10th EWHN Conference for labour & occupational health and
safety representatives and professionals
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10th European Work Hazards Network Conference 2006
29th September – 1st October 2006
Baltic Beach Hotel, Jurmala, Latvia
The Opening Plenary Session for this 10th Conference was chaired by Ian Draper of the UK Hazards Network (England & Wales). Ian is National Convenor of the UK National Workstress Network (www.workstress.net).
Ian addressed the conference made up of 180 delegates from 13 different nations. In turn he welcomed the national delegations of Austria, Denmark, England & Wales, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Holland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland and USA.
Ian outlined briefly the background to the EWHN existence. He focussed on the common issues shared by all nations. These issues for workers are concentrated within the many powerful multi-national, international, corporate, capitalist backgrounds across the globe.
Within these frameworks workers of the world toil and are subject to appalling conditions in many cases, where they are dominated by and within an ever-changing economic, neo-liberalist social programme, including also several neo-conservative climates, constantly re-created and modified by those in power - the big-players - who dominate worldwide economies seeking only to secure the best for their own profits.
Frequently this will be at the cost of life, health, wealth, welfare and security of the workers, many of whom within the growing migrant armies are forced to endure appalling conditions, inadequate income and virtually no protection from danger at work.
Their lack of understanding and experience of the wider geo-political agenda, the lack of comprehension of specific national laws and expectations often places them in an extremely vulnerable situation, and it is precisely because of this that the EWHN Conference meets regularly to exchange experiences, expertise and understanding of the real dangers at work.
Ian introduced members of the EWHN Steering Group to Conference, and paid special tribute to the work of Agnese Puntuža, formerly of the Latvian Construction Workers’ Union, who had co-ordinated the many arrangements for a successful event in Latvia.
He then went on to invite Klaas Zwart of the Dutch Network Delegation to address the Conference and welcomed Pieters Maris the President of the Latvian National Trades Union Confederation to bring greetings from the Baltic States to conference and to share some of the current experiences of the new developments for the cohort of recent EU accession states.
The Opening Session was finally entertained by a local Latvian folk group who presented music form the region.
UK Hazards, December 2006
On behalf of the organising Steering group of the European Work Hazards Network I wish to welcome you all, participants and delegates to our 10th Conference here in Latvia.
This talk is to inform you about the European Work Hazards Network:
What we are?
What we do?
And why we are organising conferences like this one?
Who we are:
We are scientists skilled in improving of health and safety standards;
We are Occupational Health specialists;
We are policy makers working in the labour inspectorates, employed by private companies, working with Trade Unions responsible for the improvement of working environment;
We are Trade Union activists, Workers Councils Representatives interested in the improvement of working conditions and standards regarding the Health and Safety and well-being of workers;
We are interested in technical and human relations issues concerning the improvement of the working environment and working conditions;
We are in the first place citizens who are aware that we have to make the improvements we want, we need, we have to make them ourselves, together with other workers, researchers, scientists and policy makers. Together because through policymakers and Scientists we know how to measure and how to interpret effects and risks, we even can design solutions and workers themselves, they always know why all that paper does not necessarily work, we also know why we do this risky work always in a particular way. We also know why some solutions do not work. Not because the solution is not good, many times because one solution creates other difficulties. So our Network is first and foremost about the effectiveness of solutions and strategies to improve working conditions.
In the second place we are national networks operating in each nation at different levels. Our aims include being able to influence people, individual governments, EU bureaucrats and Commissioners. Each national Network is fully independent and we are united to organise this kind of conferences every 2 to 2½ years. We are united also by the European Health and Safety Charter. We are united to implement best practice all over Europe and if possible in the rest of the world. We aim to ensure healthy and safe workplaces for every worker.
We are also all volunteers, doing these things in addition to our regular jobs and families.
What we do?
Our first conference took place in 1986, by invitation of the Green Faction in the European Parliament. Some policymakers, Trade Union activist and Scientists known in the field of Health and Safety came together to speak about the developing framework of Health and Safety from the 5th directorate of the European Commission.
And today twenty years later we have our 10th conference in Jurmula Latvia, the very first in Eastern Europe. Even after this time lapse it is still necessary to organise and improve working conditions and to develop Health and Safety standards everyday.
The workshops prepared by the facilitators will as always be the centre of activities for this conference. Our facilitators are not merely giving lectures, no we want very much to have fully interactive workshops, because together we can evaluate strategies, we can recognize which experiences make sense and which solutions are best in given circumstances. And what is being proven wrong in Holland can make sense in Denmark. So we expect all participants to be active in the workshops. The facilitator is just the discussion leader. He or she will help to deepen out the given subject, to keep on track and to ensure the involvement of everyone in the workshop. There is no right or wrong answer. There is the beginning of understanding problems, solutions and strategies to improve working condition and working environment.
At this conference we have two kinds of workshops; the Key Workshops and the Topical Workshops.
In the Key Workshops (three sessions) we will discuss a major problem and highlight the risks, solutions, strategies involved, each from their own point of view. Each also with its own specific national peculiarities.
In the Topical Workshops we will examine in just two sessions, more specific subjects noting also the differences between different EU nations Differences in definitions, differences in recognition, differences in handling, difference in solutions.
In the Info Meetings which have already taken place, speakers gave their views on a specific topic; for example on the identification of a problem and recording the development of successful solutions and strategies.
Why are we organising conferences like these?
Because we think we can help each other to improve working conditions in the different countries were we live and work. We can help each other by sharing experiences, by sharing results of research, by sharing successful policy and strategies. By exchanging knowledge and by recognizing each individual to be in the same Europe.
Europe makes our companies change, not always in a positive way concerning Health and Safety or working conditions. Have we to blame Europe for that or have we to blame our national political institutions for issues we face? I think both, but before all we have to blame our companies for that because neither Europe nor the national politics subscribe that the work has to be organised in a bad, unhealthy or unsafe way.
And because we are workers, some of us very skilled ones, we are researchers and scientists, we are policy makers and we are trade union activist we want to change this Europe to a Europe that is Social, that ensures health and safety at work and will be truly democratic.
So now I come to the most important item of this opening speech:
What is the European Work Hazards Network?
The Network is you, the delegates from different countries in Europe here for these three days discussing problems, considering solutions and ideas about a healthy and safe working environment.
We, the organising Steering group of the EWHN, wish you a successful conference.