The CWU HQ's attempt to get rid of the Union's stand-alone Health and Safety Dept is set to be debated at a Special Conference later this year under the auspices of Re-Design.
Whilst CWU HQ sources deny that any such plan exists, and that Branches should leave any concerns they may have to the special conference when they can submit motions; this website previously reported on what sparked the concerns of the CWU Health & Safety Community in the first place - a throw away line from the head of the Union's Legal Dept.
Even more damning is the fact that the CWU Health and Safety Dept has the smallest budget of ALL departments at just £19,000 for this year!
Given it has always been funded far less than other departments, it certainly has been "punching above it's weight!"
Many CWU ASR/USR's have expressed the view that Re-Design is both necessary and a great opportunity for the Union to expand on the excellent name that it's Health & Safety Department has both inside and outside of the Union. The TUC, HSE and Employers have all previously commented upon the expertise within the Dept and consequently of CWU Safety Reps.
But with the re-organisation of departments at CWU HQ and the failure to replace the head of the Equality Department, the word from various sources around the country was that the merger of departments was being proposed and that the Health & Safety Dept was to be subsumed into the Legal Dept. This seemed to be confirmed by that departments head; albeit via a slip of the tongue, at a regional conference held earlier this year during which a throw away line from the head of Legal Services that "Legal Services and Health & Safety go hand in hand" as he approached the rostrum to give his presentation, was picked up on by several Safety Reps in attendance.
As one USR told this website at the event:
"Legal services are there to reimburse members who suffer injustice, health and safety stops the injustice from happening - they are two different strands." Whilst another added; "My job is not simply about accident claims! It is about prevention of injury and death of people at work!"
Financially, the savings from axing the H&S Dept would be minimal, and many believe that there is more to getting rid of the Dept and it's head, than just saving money.
Further it is no exaggeration to say that ASR/USRs from all areas of the country made it clear at this year's CWU Annual Conference and following the H&S fringe meeting; feel that they are being stabbed in the back and betrayed by their Union.
The aim of Re-Design it was said at the Union's Conference in April, was in part to re-assert Trade Union values. What can be more of a basic value than promoting Health & Safety at Work and having a robust structure to enable the Union to do this?
It was also said that ultimately the aim is to get the Union in a position to influence political decision and a change of government. What more evidence is there than the fact that the CWU Health & Safety Dept and its 'army' of safety reps has indeed changed government policy on more than one occasion with regard to Dangerous Dogs legislation?
Further at this year's CWU Annual Conference, health and safety was mentioned for less than 20 seconds in two presentations preceding the general discussion session on Re-Design that took place. Even then, that was to merely to dismiss rumours around the future of Health & Safety which did nothing to calm the fears of the Unions Health & Safety community. Conversely there was plenty being said about Equality and Young workers and the need for the Union to promote and further develope policy and procedures on those issues.
And why did the majority of Officers and NEC members who were asked to support the TUC Petition in support of strong Health & Safety structures and resourcing within Trade Unions (pictured above); refuse to sign?
As is often said: "Actions speak louder than words"!
The words, "We will still do health & safety" were seen as totally meaningless. However they did hint at the idea that they should have included the words: "...Even without a dedicated Health & Safety Department"
Since then there has been an exercise in Branch consultation via a series of questions laid out in a booklet issued to all Branches. This excluded any questions on the future of the Health & Safety department or structures above Branch level within the Union. In fact there was not one single mention of the subject of health and safety in the consultation questions!
Reports say that Branches were advised to only answer the questions stipulated, despite there being room to raise other issues - a fact mentioned in the associated LTB sent to all Branches. This has led to a feeling amongst many safety reps that the community is being silenced and that the future of the H&S Dept and above Branch Health & Safety structures is being left out of any debate on Re-Design. Indeed, Unionsafety has been told that pressure upon some Branches has been applied in order to ensure H&S does not feature in the Branch consultation responses.
Such is the fear factor that no one talking to Unionsafety wishes to go on record!
Of course the automatic response to that fact is that people are just stirring up a row and misinforming anyone wishing to listen. Hover, the question as to why that may be the case and why anyone would wish to mislead branches has to be asked and answered before such an assertion can be justified.
It is also quite obvious that the lack of knowledge of Health & Safety is blatant when it comes to Re-Design, and that the intention to get rid of the existing regional structure is virtually admitted to on page 8 of the Re-Design discussion document circulated at the national forum in February.
Given that the Union and the TUC have just celebrated 40 years of Union Safety Reps, the statement to the left taken from the Re-Design booklet is laughable in the eyes of the majority of CWU ASR/USRs.
On the other hand, many within the CWU are saying that none of this matters and that the special Re-design conference is the place to resolve such issues. Others feel there is little point in fighting for the H&S Dept as it's fate has already been decided upon by CWU HQ.
The re-organisation and down-sizing of CWU HQ continues, which begs the question - along what lines? Is it haphazard? Is it planned according to a Re-Design template?
For some reason these questions remain unanswered if indeed are even being asked.
After all, if the CWU does not see it's Health & Safety Dept as a resource worth keeping, or indeed it's health and safety structures below national level; why should they as employers?
Furthermore, what is the escalation process with regard to national Health and Safety Agreements with employers if the H&S Dept no longer exists? Will Health and Safety agreements no longer be made, will they be subsumed into the work of IR officers at HQ and in branches?
What happens to the expertise and campaigns on such issues as dangerous dogs, work related stress, accident investigation and escalation of issues found to be in breach of existing national H&S agreements? And finally, what happens to the interface between the Union nationally and the employer on Health & Safety?
Will all of these questions be raised and discussed at a Special Conference on Re-Design and will any final decisions as to the way forward on CWU health and safety policy, structures and the promotion and defence of health and safety agreements and legislation?
How will the CWU deal with attacks upon health and safety legislation, in the workplace and upon existing agreements with employers before and following Brexit? Will this too be part of the decision making process at a Special Conference?
The conference will take place on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November 2018 at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), Bournemouth.
Standing Orders, number of delegates per branch, deadline for motions; and other conference issues have apparently not yet been decided by the NEC - apparently!
Nor has the details of which hall within the BIC, the size of which will of course determine the number of delegates and observers; has been booked.
In the event it will be interesting to see just how many Branch ASR/USRs actually get to attend a conference which may ultimately decide the future of Health & Safety in the CWU.
Did your Branch response to the Re-Design consultation document include Health & Safety and it's future within CWU?
Let us know by completing a short (less than 2 mins) survey. Send a survey link request to via the Contact US page This is necessary to ensure only CWU members fill in the survey.
Source: Re-Design Booklet and Questions / CWU / unionsafety