In the run-up to the April 28th commemoration of International Workers’ Memorial Day – also known as World Day for Safety and Health at Work - the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is criticizing the European Commission’s failure to promote occupational cancer prevention measures. The ETUC plans public actions on the issue in three European cities on April 28.

150,000 lives

The organization says it has “run out of patience.” The carcinogenic agents Directive, the main means of protecting workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens in the workplace, has been under revision for ten years. “It is obvious that the Commission’s ‘better regulation’ campaign on which so much emphasis has been placed in recent years, is hardly conducive to progress in this area,” according to a statement by the ETUC.

The group attributes 100,000 deaths a year in Europe to workplace-linked cancers, and estimates that 150,000 lives have been lost in the European Union since the announcement by the European Commission, in October 2013, of its decision to suspend all ongoing legislation initiatives in the occupational health and safety field.

"It is shameful"

“Measures to protect workers from cancer and fertility difficulties are being treated as ‘red tape’ and a so-called ‘unnecessary burden’ on industry” said Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the ETUC. “It is shameful.”

The European trade union confederation has called for the adoption by the Commission of compulsory limit values for exposure to 50 dangerous chemical substances. To date the directive places occupational exposure limits on only three carcinogens: benzene, vinyl ether monomers and hardwood. The ETUC calls also for extension of the directive to substances that are toxic for fertility and reproduction.

On 28 April, Bernadette Segol will voice the ETUC’s demands at scheduled meetings in Strasbourg with Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. Other ETUC leaders will speak out on the occasion of trade union actions to be held in Brussels and Riga.