April 28: Anti-regulation agenda of business groups threatens health and safety at work

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April 28: Anti-regulation agenda of business groups threatens health and
safety at work

Brussels, 27 April 2011 (ITUC OnLine): International trade unions are
warning of the potentially devastating effect of business lobbying to weaken
protection for worker’s health and safety as workers across the world take
part in the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers

“Business groups and companies in a succession of countries, including some
of the world’s largest economies, are pushing to reduce protection from
hazards at work. If they succeed, more lives will be lost and the toll of
work-related injury and illness will increase. Trade unions are challenging
the rigged statistics and bogus arguments that are being put forward by
business interests that care more about profit than the lives of the people
who work for them,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

“Consider the devastation wrought a year ago by the Deepwater Horizon
disaster,” added Burrow. “Eleven lives lost, environmental devastation and
economic costs to the economy in the billions – all down to an appalling
disregard for safety aided and abetted by an absence of effective regulation
and official oversight. Lessons from this and other disasters like the
Fukushima complex in Japan show how critically important regulation and
enforcement is. Added to this, ‘slow burn’ disasters like asbestos mean
today’s failures to regulate can have a deadly legacy spanning two
generations and killing millions.”

While accidents at work kill hundreds of thousands each year, this total is
dwarfed by the number of deaths from occupational diseases such as
work-related cancers. The World Health Organisation estimates the annual
toll from asbestos-related diseases alone at 107,000 deaths a year.

“There is plenty of evidence to show the importance and value of proper
regulation and enforcement. Lives are saved, and the huge economic costs of
occupational accidents and disease are reduced. Studies indicate that
possibly more than 20 per cent of major killers worldwide, including
cancers, heart and respiratory disease, are related to work. All these are
preventable,” said Burrow.

The ITUC focus for International Workers’ Memorial Day is on the crucial
role played by trade unions, strong regulation and effective enforcement in
securing safer workplaces.

“Harnessing the on-the-ground knowledge of workers, backed by their unions,
is crucial for preventing death and illness. Protection, including through
respect for workers’ rights to trade union representation, should be
expanded and not curtailed in an outbreak of deregulatory fever. Removing
or weakening regulations, and depriving workers of union protection costs
lives. We need to focus on the burden that poor protection places on
families and the public purse – not on some imaginary ‘regulatory burden’ on
business,” Burrow concluded.

To hear the April 28 RadioLabour interview with the ITUC’s Anabella
Rosemberg: http://www.radiolabour.net/rosemberg-280411.html

The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 151 countries and territories and
has 305 national affiliates. Website: http://www.ituc-csi.org and

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: 32
2 224 02 04 or 32 476 621 018