But will government deliver for construction workers?
Great news, it appears that someone at ministerial level may finally be listening to what construction workers and their union leaders have been saying for years – that construction work is deadly business and that protection for workers comes from having active, recognised trade unions on site.
Yesterday saw the publication of the DWP commissioned report ‘One Death Too Many’, the result of an inquiry led by Rita Donaghy, former UNISON NEC member and more recently Chair of Acas, and it castigates the construction industry for “not recognising the positive role that trade unions can play in health and safety”. The key recommendation of the report is that the Gangmasters Act is extended to the construction industry. I’ll delete the expletive but enough to say ‘at long…..’ing last! Two hundred and seventy four construction workers have been killed since the introduction of the Gangmasters Act in 2004, let alone the thousands whose lives have been ruined through work-related accidents and ill-health. While the extension of the Gangmasters Act may not be the complete answer, it would have significantly contributed to a safer workplace where construction workers are respected and not treated like commodities, bought and sold at the lowest price.
Lord Mandelson is consulting on legislation to outlaw black-listing and Yvette Cooper is due to respond to ‘One Death Too Many’ in the autumn. So it is vital for unions and union activists to keep the pressure on to get the result that construction workers deserve. Perhaps government, as the major construction client in this country, can take a lead by stating and ensuring that no contracts will be awarded to construction companies that do not recognise unions, in the proven knowledge that unions make for safer, more productive workeplaces, or that use lump labour. Yes, I know! But it’s good to dream!