The European Year of Citizens 2013 is officially under way, ceremonially launched by EU leaders on 10 January in Dublin, Ireland. Every year, the EU declares a particular issue on which the year will focus. This year is focused on the rights of every EU citizen, and is concerned with raising awareness about these rights so that individuals, organisations, governments and the EU as a whole can feel the benefits that these rights of citizenship can bring. All kinds of events, such as conferences and debates, as well as other opportunities for dialogue (both online and offline) are taking place throughout the year. At EU-OSHA we are keen to be part of this dialogue and to engage in this Year of Citizens with you.
When we talk of international business travellers, we think of "white collar" businessmen or diplomats, sent by multinational corporations or governments but if fact this is not a true picture. With increasing globalisation, the picture should include technical and manual workers who may work for small enterprises, and the work being carried out may be in new sectors, not just the traditional extractive and construction industries.
While it is very difficult to establish precise figures, the number of workers travelling abroad to take up assignments is staggering. For example, there are nearly 600 000 foreign workers in China alone, according to the official census in 2010 that counted them for the first time, and over 700 000 Chinese workers who are on assignment abroad.
These workers, just like any others, should be protected from harm as, according to Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, “Safety and health at work is not only a sound economic policy - it is a basic human right”.
SÜDWESTMETALL is one of the Germany's largest Employers' Associations in the Metal and Electrical Industry, representing the interests of more than a thousand member organisations who employ around half a million workers in businesses of all sizes. More than 80 per cent of the member organisations have less than 500 employees.
Along with EU-OSHA Governing Board Member Mr Eckehart Metze, I was invited by Mr Kai Schweppe, head of the department for labour policy, to see how this employers' organisation offered assistance to its members, particularly to small and medium enterprises.
SÜDWESTMETALL not only supports the companies in the implementation of collective agreements (Tarifverträge) between social partners. Within the area of labour policy, occupational safety and health plays a key role. SÜDWESTMETALL is assisting enterprises in the organisation of preventive measures in close co-operation with the responsible person at company level and is initiatiating research in the field of health and safety at work to develop the knowledge-base in both practical and policy-level approaches.