The Waltham Forest branches of UNISON, Unite and GMB are accusing Waltham Forest Council of failing to provide proper health and safety protection for Council workers and those working on Council contracts.
The unions have written to Council Leader, Chris Robbins and have told him the Council members will not be invited to the Workers Memorial Day event at Waltham Forest Town Hall on 28th April.
Bill Palmer, UNISON Health and Safety Officer and Joint Trade Unions Health and Safety Convenor explained that “Waltham Forest Council have not only been prosecuted and fined for failing to manage asbestos properly, they are now cutting the Joint Trade Unions Health and Safety Convenor post by half”.
The Council were prosecuted last year and fined £66,000 plus costs for failing to manage asbestos at the Town Hall, leaving dozens of workers anxious and worried for their future health.
The trade unions argue that this could have been prevented if the Council had worked with the trade unions in managing asbestos. The unions have called on the Council to re-establish an Asbestos Management Group where managers and trade unions could work together on managing asbestos. However, the Council have so far refused to engage.
“Now, the Council intend to undermine the trade union’s influence on health and safety matters by reducing the one full time post dedicated to representing workers’ health and safety concerns to a part time post”, Mr Palmer added, “This will mean less inspections, less scrutiny and more insecurity for our members.”
“At a time when the Council services are being privatised and out-sourced to private companies like Amey who were fined this February for health and safety failings involving asbestos at a Northampton school, our members are surely entitled to proper health and safety protection at work” Amey currently provide Waltham Forest Council’s Facilities Management Services.
Mr Palmer also pointed out that the Council Refuse Services are run by Kier Group who will be appearing in the High Court next month over their involvement in the blacklisting of Trade Union Health and Safety reps in the construction industry.
“In this current climate and working environment the proper protection and representation of people when they are at work has never been more important. However, instead of a thoughtful, caring approach by Waltham Forest Council, they appear to be set on a course of increasing the risks workers face at work. That is why we do not welcome their involvement in Workers Memorial Day as it seem hypocritical to our way of thinking and we call upon them to show some commitment to the health and safety of workers by reinstating the full time Joint Trade Unions Health and Safety Convenor post and to work with the trade unions to improve health and safety at work”.