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TUC attacks HSE board appointment

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has condemned the government’s appointment of a former business leader to a post on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) governing board that was traditionally reserved for employee representatives.


The Department for Work and Pensions has appointed Susan Johnson, former chief executive of the Durham and Northern Business Forum, and previously a director of the food retailer Greggs, to the HSE board in one of three positions that have been reserved before for TUC nominees.

The tripartite structure of the HSE board (formerly the Health and Safety Commission), representing employee, employer and government interests, was provided for in the Health and Safety at Work Act. Section 2(3)(b) in Schedule 2 of the Act says the secretary of state “shall appoint three members after consulting such organisations representing employees as he considers appropriate”.

A similar clause provides for three employer representatives among the total of up to 11 members.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady attacked the appointment saying: “The government cannot appoint an employer to represent workers. It’s a blatant abuse of rules that are there to ensure a fair balance between workers and bosses.

“The HSE works best when employers and unions work together as equal partners, as intended by the Health and Safety at Work Act. By rejecting the consensus approach, the government is sending out a dangerous signal to bad bosses who put staff at risk by cutting corners.”

Johnson is a non-executive director of the Sports Ground Safety Authority and a commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She replaces Sir Paul Kenny, former general secretary of the GMB general union, who leaves the board at the end of September. The two remaining employee representative members of the board are Jonathan Baume, former general secretary of the FDA civil service union and Kevin Rowan, head of organisation and services at the TUC. Baume’s appointment in 2013 was also criticised by the TUC as it was made despite the congress’s recommendation of another candidate, Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack. 

In the first triennial review for the government of the HSE’s work and functions in 2014, Martin Temple, since appointed as HSE chair, said the board needed a broader range of skills to help steer the regulator. Temple recommended a relaxation in the fixed numbers of employer and employee representatives if the DWP found it was “not possible to achieve the appropriate balance of skills/competences and required experience/background of HSE Board members and retain the current statutorily specified number of board members.”

The government’s response said it did not see a need to change the prescribed numbers of representatives, but the TUC argued that it has effectively done so now by appointing Johnson to one of the employee representative positions and that the decision “upsets the statutory balance of representation between workers and employers on the HSE board”.


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  • Without endorsing the

    Permalink Submitted by Neil C on 14 September 2016 - 12:47 pm

    Without endorsing the decision in any way, the Act says "shall appoint three members after consulting such organisations representing employees as he considers appropriate..." I'm not at all convinced that this wording means that the appointee needs to be approved or agreed by the TUC who are not themselves the sole representatives of employees. The majority of employees now are not represented by Trade Unions in any case and additionally 'Consultation' is in no way synonymous with 'agreement' or 'approval'.

  • Reading her profile on hse

    Permalink Submitted by Stacey Collins on 14 September 2016 - 01:09 pm

    Reading her profile on hse.gov http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/hseboard/biographies/board/johnson.htm she does sound nearly as contentious an appointment as the headline and the union bluster makes her seem. Good luck Susan.

  • Without a balanced

    Permalink Submitted by Paul Bilboa on 14 September 2016 - 01:27 pm

    Without a balanced representation their will be less ability for individuals and the public to see that the views of the normal workers (at whatever level) are taken heed of. The organisational structure of a Quango such as the HSE, is already squewed in favour of the big fish and this will only leave the "little person" adrift even more.

  • Give me a clue

    Permalink Submitted by BRIAN PARSONAGE on 14 September 2016 - 02:41 pm

    Give me a clue

  • It is difficult to see how

    Permalink Submitted by T McConville on 14 September 2016 - 04:12 pm

    It is difficult to see how someone who has been a former chief executive of a Business Forum and director of a food retailer can be considered appropriate for 'representing employees' and can only be another government 'fudge' aimed at eroding the rights of employees.

  • So much for Theresa May's

    Permalink Submitted by Graeme Henderson on 14 September 2016 - 06:06 pm

    So much for Theresa May's claim to be on the side of those "just getting by". When it comes to it she is just as wedded to corporate backers and jobs for her party's friends.

  • I agree, our main focus and

    Permalink Submitted by Alan protheroe on 14 September 2016 - 08:58 pm

    I agree, our main focus and that of the Hse is workforce engagement and involvement. If the balance is tipped then the involvement of the workers is lessened. One of the main initiatives of the HSE is based upon workforce engagement and therefore an even balance needs to be maintained

  • The tripartite structure is

    Permalink Submitted by Peter Tickner on 16 September 2016 - 11:04 am

    The tripartite structure is not merely a provision of the HSW etc Act, it stems from the ILO Conventions that the UK signed up to and ratified many years ago, and of which the Act is merely the UK's required legislation to match the Convention. Similarly, the UK signed up and ratified the ILO Convention that prohibits forced labour but this is also being ignored by the present government when it proposes to enforce a contract on Junior Doctors. Perhaps the TUC (and the BMA) should report the issue to the ILO.

  • unfortunately, definitions

    Permalink Submitted by Bryan Higgins on 21 September 2016 - 10:35 am

    unfortunately, definitions are challenged all of the time. The only way of getting a definition tested is through the courts. I agree that this is long winded and against all of the principles of democratically agreed principles. The TUC need to seek a judicial review of the situation, where both examples can be used as evidence to outline potential breaches of the agreement.

  • Sir Paul Kenny sounds very

    Permalink Submitted by E Brown on 21 September 2016 - 03:42 pm

    Sir Paul Kenny sounds very establishment, as general secretary GMB was he not an employer with a salary to match or perhaps he considers himself a worker whatever that means!

  • Good luck to you Susan. As

    Permalink Submitted by Anon on 22 September 2016 - 10:41 am

    Good luck to you Susan. As an ex CEO or Director, you were an employee, as well as holding other stakeholder responsibilities, so I hope you are well rounded and consider the 'employee' to the best of your ability - as any other representative is required to do.
    I want to ensure employees are fairly and appropriately represented.
    I used to belong to a Union, but left as the employee representative didn't worry about anyone else's opinion but there own, so there are good and bad representatives regardless of their job role.
    So really the proof will be in the pudding, she has the potential to be just as good, as any other employee representative who may have been offered the role.


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