Unions are organising for safer, healthier, decent work

April 12, 2018 in Top News

Worldwide, poor working conditions kill a worker every 11 seconds. All these deaths are avoidable, yet the body count is increasing, warns Sharan Burrow. The ITUC General Secretary says that is why global unions are launching a reinvigorated and urgent organising campaign to demand safety, justice and accountability.
Every work-related death is avoidable. We have the knowledge. We have the technology. We can live for months in the vacuum of space.
But back on earth, the number of workers killed by their jobs has risen sharply. That is not because of a lack of know-how. It is because of a lack of will.
Companies are judged on their annual accounts, not their accident books. Corporate CEOs are richly and legally rewarded for asset stripping, job slashing, outsourcing and profit-taking. It takes nothing short of a major disaster, however, to see workers’ health and safety generate a murmur of concern in most boardrooms.
And that disinterest or disdain comes at a cost. It is why estimates from the International Labour Organisation, released in September 2017, showed work-related fatal injuries and diseases worldwide have increased to 2.78 million per year. Most – 2.4 million deaths per year – are the result of occupational diseases, not ‘accidents’.
IIt is a preventable epidemic that sees one work-related death every 11 seconds, every day, round the clock. ILO puts the estimated cost of this haemorrhage of life at 3.94 per cent of global GDP per year, or 2.99 trillion US dollars.
Make no mistake, these are large under-estimates. Work associations with diseases are missed, either by accident or design, and for whole categories of conditions no-one is counting the bodies.
In Japan, the authorities may record your fatal heart attack as caused by overwork. In most other places, it’s in the ‘natural causes’ column. In Germany, Italy, Denmark and France, your laryngeal cancer may be linked to asbestos and compensated, but it is likely to go unrecognised, uncounted and uncompensated in most other countries.

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