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Date: Thurs 28 April 2005

Union that won first passive smoking case backs clean air bill - but calls for section to be withdrawn

UNISONScotland, the public service union that won the first compensation for a worker who suffered ill-health because of passive smoking, has issued briefings to MSPs backing the Executive's Smoking Health and Social Care Bill, to be debated today (Thursday).

But the union expresses concerns about how the bill is to be enforced - and wants the Executive to fully fund an enforcement strategy backing its environmental health members who will police the ban.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser for Policy and Information, said "Back in 1993, UNISON won the first compensation for a worker damaged by passive smoke, so we are keen to see this bill introduced to protect other workers. Neither a partial ban, nor ventilation adequately remove the damaging carcinogens, so removing the risk entirely is the only effective strategy, and we call on MSP's to back this part of the bill."

"We also welcome the Health Committee's recommendations that there should be an effective enforcement strategy, and their call to the Executive to fully fund the extra resources that Environmental Health Departments need to deliver the ban."

However, the union also issues a warning about a different section of the Bill, calling for the section allowing 'Joint Ventures' between Health Boards and private companies to be detached from the Bill.

"The privatisation of primary care facilities implicit in this section deserves more detailed scrutiny than it is getting," Dave said, "Scarce health funding could be diverted into paying high loan charges and shareholders dividends, and commercial decisions will threaten local health priorities. There is little evidence that the models being used in England are successful, and we call on the Executive to detach section 5 from this Bill. After all, if evidence becomes available they could introduce it in a more appropriate bill later."


Note for Editors: UNISON has 150,000 Scottish members, around 60,000 who work in healthcare. The First Passive smoking case was Veronica Bland, who in 1993, received £15,000 from Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. She suffered years of passive smoking at work and eventually developed chronic bronchitis.

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Org - Policy & Info) 0845 355 0845(w) 07787 558 410(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)