General Election 2017 – Labour Party Policy & Election Manifesto – Health and Safety
Further to LTBs 607/2016 and 231/17 and in line with the CWU’s established NEC and Conference Policies, pursued via the CWU/TUC “Protect Health and Safety Campaign”, the Health, Safety and Environment Department has continued to pursue our policies at every opportunity and as we approach the General Election, we have intensified pressure on the Labour Party, in pursuance of those objectives and aspirations which set out our Union’s position on needed changes in the UKs Health and Safety at work safety laws and enforcement.
The CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department has continued to call on the Labour Party to have firm Health and Safety commitments prior to the forthcoming General Election and in response to a direct invitation from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, following his landmark speech to the 2016 Hazards Conference, a letter containing a list of CWU health and safety demands was sent to both John McDonnell and the Labour Party Leadership, calling for support for CWU Health and Safety policies (see attachment to LTB 231/17).
I am pleased to report a positive response has been received from Labour who are the only Party in the General Election to give firm headline, long term commitments on Health and Safety with the potential to have a huge positive impact on reducing the toll of death, injury and illness that is still an everyday part of working life for so many working people in the UK, including CWU members.
The main party manifestos have been published, with menus of policies that could potentially impact on workplace regulation and occupational health. Support across the country from Labour Candidates has been excellent in supporting CWU ideas. With the ‘Brexit’ countdown now a reality, many working people have been left wondering whether there will be negative changes to workplace safety laws. Labour have committed to protecting the health and safety regulations currently in place as well as pledging to improve safety through a number of policies and the party is happy to continue the debate with the Trade Unions after the Election. Here, we’ve summarised the main points that members can take to the ballot box when they vote on Thursday.
Safety, Health and Worker Rights:
Labour has said it will:-
Ensure that all workers should be able to work in a safe environment and return to their families at the end of the day. Labour will enforce regulations that save lives.
Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part time or full time, temporary or permanent.
Strengthen the HSE and safety at work generally and increase HSE inspections.
Ensure Britain abides by the global labour and safety standards of the ILO conventions.
Crack down on unscrupulous employers”, and “strengthen safety at work inspections”. “Working with trade unions, Labour we will end workplace exploitation”.
Reinstate protection against third party harassment, such as clients and suppliers because everyone deserves to be safe at work.
Reset the UK’s road safety vision and ambitiously strive for a safer transport network, reintroducing effective road-safety standards and set out bold measures to improve safety standards – to work towards a transport network with zero deaths.
Commence a phased removal of asbestos from schools as recommended by the All Party Parliamentary Asbestos Sub-Group.
Pledge to match European Union Safety and Environmental standards after ‘Brexit’ ensuring that EU-derived workplace safety laws are protected. The majority of the UK’s workplace health and safety laws originated in Europe.
Address concerns that some employers do not fulfil their obligations to pregnant workers. Labour will work with the HSE to make mandatory a workplace risk assessment for pregnant women so necessary adaptations can be made, and review support for women who have miscarriages.
The Conservative (Tory) Party has said it will:-
Transform how mental health is regarded in the workplace. However, at the same time the Tory Government has been cutting mental health services and doing nothing on prevention. The Conservative Party has said it will amend health and safety regulations so that employers provide appropriate ‘Mental Health First Aid Training’ and risk assessments for mental health, as they currently do for risks to physical health. This followed Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement earlier this month that larger organisations would be required to provide Mental Health First Aid. However, the TUC and Labour Party have stated that there are two things wrong with what the Conservatives are proposing; The first is that mental health services in many areas have been consistently slashed over the last seven years with a lot of local mental health budgets being raided for other purposes, yet the Conservative manifesto is offering no new funding for mental health. This means that there are often no suitable support services available for mental health first aiders to point workers towards. Secondly, they are saying nothing about mental ill health prevention in spite of there being half a million people in Great Britain suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. For years the trade unions have been saying that we need simple clear regulations on stress so that employers know what they have to do and enforcement agencies can ensure they are doing it. Yet successive governments have refused to act. Instead employers are increasingly investing in training for workers about how they can manage stress which throws the problem on to the worker and sees it as their responsibility. While mental health first aiders are welcome, they are not a response to workplace stress. If the government really wants to help then they should give legal protection from one of the main causes of mental health disorders – stress, and at the same time put some new ring-fenced money into improving early access to NHS mental health services.
However, the Tory manifesto pledges to continue with the ‘deregulation agenda’ firstly though the “Red Tape Challenge” which was used to attack and rubbish health and safety at work by the Tories and Bosses and secondly through the “One In Two Out” policy which is used to block new Health and Safety Regulations. Commitments to maintain present regulations are short-term, for one term of government only and therein is the threat of a health and safety regulation ‘bonfire’ should the Tories remain in government!
As for the other Parties in the Election, Health and Safety doesn’t feature and isn’t on their radar and so is unimportant to them!
Finally, it would be nice to see political parties coming up with ideas that ordinary workers are likely to find appealing, such as new regulations on stress and a legally binding maximum temperature in the workplace to name but two.
[Note Previous Letters To CWU Branches as part of this campaign: 107/10, 84/11, 90/12, 92/12, 91/13, 114/14, 485/14, 607/2016 issued in connection with Motions carried in the Health, Safety and Environment section at CWU General Conference.]
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer
Email Attachments – Click to download
Attachment 1 – LTB307/17 General Election 2017 – Labour Party Policy & Election Manifesto – Health and Safety