary of State and the new Chair of the HSE Martin Temple.
The matter was discussed fully at last week’s TUC Union Health and Safety Specialists Committee (The Committee of Trade Union National Health and Safety Officers) subsequently the CWU Health, Safety & Environment Officer has written to both the Government and HSE protesting at Johnson’s appointment. Some Unions are currently considering legal action via a Judicial Review.
This latest move has to be seen in the context of the wider ideological attack on trade unions, including in the field of health and safety, where the Government is doing all they can to undermine and silence Unions and their Safety Reps. They already attempted this through the Trade Union Act, to reduce the time given to health and safety representatives in the public sector, even though this is a legal right and despite the irrefutable evidence that trade union health and safety representatives make workplaces much safer. However, regardless of these attacks on workers and their representatives, trade unions will continue to work and campaign for the welfare and safety of their members and unions will continue to fight to ensure that workers can go home safely at the end of the day. The best way for people to stay safe and well at work is to join a trade union so that there is a trained health and safety representative on hand when they need them.
The HSE board was set up under the Health and Safety at Work Act and has always had three employee seats and three employer seats – NOT ANY MORE.
TUC Congress Emergency Motion E6.
Following the adoption of Emergency Motion E6 at this month’s TUC Congress (supported by the CWU Delegation), on the appointment of an employer to represent workers on the board of the HSE, the TUC will be undertaking a range of political activities over the coming months aimed at getting the Government to commit to tripartism and reverse the decision.
In addition to the TUC General Secretary meeting with the Secretary of State, the TUC will be:-
seeking a meeting with the chair and other members of the DWP select committee;
briefing the opposition DWP front bench;
asking MPs to ask DWP oral Parliamentary Questions;
drafting an Early Day Motion;
preparing briefs for MPs and Peers (including the All-Party Parliamentary Group on occupational safety and health); and
requesting that MPs ask for a Westminster Hall short adjournment debate on the issue.
Parliament is currently in recess until 10th October, but preparations for these are already underway. Further details will be sent to both yourselves, and political officers, once they are finalised.
TUC Congress 2016 – Emergency motion – E6 HSE board appointment
Congress notes with deep concern and is appalled by the announcement by the government on 2 September that Susan Johnson, former Chief Executive of Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, who does not appear to have any history of worker representation, had been appointed to the executive board of the Health and Safety Executive as a representative of employees.
Congress further notes that the minister has seen fit to disregard both a convention that extends back to 1974, and the spirit and intention of the Health and Safety at Work Act, by failing to consult the TUC in making this appointment.Congress is appalled by this attack on tripartism and urgently resolves to:
i press for reassurance from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive that the ideal of tripartism has not been abandoned and will be respected by both DWP and HSE
ii ensure that all future appointments for worker representatives will be consulted upon with the TUC before any appointments are made
iii seek to negotiate with government that the tripartite balance of the HSE executive board is restored through the appointment of two further worker representatives who actually have relevant current experience of representing workers, with those two worker seats not held by TUC nominees becoming independent board members
iv seek the removal of Susan Johnson from the HSE board as she is not an appropriate representative of employees.
Congress demands parity on the HSE board between employers and trade unions, to ensure that workers’ health, safety and welfare interests are fully represented.
Seconder: Fire Brigades Union
14 September, 2016
The Hypocrisy of this Government cannot be better summed up in this instance than in the words of George Orwell who said:
All are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer
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Attachment 1 – LTB571/16 CWU and TUC Condemns Tory Government Announcement of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Board Appointments