Moving the Rights at Work
motion at the Labour Party Annual Conference in Manchester, Usdaw
General Secretary John Hannett said:
"People occasionally get
killed at work. It's unfortunate but it's part of life. These are
not my words, but the words of Lord Young.
He was Margaret Thatcher's
hatchet man, a man whose views were shaped by a bygone age, an age
when working people were deemed to be expendable. But this is the
man now resurrected by David Cameron as the Government's Chief
Advisor on health and safety.
Lord Young needs to know
this is not an occasional problem. Over 20,000 people die each year
because of their work. That is not unfortunate. It is tragic.
I represent people who work
on the frontline of retail. Every day they are there to help the
shopping public and give a good service. Most of the time, that is
a pleasant experience for both parties. But sometimes shopworkers
face verbal abuse, threats and even violence.
The Tories claim that shops
and offices are safe workplaces, that they don't need health and
safety inspections. It's true that they don't have the obvious
hazards of a chemical factory, or an oil rig, but there are hidden
dangers. Like so many other public facing workers, those dangers
tend to come from other people.
That is why I launched
Usdaw's Freedom from Fear campaign and that is why we are backing
the Bill that Hugh Henry is taking through the Scottish Parliament
to extend Labour's protection for emergency service workers to all
public facing workers. Violence against staff is never acceptable
in any workplace.
As soon as the Tories and
Lib Dems got into power, they attacked the most fundamental
workplace right - the right to be safe. The Tories, because they
are ideologically committed to putting profit before people and the
Lib Dems, because they are ideologically committed to clinging to
their ministerial limos.
They justify their attacks
by peddling myths and misinformation. But the truth is that one in
ten shopworkers are assaulted every year. Every minute of every day
a shopworker is verbally abused. And 1.2 million workers suffer
from a work related illness.
We must keep independent
workplace inspections, we must resource rigorous enforcement of the
law and we must protect all public facing workers. Protect them
from the dangers of the workplace and from the dangers of the
1. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is
the UK's fourth biggest trade union, with over 390,000 members.
Usdaw is the country's fastest growing trade union; membership has
increased by 20,000 in the past year, by more than 15% in the last
three years and by 100,000 in the last decade. Most Usdaw members
work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in
transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other
2. Usdaw's Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence,
threats and abuse against shopworkers. It has four main aims:
- to negotiate with employers for safety and security
improvements in stores.
- to campaign with Government for policies to help tackle
retail crime and anti-social behaviour in shopping
- to raise awareness with the shopping public that
violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers is unacceptable
- to give shopworkers the confidence to speak out and not
accept abuse as just a part of the job.
3. Since the Freedom from Fear campaign was launched in
2002, Usdaw have held annual Respect for Shopworkers events to
promote the campaign. This years Respect for Shopworkers Week will
be held on 8 -12 November 2010. For more details visit:
4. The Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill was introduced by
Hugh Henry MSP on 1 June 2010. The Bill would create a new offence
of assaulting a worker whose employment involves dealing with
members of the public.
5. The Rights at Work motion moved by Usdaw at the Labour Party
Annual Conference calls for:
- A vigorous campaign against the Coalition's downgrading of
health and safety protection for workers and decreasing
- Increased resources to be made available for inspection of
workplaces so there is a rigorous and independent enforcement of
health and safety law.
- The extension of the protections of the Emergency Workers
(Obstruction) Act 2006 to all public facing employees.