European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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16 September 2014

ETUI annual meeting on safety and health at work

The annual strategic meeting of the Workers’ group of the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work took place in Rome on 11 and 12 September 2014. This seminar is organised once a year by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) to coordinate trade union actions in the field of occupational health and safety across Europe. The meeting was attended by some 50 trade unionists from 24 European countries.

Participants expressed their concern at the impact of the crisis and austerity measures on workers' health and safety protection, illustrated for instance in many EU member states by a decrease in the resources available for Labour Inspection.

The deregulation agenda – the so-called "Better regulation" programme – promoted by the outgoing Commission was another major focus of debate. Many union reps expressed fears that the Juncker Commission could well maintain, or even step up, this initiative, regarded by many of them as "a threat for workers' protection".

Participants accordingly agreed to urge their recently elected national MEPs to question, at the forthcoming hearings at the European Parliament, the new candidates to the Commission. The idea is to sound out the candidates on crucial issues for workers' rights such as how they regard European legislation (as an "administrative burden" or as a key element for the European social agenda?) and how they plan to fulfil the objective of reducing work-related accidents, illnesses and fatalities as stated in the Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work, adopted by the former Commission last June.

Problems such as workers’ exposure to carcinogens, chemicals and nanomaterials, psychosocial risks and musculoskeletal disorders were also intensively debated during the two-day meeting.

The seminar closed with a session for participants on how to use an on-line tool to survey their members on work-related issues. The session was run by experts from the Dutch trade union confederation FNV.

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