From the TUC


29 Nov 2013, By

We have seen first-hand the damage that the Coalition Government’s deregulation programme has had on health and safety regulation and enforcement in the UK. There have been attacks on compensation, reporting requirements, protection for the self-employed and the ban on pro-active inspections in most sectors.

Unfortunately they are now exporting their anti-worker position into Europe and it is spreading like a bad outbreak of gastric flu. 

Recently there have been a range of announcements which show that the European Commission is on a one-way road to a regulatory free-for-all, and where the only voices to be listened to are those of business. 

Last month, under pressure from the British, the European Commission has embarked on their own version of deregulation under a policy they call “REFIT”. The Commission President has announced that this Commission will not be bringing in any more regulations on workplace safety. Everything that was in the pipeline to do with safety at work has been blocked, including proposed Directives on musculoskeletal disorders, and carcinogens, which are two of the biggest health issues in Europe. This is despite strong evidence of the need for new regulation from their own officials and advisors. They have also refused to bring forward proposals to turn into law agreements reached between employers and workers in areas such as hairdressing and fisheries. So even when employers agree to proposals they are not going to be progressed. The Commission is also considering proposals to remove the protection of workers in small businesses. 

When asked for the evidence of what they are proposing, the Commission simply points to opinion polls that show that there is a “perception” that there is over-regulation. So the whole of Europe is to be turned into a deregulatory Wild West because the European Commission is unwilling or unable to challenge the leader writers of papers like the Daily Mail. 

Of course the policy is not restricted to health and safety. The European Commission is also proposing initiatives to limit or scrap European rules in a lot of other areas. REFIT also wants to review the rules on equal treatment for temporary workers and the rules on informing and consulting workers in the event of mass redundancies. Proposals for new environmental regulations are also being torn up.

We desperately need a clear and positive strategy from Europe on how they are going to address the epidemic of occupational diseases such as, cancers, stress and MSDs that we have at the moment. 

In a few months the campaign will start for the European Elections. Perhaps we should be asking candidates in the election whether they are in favour of the removal of protection from workers or will they back a new strategy on dealing with the huge health problems we face?