G7 starts to address workplace safety
Although most of the publicity around the G7 Summit in Germany has been around the relationship with Russia and the problems in the Middle East, there have been a lot of other discussions taking place. Some of them very relevant to unions and working people across the world.
One thing in particular was the announcement of a G7 initiative to establish a “Vision Zero Fund” in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO says, the purpose of the Fund is to “add value to existing ILO projects with its aim of preventing and reducing workplace-related deaths and serious injuries by strengthening public frameworks and establishing sustainable business practices.” Now I am not sure what it means by “establishing sustainable business practices”. I always get a bit nervous when sustainability is used in relation to workplace deaths as it seems to imply that workers are just a commodity, but clearly the intention behind this is good, and the emphasis on “strengthening public frameworks”, if it means enforcement agencies, is great.
According to the G7 leaders:
“The Fund will support those recipients that commit themselves to prevention measures and the implementation of labour, social, environmental and safety standards. We agree to follow up on the matter and look forward to the Fund reaching out to the G20.”
It is good that this fund has been set up, and clearly the emphasis must be on supporting occupational health in the developing countries, but it could also have an impact across the world if it is used to promote and develop ILO Conventions on occupational health and safety, especially as so many countries have not even signed up to a lot of them. There are around 40 of them and the UK has refused to ratify a whole raft of them, including ones on occupational health services, cancers etc.
In the past the ILO has often been criticised for not doing enough to try to ensure that its Conventions, and the Codes of Practice based on them are being adopted and implemented and this fund could help that. For instance very good ILO Guidelines on Occupational Health and Safety have sat on the shelf for almost 15 years without any real work to promote them. This new initiative is a chance to change all that.
So it is a huge step forward that the G7 leaders have acknowledged responsibility to promote decent working conditions, in developing countries. Unions now have to ensure that we are working positively with the ILO to make use of it, and of course, here in Britain we need to ask the UK Government why they are willing to promote decent working conditions when they are at the G7, but are doing nothing about it here. Ratifying all the ILO Conventions would be a start.
Details of the statement are here.