11 May 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe BY JUSTIN MORAN

Workplace deaths up 46%

"Pray for the dead," that famous Irish born trade union organiser Mother Jones often told workers, "but fight like Hell for the living."

In 2005, the families of 73 workers had cause to pray for their loved ones as workplace deaths skyrocketed by 46% in the 26 Counties. While a number of media outlets reported a 20% increase, with 50 deaths in 2005, the figure of 46% is actually accurate.

In its annual report, the Health and Safety Authority said it was concerned by the number of deaths in the construction and agriculture sectors, quarrying and mining sectors and also among non-Irish national workers whom the figures indicate are especially at risk, particularly in the construction sector.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights, Arthur Morgan TD met with Sylvester Cronin, SIPTU's Health and Safety advisor today. Speaking afterwards, he reiterated the party's demand for legislation on Corporate Manslaughter.

"Reckless employers must be held criminally liable for workplace accidents and fatalities," Deputy Morgan stressed.

"Only by putting in place effective deterrents can we ensure that these needless deaths cease. Corporate Manslaughter legislation, already in place in many countries, is a key tool in the battle to reduce workplace accidents and fatalities."

There were over 8,100 serious accidents reported to the authority, with 3,631 complaints investigated. These resulted in a mere 40 prosecutions, leading to fines totalling a meagre €463,338 being imposed.

The report showed over 13,549 inspections were carried out - a 19 per cent rise on 2004, but a mere fraction of the number of workplaces in the country.

It's official. Work makes you sick

Figures from the Central Statistics Office indicating that 60,000 workers suffered from work related illnesses in the first quarter of 2005 have led SIPTU to call on the Minister for Labour Affairs, Tony Killeen TD to take immediate action to reverse the escalation.

"This is a massive increase of 29% over the same period for 2004. Even if we allow for the increase in employment for the same period - from 1,835,900 in 2004 to 1,908,300 in 2005 - the net rate of increase is still 24%.

"The increase is even more dramatic if we compare the eight-year period from 1998 to 2005. Over that period the number of workers suffering work-related illnesses rose by 129% - from 26,100 in 1998 to 59,800 in 2005 - even though the working population increased by only 28% - from 1,494,500 to 1,908,300.

"Such drastic increases are completely unacceptable. It appears that trade unions are the only organisations demanding action to reverse this trend. The silence from employers and government has been deafening."

Sinn Féin a lone voice on Aer Lingus

In a remarkable development, Sinn Féin was the only political party to make a submission opposing the sale of Aer Lingus to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport.

The 13 page submission, available on the party's website at http://www.sinnfein.ie/news/detail/14162, argues strongly against the proposed sale, pointing to international experience of privatisation, including that of Air New Zealand. It also comprehensively undermines the Government's arguments on European regulations and its claim that the so-called 'Golden Share' rule will protect the company.

The submission was lodged by Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe, who recently addressed a packed meeting of Aer Lingus workers at Dublin Airport that was boycotted by Fianna Fáil and PD TDs. Local activists in Dublin North have been maintaining a fortnightly picket of the airport for two months in solidarity with Aer Lingus workers.


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