10th EWHN Conference for labour & occupational health and safety representatives and professionals
“Workers finding a voice in a new Europe"
Friday September 29th to Sunday October 1st 2006, 
Baltic Beach Hotel, Majori, Jurmula, 
Latvia

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Key Workshop C

Occupational Health & Safety, a Recruitment Tool for Activists

Safe and healthy working conditions must be the inalienable right of every worker. Awareness of this right helps to activate workers. It is a tool to organize collegeas. Collective organisation of workers improves working conditions (health and safety) contrary  to employer irresponsibility and to maximisation of profits. Joint prioritisation and the perception of improvements are possible and achievable leading to recognizable results. This also produces better skilled and conscientious union activists.

This workshop will share experiences, list problems, do's and don'ts, and examine possible answers, opportunities and how to involve like minded allies.

Facilitators: John Bamford (GB) and Klaas Zwart (NL)

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10th European Work Hazards Network Conference 2006

29th September – 1st October 2006; Baltic Beach Hotel, Jurmala, Latvia

Workshop C: Occupational Health & Safety,

a Recruitment Tool for Activists

Facilitated by John Bamford, England, and Klaas Zwart, Netherlands

24 delegates attended this workshop, including 11 Latvian delegates and 3 Lithuanian delegates. We had Russian–English translation service for the workshop.

The workshop aims were to share our experiences of H&S, good and bad; learn from each other; discuss ideas that would help workers to see the benefits of trade union membership and organisation, and consider tactics that would help successful recruitment.

We began the workshop by introducing ourselves briefly, and moved on to a small group working session to identify the kind of workplace health & safety problems that delegates experienced. We found that whatever country, sector or occupation workers were engaged in, they all faced similar problems in the workplace. Issues identified included the physical environment; stress; repetitive strain injury; manual handling; long hours; management focus on profit and production, not on workers health safety & welfare.

There was a universal experience that enforcement of conditions by state agencies was ineffective, and resources and programmes were declining as Government’s cut labour inspection departments. There were also serious moves towards deregulation and self regulation instanced. It seems that government’s now care little for what happens to their people in the workplace. It was generally agreed that workers and their trade unions need to be proactive in defending and improving conditions.

The workshop then looked at 2 models of trade union organisation to influence what happened – the British model and the Dutch model. The UK model is based on system of trade union appointed workplace safety representatives elected by the union members in the workplace, and underpinned by a statutory framework of functions and rights, with duties on employers to enable them to function; and the Dutch model based on a Works Council approach – where workers are consulted and have veto rights at the policy level in the organisation.

Delegates compared their own structures, and the general view was that we need to ensure that adequate representation is in place. Most delegates believed that it was, but there was also a recognition that there is always room for improvements.

We heard a case study of a campaign in the UK public sector, where the decision had been taken to highlight H&S problems, and publicise successful resolution to recruit new members. The campaign used focus groups to identify the key problems, then moved forward to negotiating improvements with target employers. Examples of successful improvements were then used in a publicity campaign using leaflets and newsletters, inviting non-union members in the same workplace to join the union; and also approaching workers in other workplaces showing the benefits of union membership.

We ended by reviewing some of the practical tools that we need to use to help us organise members around H&S issues – the improvement and development of communications at all levels being central to any recruitment campaign. Key tactics included effective use of leaflets, newsletters and meetings; one-to-one contacts and discussions; active promotion of worker protection; involvement of as many people as possible working together; publicising successful improvements; unions boosting their information output and availability to workers; sharing and dissemination good practice and good ideas; and establishing a website for campaigns. In the wider world, we would look to promoting co-ordinated campaigns around common problems internationally.

 

To see the PPT.slides click below

workshop slides.ppt

 

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