Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It Can Be Done!

For all our encouragement, I post here a News Release that I have just received from a friend - and I do it because it shows that efforts to reform society still produce results, even though it still requires the willingness to stick out one's neck, to take risks and to be persistent. The following effort took 2 years on the part of 2 individuals - but just think of the benefits to thousands of poor workers right across the UK!:

"Health & Safety Investigation at BBC Television Centre will Oblige Retail Companies to Introduce Chairs for all Shop Till Workers

"Employers across Britain who refuse to provide chairs for their staff who work on sales tills may soon have to do so, following action taken by two Christian trade union activsts at the BBC's main broadcast studios at Television Centre in White City. The Health and Safety Executive have concluded an 8 month investigation into contract catering company, Aramark, who run the BBC teabar concessions used by newsroom journalists and technicians. In 2008 the company had ordered the removal of chairs from some of their catering outlets, obliging staff using the tills to stand for hours without a break. Following the refusal of BBC management to intervene, NUJ rep, David Campanale and BECTU activist, Brian Dale reported the matter to the HSE. The HSE inspector leading the inquiry has now told them that following their action, chairs will not only have to be restored to catering staff in the BBC, but in all retail and catering outlets across Britain, saying "the same principle applies to other workplaces."

"Andrew Verrall-Withers is the HSE inspector who led the inquiry. Together with the HSE Special Inspector for Ergonomics, Ed Milne, he established that caterers Aramark could not evade their legal duty to provide chairs for their staff, because of workplace regulations from 1992, which state that " If work can or must be done sitting, seats which are suitable for the people using them and for the work they do should be provided." (Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Reg 11 (3).

"Commenting on the outcome of the case, which could see chairs at till-points restored in thousands of retail and catering outlets, Brian Dale of the BBC BECTU branch, who attends the Community Church, Surbiton, said:

"'We wanted to speak up for those who were being exploited. As Christian trade unionists, we were angry at the injustice, especially as some till-staff were standing for 8 hour double-shifts. It took 2 years but the result now has national ramifications for similar workers exploited in the same way by their employers.'

"David Campanale also attends the Community Church and is NUJ Father-of-Chapel in BBC World News. He was given the news of the outcome of the inquiry by Andrew Verrall-Withers, who told him:

"'This was a very strange, frustrating but useful experience around the simple issue of whether Aramark would provide chairs for their staff. In the end, I had to take action against Aramark and to his credit, Chief Executive Andew May resolved this the moment it reached his level. I took the line that to get a result - when push came to shove - I was prepared to take this to court even if it risked £50,000 in court costs. I was prepared to prosecute over a chair. There was no chance I was going to walk away from doing this. I congratulate you for your effort. Would this outcome have happened without you? No. You have been the first cog turning in the machine.'"

"The BBC's Head Of Production Safety, Stephen Gregory, had told the NUJ last year he would not take action over enforcing the legislation as "Aramark are a sub-contractor and that BBC have no direct operational or management control". After a joint BECTU and NUJ petition organised by Brian Dale and David Campanale and signed by newsroom staff, presenters and technicians was ignored, the pair called in the HSE on behalf of their unions.

"According to Andrew Smith-Withers, the investigation has wide ramifications across a range of industries. An unwritten 'rule' had been sneaked in by companies such as Sainsburys, M&S and others that till-workers will not be provided with chairs if they 'only' stood up to 4 hours. He said this has now been scrapped as a result of the HSE's enquiry into practise at the BBC and that his conclusions about the law on provision of chairs will have to be observed nationally. Companies, he said, "cannot now choose not to provide chairs for their workers". "This enquiry", he said, "does establish a precedent across industry."


More information:

Contact NUJ David Campanale 07873 625396

Contact HSE Andrew Verrall-Withers 07903830200

1. Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Reg 11 (3) :
"Workstations should be suitable for the people using them and for the work they do. ... If work can or must be done sitting, seats which are suitable for the people using them and for the work they do should be provided. Seating should give adequate support for the lower back, and footrests should be provided for workers who cannot place their feet flat on the floor.

2. Research shows that complaints of aches or discomfort in the muscles and joints are common in supermarket cashiers - just as they are in many other occupational groups. Cashiers usually work part-time, yet they still get problems and some aspects of checkout work can contribute to these. Most cashiers will feel pain in their arms, legs or back at some time during a year. A few will feel some pain each day. Both back pain and neck/arm pain are common - over half of all cashiers will report one or both. More at H&S specialists: http://www.healthandsafety.co.uk/hscd.html Sphere: Related Content


Joanna said...

Good to hear this encouragement to persevere. It beggars belief that companies seriously think they will get the best from their workers by scrimping on something as simple as a chair. Maybe the management should try standing in their jobs to see what it is like.

Sounds like too much emphasis on the the amount of money spent and not on the loss of money incurred for training new staff because they cannot retain staff due to their attitudes, or paying for sick leave when the work they do makes them ill. When will accountants and managers learn?

Carin said...

I love the simple kindness of a chair and the world of difference it makes in a person's life.

How could something as simple as offering a chair be such a simple thing to provide?

My mother, recently forced to retire in the U.S. from a hospital administration position took a job in an upscale retail store selling women's apparel. My husband recently described her saying she could "sell a shirt to a corpse." Sadly, her amazing skills at this post retirement job cannot be fully utilized. She has decided to cut her hours at this job because she is not allowed to sit at all during her shifts of up to 8 hours. She is a sixty-four year old retiree. It is really sad to me that she cannot sit down.
Thanks for sharing this.