Unite has partnered with global union federations IndustriALL Global and UNI on a yearlong worldwide health and safety campaign in the pulp, paper, packaging and graphical sector that begins today (April 28) on International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD).
The three Rs campaign – which is also being supported by individual unions in a number of countries – is based around the three fundamental worker rights needed to make work safe.
The three Rs are made up of a worker’s right to know the hazards and risks in their workplace, the right to refuse unsafe work without punishment and the right participate in the programs and structures that manage safety in the workplace.
Unite national officer for pulp, paper, packaging and graphical Louisa Bull said, “Our purpose is to support the global initiative but also to rejuvenate our health and safety network here at Unite.
“We’ve got the three Rs in the UK covered quite well but it is important we continuously improve as well as supporting the wellbeing of those doing the same jobs abroad.
“Whilst we have fatalities in the UK sector, there’s clearly a lot more in other countries. We attend our US sister union’s bi-annual conference in Pittsburgh and its scary how many deaths there are per year in the paper sector there.
“You see the stats for employers who have good health and safety records in Europe but in the US and other nations are disregarding those same principles and basically allowing their workforces to come to work and die.”
In a poignant reminder of the dangers workers face in the sector, a memorial is also being held today for husband and father Richard Zebedee who died in 2009 aged 45 working at a Devon paper mill.
Zebedee, who worked at Arjo Wiggins mill in Ivybridge, died on 28 April 2009 whilst following a company process that was later deemed in breach of health and safety.
To mark the 10th anniversary of his death, there will be a remembrance at the site of the old paper mill, where the developers have granted permission to place a permanent workers’ memorial.
The remembrance will begin at 2pm and the site can be accessed via Station Road, Ivybridge, PL21 0AH.