February 08: The Internet session finished basic features in the electronic world: translation software available on the Internet. Exercises were done translating news in Spanish into English.
In the second part of the session, participants looked at databases available for union work such as FAO, ILO and some sugar statistics. Also, they explored an Australian government site with information on collective bargaining agreements, and briefly discussed some relevant issues/clauses in comparison with their own agreement. The session gave two tasks for the participants: nine indexes from the FAO database were selected and the participants would have to find the information referring to their countries. After working on the ILO database, particularly relating to Conventions, the participants identified 12 Conventions which are relevant to sugar workers. They will see how many and which ones their country has ratified, and add the year when the Convention was passed, and when their country ratified it.
The occupational safety and health session heard the participants’ reports from the visit to the LBI factory.
All groups used Power Point Presentations and plenty of photographs taken during the visit to La Bonne Intention (LBI). The groups made recommendations on how to improve conditions of work. See the Power Point Presentations of the Groups:
Group 1: Gillian (BWU-Barbados), Nigel (ATSWTGU-Trinidad), Paula and Pauline (NAACIE-Guyana) . Download file
Group 2: Harold (BITU-Jamaica), Clifton and Humphrey (UAWU-Jamaica). Download file.
Group 3: Eloida (BWU-Belize), Narda and Rooplall (GAWU-Guyana). Download file.
The factory was in the maintenance period, which might have contributed to the untidiness and other issues. However, even when the operational aspects could not be witnessed, participants observed the general environment of safety conditions.
Jesper Nielsen commented that the work done by the groups was very good, and that having several people observing helps the process of identifying issues, which might be lost by one single observer (or ‘specialist’). General observations from the group were:
• Signs on OSH are clear and conveniently placed.
• Deficient system of moving heavy equipment.
• Equipment is old, which may have an impact on the workers’ behaviour in the factory.
• Carelessness: e.g. drains, holes, are not covered, have no lids.
• A drinking water fountain was seen at the entrance of the factory. We were told that water fountains are available in different places within the factory; no other was seen, however. Easy access to drinking water is a must when working in high temperatures and workers need to drink more water than usual to avoid dehydration.
• There were no adequate locker facilities.
• Electrical installations were reasonable good.
• Several “working areas” were actually improvised locations: tools spread on the floor, workers sitting on pieces of equipment, equipment under repair had been placed on the floor.
• Irregular use by workers of basic PPE such as hard helmets or goggles: some had it, others didn’t.
• Poor lighting and poor location of light sources: e.g. poor lighting in working areas but light bulbs placed outside the factory where there is no apparent need for it.
• Insulation: there is a trend to replace asbestos with other chemicals, which are less hazardous than asbestos but not completely safe.
• Bicycle shed needs improvements.
Out the visit, the participants recommended to plan and organise better OSH work. Finally, some elements in risk assessment studies were presented.
Basic data on La Bonne Intention (LBI)
1. Total no. of workers (LBI) according to payroll: approx. 1900 (last production period)
2. 20% factory workers, all permanent
3. Privatised: Canteen, transportation among others.
4. One H&S officer + medical officer
5. An H&S committe for factory, field and one central committee
6. Hundreds of minor accidents per year
7. 10 – 12 major accidents
8. One fatal accident last year (not registered as work accident)
9. Union density: 90% of workers are unionised