Safeguarding workers’ lives, safety and health is a matter of overriding importance for trade unions, an ACFTU official recently stressed. Trade unions must give top priority to workplace safety.
ACFTU Vice-Chair Chen Hao made the remarks at a meeting of the ACFTU secretariat on 9 September 2014.
The meeting was held a month after a deadly explosion occurred at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co. on 2 August, leaving large numbers of workers dead or injured. The disaster made trade unions sit up and take notice. Drawing a lesson from the fatal blast, Chen called on them to strengthen workplace safety and perform their duty in real earnest.
"I am not deliberately exaggerating the importance of workplace safety for sensational effect,” Chen said. “We have got to recognize that danger lies all around workers, and we must stay vigilant."
Chen underlined the point that although there has been a substantial decline in the incidence of workplace disasters, the total remains considerable. An abundance of safety hazards still lurk and trade unions have not found an effective way to prevent major catastrophes.
When it comes to protecting workers’ rights, the priority above all else is to protect their right to safety and health, he added. Trade unions should systematically chronicle the various problems that crop up in accidents. Attention should be given to industries and enterprises that are prone to them.
Trade unions should come up with their own proposals for rectification and improvement as well as organizing workers to carry out safety overhauls and conducting safety education campaigns to raise their safety awareness and enhance their ability to protect themselves.
Chen called on unions to take stock every year of the work safety situation in accident-prone industries so they can put forward proposals, press the government to improve mechanisms for protecting workers’ health and safety, and collate and publicize positive experience.
The trade union media should contribute to tightening up supervision over workplace safety and be bold enough to lift the lid on practices hazardous to workers. The ACFTU should strengthen safety inspections in industries vulnerable to accidents in order to bring about a radical transformation of the current safety situation.