Re-think needed on workplace cancers, says TUC

A plan to reduce occupational cancer rates in Europe misses both the point and many of the causes, the TUC has said. The trade union body estimates over 70 per cent of cancer cases are caused by exposures at work not covered by the European carcinogens directive, and adds even where there are control limits proposed these are often ‘completely inadequate’. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson says solar radiation is the biggest single cause of occupational cancers and these are usually easily prevented, but aren’t on Europe’s list. Shiftwork, diesel exhaust, radon and passive smoking are other notable absentees. For silica, he says, the proposed occupational exposure limit for the lung carcinogen “will mean that 2.5 per cent of those exposed at that level will develop silicosis after 15 years. How can anyone think that that is acceptable?” According to Robertson: “The Commission needs a proper strategy for dealing with cancers based on the principle that no workers should be exposed to carcinogens because of their work. They should put much more emphasis on removal and substitution, rather than just maximum exposure limits.” He adds: “Of course it is not just the regulations that need to be sorted out, it is also enforcement. At present, employers are meant to remove carcinogens where practical and, if they cannot prevent exposure though other means regardless of whether there is an exposure limit, but most employers reckon that if they are operating at below the maximum limit that is enough, and regulators seem to accept that.”

Bin strike continues to defend safety role


Unite has expressed dismay after Birmingham city council reneged on a deal that had restored ‘grade 3’ jobs on refuse wagons and had led to the suspension of a seven-week bin strike . The grade 3 workers include those responsible for safety at the rear of the refuse vehicles. Bin workers resumed the strike last week after the deal fell apart when the council said it was issuing redundancy notices to some workers on this grade. Unite described the news contained in a letter from the council’s interim chief executive as ‘deeply provocative’. Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “The last thing refuse workers want to do is resume industrial action and see piles of rubbish accumulating on Birmingham’s streets. This is their city too. Our members want to focus on delivering a safe efficient service to people of Birmingham.” He added: “Unite calls on the council to come to its senses and withdraw these redundancy notices to avoid the disruption of industrial action.” Concerns in the US over the vehicle safety risks to refuse workers led to a spate of new laws. Last year, New York State become the latest in the US to introduce a ‘slow down’ law to protect garbage workers. Slow down laws had already been introduced in 11 other states over the last decade in response to distracted driving that has led to sometimes fatal incidents for refuse collection workers.

Bins strike victory protects ‘vital’ safety role


Unite has said last week’s victory in the long running Birmingham bins dispute has protected a vital safety role. The union said that the city council had accepted the refuse workers’ case and restored the grade 3 jobs, which are responsible for safety at the rear of the refuse vehicles, leading to the suspension of the industrial action. Unite said the union and the city council would hold further talks at the conciliation service Acas to resolve outstanding issues. Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “We are very pleased that we have reached the stage where we can suspend the industrial action while we hold further talks about the future of the refuse service.” He added: “The council has addressed our members’ concerns, including the safeguarding of the grade 3 post that is vital to the safety at the rear of the refuse vehicles. Unite also welcomes the fact that our suspended rep is now returning to work.” The vehicle safety risks to the public and refuse workers has led to the introduction of specific new laws in in the US. Last year, New York State become the latest in the US to introduce a ‘slow down’ law to protect garbage workers. Slow down laws had already been introduced in 11 other states over the last decade in response to distracted driving that has led to sometimes fatal incidents for refuse collection workers.

Massive win’ for UNISON on ‘unlawful’ tribunal fees

Fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, following a long running legal challenge by the public service UNISON.  The government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants. It introduced the fees in 2013, saying the measure was intended to reduce the number of malicious and weak cases, but that led to a 79 per cent reduction over three years. Victimisation for raising safety concerns fell into the highest cost band, with a £1,200 fee to take a case. UNISON argued that the fees denied workers access to justice. In a ruling delivered on 26 July, the Supreme Court also found fees were indirectly discriminatory to women. It said the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is the most significant judicial intervention in the history of British employment law. This result is a massive win for our union and a massive win for all workers, whether they’re UNISON members or not. Working people who need protection the most – low-paid workers, the vulnerable and those treated poorly by their employers –  were denied access to justice by employment tribunal fees.” He added the ruling by the country’s top court “should bring to an end the cruel employment tribunal fees regime, and ensure that no-one else is ever forced to pay crippling fees just to access basic justice. But it is also a reminder of the importance of trade unions in fighting for all of our rights, and the importance of a legal system that allows us to stand with our members, and win for our members.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many low-paid workers couldn’t afford to uphold their rights at work, even when they’ve faced harassment or have been sacked unfairly. Tribunal fees have been a bonanza for bad bosses, giving them free rein to mistreat staff. Any fees paid so far should be refunded as soon as possible.”

the Grenfell fire investigation

Metropolitan Police Headquarters, New Scotland Yard,  8-10 Broadway, London, SW1H 0BG.

Hazards Campaign open letter to Commander Stuart Cundy in charge of the Grenfell fire investigation

Dear Commander Cundy,

The police investigation must investigate the Prime Ministers and ministers whose behaviour, actions and wilful disregard of warnings about the deadly consequences of their deregulation fetish that lead to decisions which caused the Grenfell fire.

We are pleased to hear you confirm that the starting point for your investigation into the Grenfell Tower investigation is ‘80 deaths by manslaughter.’  It is clear now that the overall model of regulation and enforcement of fire safety in buildings lies within a wider political context of government deregulatory initiatives that have undermined criminal health and safety law over a long period, and specifically accelerated since 2010.  Therefore we seek assurance that your investigation will look not only at all those individuals, companies and organisations directly involved in Grenfell Tower, but will examine the wider and crucial role of the ministers and their advisers on the deregulation of all types of health and safety law, enforcement and scrutiny, which form the environment in which the decisions that led to the Grenfell disaster took place.  This is a disaster which was foretold, that should never have happened and would not have done if the regulation and enforcement framework had been properly functioning to protect lives rather than serve business interests first.

Your investigation must seek to establish responsibility and culpability for this terrible tragedy that has taken many lives and damaged many more.  It seems clear that Prime Ministers’ setting deregulatory agendas in their manifestos, their speeches and their government programmes, plus Ministers carrying out those programmes, plus those specifically responsible for Housing and Fire Safety must be interviewed under caution.  Ministers who promised but failed to review the Building Regulations after the Laknal fire and failed to act after repeated warnings of potential disaster from fire experts and many letters from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue,  about the use of materials in high rise buildings without adequate safe guards in all aspects of their use, from specification, to installation to subsequent building, fire approvals and inspections, must be investigated.

We specifically seek assurance that this would include interviewing under caution ex Prime Minster David Cameron who repeatedly and vociferously ‘waged war’ on health and safety as ‘a monster’, ‘an albatross’, a ‘burden on business’ and which he vowed in his new year’s resolution of 2012 to ‘Kill off health and safety culture for good’   David Cameron set the ‘lite-touch’ political context in which regulations were viewed and policed.  Slashing the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, budget by a massive 33% in 2011 set the tone for the neutering of official policing of safety standards by the coalition government  . He established a programme of biased health and safety reviews, ‘Red Tape’ cuts, scrapping laws and dumbing down of guidance, plus slashing the budgets,  and restricting the enforcement activities of the HSE and the Local Authorities, while establishing business-oriented committees, advisory groups and programmes under the ‘Better Regulation’ agenda.

Others who must be interviewed under caution should include Prime Minister Theresa May who reaffirmed this deregulatory policy in 2016 and 2017, as ‘Cutting Red Tape’. and all ministers responsible for decisions on cutting health and safety in favour of reducing burdens on business, including, but not exclusively, ministers at the DWP, the DCLG, and those responsible for the Red Tape Challenge since 2010, those in charge of negotiating Brexit, plus any others who have made government sanctioned attacks on health and safety regulation and enforcement.  Of particular note is Oliver Letwin chairing a meeting under Brexit and the Red Tape Challenge on the deregulation of health and safety law for construction materials on the very day of the Grenfell Fire.

You are reported as stating that the criminal investigation would bring whoever is to blame to justice: “You can’t listen to the accounts of the survivors, the families, and those that lost loved ones, and listen to the 999 calls, like our investigation has done, and not want to hold people to account for a fire that should not have happened.”  We are pleased to hear this and insist that to honour this commitment, and to prevent other disasters, requires investigating and holding to account all those responsible for creating the deregulated health and safety environment including David Cameron and Theresa May and their ministers that have championed this model of corporate and governmental institutional neglect.

We will be pleased to provide more information on health and safety deregulation to your investigation team

Yours sincerely

Hilda Palmer, Acting Chair Hazards Campaign

June 11 – Davis Day

When Thomas Davis and his wife Annis and their family from Pillowell in the Forest of Dean decided to emigrate to Canada in 1890 they could not have known that their choice would have tragic consequences or that their personal tragedy would be remembered in Canada to this day. One of their boys, Thomas, would be killed in one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian mining history and another, William, would be shot dead by the police in one of the most violent strikes in Canadian labour history. In commemoration of William Davis’ sacrifice, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) designated the day in his honour, with miners in Nova Scotia vowing to never work on “Davis Day” ever again. His memory continues to be celebrated within the Canadian labour movement.

William Davis was born in Pillowell on 3 June 1887, the son of Thomas Davis, a miner, and his wife Annis Duffy who married in Parkend in 1865. The family also included seven children. These were, Sarah, Elizabeth,  James, Alice, Thomas, Clemantina, and Bertha. They all emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1890 where there were opportunities to gain work in the rapidly developing Canadian coal mines. They settled in Springfield and the men and boys started work in the mines. Another daughter, Beatrice was born in 1896. However, on 21 February 1891, just a year after they arrived, tragedy struck when Thomas, aged 14, was killed, at the Springhill Mine Explosion. The disaster occurred when a fire, caused by an accumulation of coal dust, swept through the mine killing 125 miners and injuring dozens more leaving behind 57 widows and 169 fatherless children. Some of the dead were between 10 to 13 years old. The scale of the disaster was unprecedented in Canadian mining history. One eyewitnesses  described the blast as being:

“preceded by a sudden gust of wind, which swept like a tornado through the dark passages, hurling   timbers and clouds of dust and flying missiles before it. This was followed in a few seconds by balls of  fire, large and small, and then came a solid body of fierce flame that filled the passages and literally roasted everything in its path.”

In the tunnels, the rescuers had to brave the threat of continuing fires and further explosions, as well as afterdamp which is a lethal mix of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen. Despite the shock of the accident, the mine returned to operations less than two weeks later.
When William Davis reached adulthood he gained work in the Cape Breton coalfields, also in Nova Scotia. In 1908, he was living in Dominion, Cape Breton where he married Myrtle McPherson who was born in Springhill. There was a long history of industrial unrest in the region. In 1876, 1882, 1904 and 1909 military forces had been sent to Cape Breton from the mainland to deal with disorder. However, after World War One, two new protagonists appeared on the scene. One was District 26 of the UMWA, representing 12,000 miners in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick which quickly became under the control of a number of fiery, articulate trade union militants. The other was the British Empire Steel Corporation (BESCO), the largest industrial consortium in Canada at the time. In the 1920s, there was a worldwide depression in the coal industry. As a result, between 1920 and 1925, BESCO had continually cut wages and this combined with the deplorable conditions in the mines led to 58 strikes between 1920 and 1925. In one strike, in August 1921, the settlement reached was hardly suggestive of a lasting peace. The union President later commented:

“The wage schedule was accepted by miners under the muzzle of rifles, machine guns and gleaming bayonets with further threatened invasions of troops and marines, with warships  standing to. The miners, facing hunger, their Dominion and Provincial governments lined up with  BESCO. . . were forced to accept the proposals.”

In March of 1925, Cape Breton coal miners were receiving $3.65 in daily wages and had been working part-time for more than three years. They burned company coal to heat company houses illuminated by company electricity. Their families drank company water, were indebted to the company store and were financially destitute. Local clergy spoke of children clothed in flour sacks and dying of starvation from the infamous “four cent meal”.

At the end of February, strikes flared when BESCO announced plans to further cut wages. Initially the strike affected only a few pits but BESCO inflamed the situation more when it refused credit to unemployed miners at its company stores and further reduced days of work at the collieries a full scale strike was inevitable. BESCO continued to refuse to concede to UMWA demands to maintain existing wage levels and insisted that it could not run the mines at a profit unless wages were reduced. BESCO was controlled by President Roy M. Wolvin and Vice-President J.E. McLurg who defended these conditions by stating:

“Coal must be produced cheaper in Cape Breton, poor market conditions and increasing competition  make this an absolute necessity. If the miners require more work, then the United Mine Workers of  America District 26 Executive must recommend acceptance of a 20% wage reduction.”

On 6 March 1925, the UMWA called out its 12,000 members in the region. UMWA strategist, J.S. McLachlan, argued a 100% strike was necessary to do battle with BESCO and called for the removal of all maintenance men from the collieries. He stated that if the company would not negotiate an end to this deprivation and hunger, the mines would slowly fill with floodwater and die. BESCO immediately cut off the sale of coal to miners houses and mounted a vigorous public relations campaign to blame the miners for their own predicament. Andrew Merkel, a reporter with the Canadian Press interviewed J. E. McLurg, then Vice-President of BESCO. In describing the strike, McLurg boasted to Merkel:

” Poker game, nothing, we hold all the cards. Things are getting better every day they stay out. Let    them stay out two months or six months, it matters not, eventually they will have to come to us. They can’t stand the gaff.”

The UMWA lobbied for intervention from the Liberal Provincial and Federal governments to no avail. The strikers picketed the pits to prevent blackleg maintenance men entering the pits to operate the pumping systems with a view of exerting pressure on BESCO to negotiate with the union. In early May, strikers smashed  a pumping system for three of the pits with sledge hammers leading to the flooding of the pits. In early June, about twenty pickets were arrested on the picket line. On June 3, 1925, the UMWA withdrew the last maintenance men from BESCO’s power plant at Waterford Lake. However, BESCO responded by turning off water, power and food supplies to New Waterford forcing the strikers and their families into near starvation. This action left the hospital filled with extremely sick children without power or water. For more than a week the town mayor, P.G. Muise, literally begged company officials to restore electricity and water to his townspeople. BESCO ignored his requests.

At this time, William Davis and his wife had 9 children and another one on the way. Davis was a skilled worker and had become active in his union. Thirty thousand men, women and children were now dependent on relief.

On June 11th, the UMWA called a meeting which was attended by miners from Glace Bay, Dominion, Sydney Mines and New Waterford. The union leaders agreed to send messages to both the Federal and Provincial Governments demanding they force the company to restore power, water and food supplies to the townspeople. Later in the day, drunken company police decided that they would teach the people a lesson and charged down Plummer Avenue on horseback, beating all who stood in their path. They rode through the schoolyards, knocking down innocent children while joking that the miners were at home hiding under their beds. At this time, company police were little more than hired thugs. It was the last straw. The miners and their families had little choice but to take the matter into their own hands.

On 14th June, 3,000 miners and wives marched to the company’s power facilities outside New Waterford, in an attempt to restore power and water. When the march approached the power station they were confronted by mounted company police who charged through the crowd at the same time firing over 300 shots. William Davis was shot dead and many other miners were injured.

The miners ran into the surrounding woods as if they were taking flight but in fact were manoeuvring behind the police, surrounding them and blocking them from returning to the power plant.  As the fighting continued the police were knocked off their horses and attacked. The police fled in every direction, pursued by miners and their families. As a result, the miners were able to get into the power plant to switch on the power to the town. They then cut the electricity supply to the pits bringing to a halt the pumping operations. The miners dragged the beaten and captured policemen back to New Waterford and took control of the town helping themselves to food from the company shops. The police were then held on the street, where according to the Halifax Herald, the women “belaboured them with their fists and sticks and other weapons”. The police were then taken to the town jail for their own protection and later sent to Halifax to avoid being lynched. Although a victory was won, the casualties were great. One man’s treatment by the police resulted in a broken back, another was shot in the arm, one was shot in the stomach and 22 policemen and 30 miners were injured. William Davis was dead. The next day’s Sydney Post described the event as:

” the result of five months of government inaction, corporation obstinacy, and the accumulated   desperation of hungry men….”

In the weeks following the shooting, company facilities were looted and vandalized, despite the deployment of the provincial police force and 2,000 soldiers in what remains Canada’s second-largest military deployment for an internal conflict (after the Northwest Rebellion). Practically all the available troops from Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario were sent to the scene. The authorities were particularly concerned about reports that the workers were in possession of a machine gun and that while there was no ammunition, a man had apparently left for Sydney to pick up extra munitions. The violence continued in spite of the presence of the military who were unable to take full control of the town. By  20 June, 175 warrants were issued for the arrest of persons on various charges of rioting and looting. The destruction was not wanton as only BESCO property was targeted. Most of the company stores were looted and several were burned to the ground. A similar fate befell BESCO warehouses, a coal bankhead, and two antiquated wash houses about which the miners had complained for years. In all, there were twenty-two fires, the last occurring on 30 June. Damages were between 500,000 and 1,000,000 dollars.

In early August, the government came up with a set of proposals as a basis for a temporary agreement including an interim contract based on 1922 wages and 1924 working terms. Also, it recommended a commission of  enquiry into the coal industry in the province with the brief of providing a long term solution. Both parties agreed to these terms and a the majority of the miners voted for a return to work. This represented a significant victory for the miners. Soon, quiet returned and, on 15 August, the troops departed. In the end, the only person   charged as a result of the disturbances was the policeman accused of killing Davis and he was acquitted. After a brief renewal of looting at BESCO company stores in January 1926, itself an indication of their desperation, the miners paused to digest the recommendations of the Commission. They had to swallow the original wage-cut.

Over 5,000 people attended Davis’ funeral. In commemoration of his sacrifice, the UMWA designated the day in his honour, with miners in Nova Scotia vowing to never work on “Davis Day” ever again. For the remainder of the 20th century, the pledge of never working on June 11 was maintained and Davis Day was observed as a holiday in the Canadian mining communities. Since the closure of Nova Scotia’s last coal mine in November 2001, Davis Day has evolved to become a remembrance day for all workers killed in mines in the province.

Ian Wright (Bristol Hazards Group)






Asbestos review shows ‘shocking’ official complacency

An official review of how the UK’s workplace asbestos laws are operating has exposed the ‘shocking complacency’ of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the TUC has said. Hugh Robertson, the union body’s head of safety, is critical of a proposal to reduce the frequency of the legally required medical examinations of those undertaking the highest risk ‘licensed’ work from every two to three years, which he says ‘seems totally irresponsible.’ He adds that he ‘was staggered by the level of complacency that there is throughout the review.’ A key concern is the repeated statement in the HSE document that the 5,000 UK deaths a year linked to asbestos are the result of past exposures when the carcinogen was “less well-regulated than today”. Robertson is also concerned that HSE fails to acknowledge that self-reporting of asbestos exposures can be misleading, as workers today are no longer working directly with asbestos so are far less likely to be aware of their exposures. While the paper concludes retaining the regulations is justified, “nowhere did the paper look at the possible effect of improving controls,” he says. “We did not get any calculations of the effect on death rates if the government were to require employers to remove the millions of tons of asbestos that is still in place.” He notes asbestos can be found in an estimated half a million workplaces and around a million homes. “Over 50,000 people have died in the UK from mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure, several tens of thousands more have died from lung cancer or other asbestos-related diseases. Tens of thousands more will die because of exposure that they have already had,” Robertson notes. “How many more will die over and above that will depend on what we do now. The fact that government and regulators see the status quo as the best option is a damning indictment of our health and safety system.”

TUC Stronger Unions blog. Post implementation review of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, HSE, 2017.

International Workers’ Memorial Day

International Workers’ Memorial Day is an annual trade union commemoration of those that have lost their lives at or as a result of work. It is marked on 28th April each year and special events to remember the fallen take place around the world, including in Bristol. This year we are hosting a public meeting to reflect on the relationship between business, the state and the labour movement. We have guest speakers talking about the blacklisting of trade union safety reps and the threat to the labour movement from state surveillance and infiltration.

6.30-8.30pm, Thursday 27th April 2017, CWU Offices, 20 Church Rd, Lawrence Hill, Bristol, BS5 9JA

For tickets or further details contact us at

A poster publicising the event can be found here: Behave


In Australia, workers who mined and processed asbestos were called “Snowmen” because they’d emerge at the end of every shift covered in the white fibres. The companies who employed those men – firms like James Hardie and CSR – knew that their product was deadly and caused cancer. They mined it, processed it and sold it anyway, until the Australian government, under pressure from the anti-asbestos movement of activists, unionists and lawyers, acted to protect public health. While asbestos is now banned in Australia, the industry still thrives overseas. In particular, growth is strong in our backyard of Asia, where poor nations are targeted by the new asbestos lobby of producers, manufacturers and their lawyers, some of whom are prepared to go to almost any lengths to protect their profits and peddle their poison. In this special New Matilda investigation, British journalist Michael Gillard and New Matilda editor Chris Graham reveal as yet unpublished details of a global spying operation on Australian and other international activists and officials, who remain locked in a battle to stop the trail of death and misinformation in poorly regulated Asian economies.

A SHADOWY private detective agency hired by a Kazakhstan multinational company linked to the asbestos industry has been spying on a United Nations health agency and the international anti-asbestos movement for the last four years, a New Matilda investigation can reveal.

Parliamentarians, public health officials, activists, academics, unionists, scientists and human rights lawyers from the UK to Australia were targeted between 2012 and 2016.

The global spying operation, codenamed Project Spring, was the brainchild of K2 Intelligence and run from its London office. It involved placing a corporate spy at the heart of the anti-asbestos movement, which for more than a decade has been building gradual momentum for a world-wide ban on the deadly mineral.

Robert Moore, the spy, posed as a journalist wanting to make a campaigning documentary about the nefarious activities of the asbestos industry in Asia, a growth market where the material is not banned.

Corporate spy Robert Moore, who for four years posed as a journalist to infiltrate the global anti-asbestos movement. He's pictured at an anti-asbestos conference run by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation, headed by Linda Reinstein. (IMAGE: T. Rich)
Corporate spy Robert Moore, who for four years posed as a journalist to infiltrate the global anti-asbestos movement. He’s pictured at an anti-asbestos conference run by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation, headed by Linda Reinstein. (IMAGE: T. Rich)

However, internal documents reveal that Moore’s real mission was to collect intelligence, which K2 then passed to its publicity shy client.

The UK courts have granted that client an injunction preventing them from being named and shamed, because of the reputational damage. However, that suppression order does not apply to publications outside the UK.

New Matilda has seen court documents, including a witness statement by Moore in which he identifies the client as the Kusto Group, a construction, oil and gas conglomerate owned by oligarchs from Kazakhstan.

Moore, 50, who was paid almost £500,000 in wages and expenses for his treachery, handed over sensitive documents and filed secret intelligence reports which helped undermine public health efforts by the UN’s World Health Organisation in Asia, where the Kusto Group operates.

The espionage scandal has rocked the global anti-asbestos movement who openly campaign against a bellicose industry, which for decades downplayed the health risks of exposure to the cancer-causing fibre and then fought compensation claims brought by affected workers and communities.


The targets

MOORE targeted Laurie Kazan-Allen, the renowned founder of the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS). He saw her as his way into the wider international network.

“Moore was given a passport resulting from his acceptance by me,” the 69-year-old American who lives in London said in a witness statement. “He has misled us and compromised our life’s work… I am gravely concerned that through my actions I may have, unwittingly, compromised the effectiveness and even lives of key Ban Asbestos activists.”

Moore claimed he was “well-connected” and could get funding for his documentary from prominent comedian friends and a hedge fund, Kazan-Allen recalled.

“An independent operator making documentaries in support of our movement seemed a godsend – too good to be true, we might think now. Another tool in his arsenal of persuasion was the revelation that his sister Charlotte Moore was highly placed in the BBC – in fact made Controller of BBC1 in 2013,” she added.

Kazan-Allen and a high-profile human rights lawyer even donated almost £10,000 to a charity, Stop Asbestos, which Moore set up as a “cover” to infiltrate anti-asbestos groups in Australia and Asia. The idea was secretly financed by K2 Intelligence.

In an initial briefing document on Project Spring prepared for K2 by Moore, he also lists individuals and organisations around the world who he believes may be useful to infiltrate the anti-asbestos movement.

New Matilda has confirmed at least three Australians – all of them union officials active in supporting the push for a world-wide ban on asbestos – were approached by Moore.

They are Barry Robson, a former senior official with the Maritime Union of Australia and the current president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia; Andrew Ramsay, a senior Queensland official with the CFMEU; and Andrew Dettmer, national president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

All three met Moore at an international anti-asbestos conference in Geneva in May 2015. Robson says Moore infiltrated a circle of Australian, British, French and Indian officials, who would meet after each day’s sessions for a beer.

“It’s so bloody expensive, Geneva. Everyone is on the black American express cards there. We’re just Trade Union officials, so we were all staying in the same hotel… and we couldn’t afford to go anywhere else, so we would meet in the car park of the Holiday Inn every night. This bloke and his partner would come in in a caravan selling fish and chips, but also Heineken and Guinness and red and white wine. That’s where would Rob would do his work.”

Robson says Moore would shout drinks, but be careful not to have too many himself. “He’d sit down, ‘Can I buy you a Guinness, blah, blah, blah. I want to talk about what you’re doing back there in Australia. He’d have a beer – just the one – and he’d sit on it.

“What was strange [is that you]never saw him with a notepad. You can see in the photo the way he worked.”

Corporate spy Rob Moore (third from left), pictured at Geneva in 2015. From left to right is Sue Murray (Unite The Union, Britain); Dave Trigg (Unite); Rob Moore; Andrew Ramsay (CFEMU Qld); Kevin Williamson (Unite); an unnamed Indian worker injured by asbestos; and Andrew Dettmer (National President of the AMWU).
Corporate spy Rob Moore (third from left), pictured at Geneva in 2015. From left to right is Sue Murray (Unite The Union, Britain); Dave Trigg (Unite); Rob Moore; Andrew Ramsay (CFEMU Qld); Kevin Williamson (Unite); an unnamed Indian worker injured by asbestos; and Andrew Dettmer (National President of the AMWU).

Robson had already met Moore at a conference in Washington a month earlier in April 2015 and was warned by the organizer to be wary of the journalist, whose presence had already raised suspicions. Moore had sat in on a series of filmed interviews with conference participants Robson recalled.

Andrew Dettmer – who was part of the group in Geneva – saw Moore again at another anti-asbestos conference six months later in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Court documents reveal Moore reported back to K2 from all three conferences, although none of the Australian officials he met are named in the Project Spring briefing document.

Two other Australians, however, are named in Moore’s original target list provided to K2 Intelligence – John Sutton, the former head of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and Robert Vojakovic, president of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia based in Perth. Neither could recall ever having any contact with him.


The spy company that ‘does no harm’

JULES Kroll and his son, Jeremy, founded K2 in New York in 2009. They claim clients are attracted by the corporate intelligence agency’s “ethical conduct”, “integrity” and an ethos of “do no harm”.

The agency employs retired law enforcement and intelligence officers and freelance journalists to conduct covert operations for blue chip companies at arm’s length.

The golden rules are don’t get caught and protect the client.

However, matters unraveled last September when Leigh Day, a London law firm working for asbestos claimants, was tipped off about Moore’s undercover activities.

Moore is currently being hauled through the UK courts to return all the confidential information he illicitly obtained from the law firm and IBAS.

The legal action panicked K2, which successfully obtained an injunction to prevent the identity of their client, the Kusto Group, from being revealed.

In a witness statement, K2 would only describe the client as a man “with interests in the chrysotile (white asbestos) industry”. It said he had a “legitimate” reason to investigate a suspected “corrupt association” between law firms acting for claimants suffering from asbestos-related diseases, substitute manufacturers and activists plotting to “destroy” the chrysotile industry in India and Asia.

K2’s lawyers also told the court that if identified their client feared “aggressive” retaliation from the anti-asbestos movement and irreparable reputational damage to other business interests.

Although the UK judge said the client must have been involved with K2 in “wrongdoing”, an anonymity order was granted and reporting restrictions imposed on the UK media only.


The Kazakhstan connection

YERKIN Tatishev, a 40-year-old Kazak entrepreneur, runs the Kusto Group. He made his name rescuing the Kostanai and Orenburg chrysotile mines in Kazakhstan and Russia respectively.

Kusto is headquartered in Singapore and claims a US$1.2 billion turnover. It has key building material and construction operations in Vietnam, where campaigners want to ban asbestos, and where Moore was active. It also owns a major paint supplier in Israel.

Yerkin Tatishev, the Chairman of the Kusto Group which hired K2 Intelligence to spy on the global anti-asbestos network.
Yerkin Tatishev, the Chairman of the Kusto Group, which Moore named in witness statements as the company which hired K2 Intelligence to spy on the global anti-asbestos network.

Tatishev himself has close links to Kazahk oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former politician and banker who stands accused of the largest fraud in global history. Ablyazov was found by the British High Court to have stolen at least £2.6 billion from Bank TuranAlem (BTA), Kazakhstan’s largest bank, of which Ablyazov was once Chairman and a major shareholder. At least another £3 billion remains unaccounted for.

Tatishev served on the board of BTA with Ablyazov, replacing his older brother, Yerhan Tatishev, who died in mysterious circumstances during a hunting trip in 2004. US diplomatic cables at the time, published by Wikileaks, speculate that the older Tatishev had helped Ablyazov liquidate his assets and move his money offshore in the early 2000s, before Ablyazov fled Kazakhstan claiming political persecution.

Ablyazov – a key political opponent to autocratic Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev – was sentenced to 22 months jail in the United Kingdom in 2012 for perjury, after he was sued by BTA over the missing billions. He fled England before he could be jailed, and was eventually arrested in France in 2013, but released in December last year after finally defeating an extradition order to Russia.

In 2014, a spokesperson for Yerkin Tatishev publicly denied any wrongdoing in relation to BTA. Kusto group media consultant Tal Rabina told Globes magazine in 2014, “Mukhtar Ablyazov was a member of the board of directors on a bank in Kazakhstan that was nationalized, together with a representative of the Tatishev family. At the same time, note that in contrast with the ongoing investigation against Ablyazov reported in several media, the entire investigation against other directors in that bank, including Mr. Tatishev, ended in less than 24 hours, with the legal authorities there making it clear to those under investigation that they had found nothing wrong with their activity, and the issuing of a written character reference. In order to remove all doubt, in contrast to Ablyazov, the Tatishev family members and the Kusto group are to this day accepted as respectable businessmen in Kazakhstan.”

According to press reports, in 2014 the Kusto Group was also investigated on suspicion of money laundering in Israel after purchasing a paint company at an apparently inflated price – 500 million sheckels, 200 million more than an offer from previous talks with a private equity firm – without allegedly having conducted any due diligence on the deal. There is no record of any prosecution of the company or individuals associated with it, and the Kusto Group has previously denied wrongdoing.

Tal Rabina told Globe magazine: “Both the Azrieli group and the various banks in Israel examined the Kusto group carefully both before and after completing the deal for the acquisition of Tambour. Following the clear findings of these inquiries, which found that all the sources of the group’s money were known and respectable, not only did they approve the deal, but they even proposed to finance it, even though the Kusto group intended from the start to finance the acquisition from its own resources.

“Incidentally, any state authority, such as the Money Laundering Authority, is obviously obligated to carefully check any information it obtains. As we have seen in recent affairs, however, the very transferring of any kind of information to the Authority, and even an examination of that information, if any was performed, does not indicate that this ‘information’ has any real reliability whatsoever. The group has received no official query in this matter whatsoever, but if one is received, we will be glad to cooperate with any authorised party.”

Multiple attempts by New Matilda to seek comment from the The Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority were unsuccessful.


Daniel Kunin, Managing Director of The Kusto Group and contact point for K2 Intelligence, according to Moore’s witness statement.

Daniel Kunin – K2’s point of contact with the Kusto Group – was Kusto’s public spokesperson for the Israeli purchase. Robert Moore names Kunin as K2’s client in his witness statement. “Two years ago, I found out that… Daniel Kunin was K2’s client. It took me another six months and a second trip to Thailand to realize he worked for Yerkin Tatishev, the owner of the biggest mines in Russia and Kazakhstan,” he said.

Moore also claimed in the witness statement that Kunin, Kusto’s managing director, first approached K2 in May 2012.

Matteo Bigazzi, an executive managing director in the K2 London office, then contracted Moore to infiltrate the anti-asbestos movement. It was his second assignment for K2, but the journalist was already in the betrayal business.


One of the family

MOORE, a Buddhist, claims he first became a corporate spy for hire in 2007 after an unremarkable television career producing comedy programmes.

He reinvented himself as a freelance investigative documentary maker. But this was really a cover to supplement his income by infiltrating activists and lawyers on behalf of a range of corporate intelligence agencies he has yet to name.

Moore received his secret orders for Project Spring from Bigazzi in person or through a Gmail account. Both men had the password to the account and Moore dropped documents and his reports in the draft folder, to ensure nothing was ever sent over the Internet.

In one of his first reports, Moore discussed with his K2 controller how to win over Kazan-Allen. “I am confident,” he told Bigazzi, “I can enter this world relatively easily and with a high level of legitimacy and credibility… If I am allowed to genuinely pursue a story and endeavour to get it commissioned it would add to my credibility with Kazan-Allen and, more importantly, the veracity of my cover.”

He continued: “The stand out story is the growth of the asbestos industry throughout Asia… how developed countries are pushing dangerous materials (that we banned) onto poorly educated people in poorly regulated developing countries. There is lots for a liberal minded TV producer to get angry about here.”

Robert Moore, pictured at the Asbestos Disease Awareness Foundation conference in Washington in 2015.
Robert Moore, pictured at the Asbestos Disease Awareness Foundation conference in Washington in 2015.

Kazan-Allen said she soon came to see Moore as “one of the family”. Before long, the veteran campaigner was introducing the spy at conferences in Brussels and Thailand. Moore later travelled to the US, Canada, India and Vietnam.

Unknown to Kazan-Allen, his real mission was to find out about potential legal threats from American and British class actions lawyers, including her brother, who represents US asbestos victims.


Targeting the UN

ANOTHER area of interest was gathering intelligence to neutralise the push by campaigners to add white asbestos to the UN’s list of materials harmful to human health, thereby requiring producers to obtain prior informed consent before they can export.

Moore specifically targeted the World Health Organisation (WHO), a UN agency, and the International Labour Organisation to see if they were funding law firms connected to IBAN.

In his witness statement, he said K2 instructed him in 2013 to find out what action WHO was planning to take on white asbestos in the Philippines and Thailand.


The spy gained the trust of leading health officials who, convinced of his integrity, later part-funded him to make two short asbestos films, which helped enhance his cover and access.

“Feedback from the client is very positive and they would like to continue to mine the WHO vein,” Bigazzi wrote in an email dated 19 July 2013.


Confidential access

ROBERT Moore wormed his way to the centre of the anti-asbestos movement and by the start of 2015 he was attending key policy and strategic legal meetings.

K2 had proposed a £185,000 budget to the client for the year. £105,000 alone was earmarked for Moore’s “monthly retainer”.

K2 Intelligence founder and Chairman, Jules Kroll.
K2 Intelligence founder and Chairman, Jules Kroll, who says he’s proudest of his company because it ‘does no harm’.

In the end, Bigazzi informed his spy that the client was only “prepared to go to the board and ask for a maximum of £160,000”. In return, they wanted Moore to focus on WHO, Vietnam, Thailand and other “pan-Asian intel”.

The spy agreed but was keen that K2 did not disclose his identity to the client in case they inadvertently blew his cover when using the sensitive intelligence he was providing. “We are now being given access to the most confidential information that is shared by an extremely (his italics) small circle. If any of this gets out we will be exposed,” he wrote in February 2015.

We are now being given access to the most confidential information that is shared by an extremely (his italics) small circle. If any of this gets out we will be exposed.” – Robert Moore, February 2015

By July, Moore appeared particularly jumpy. He reiterated to K2 the risk of discovery. “I think the ramifications would be particularly serious for us because of the approaches we are deploying to get inside information from one of the United Nation’s most important agencies,” he explained in a covering email attached to his latest report on WHO.

To further his “cover”, in late 2015 Moore set up the Stop Asbestos charity in the UK. He persuaded well-known campaigners and lawyers from Leigh Day and Doughty Street chambers to become trustees.

They believed Moore when he said the charity could raise funds for his research in Asia. However, in an email to his K2 controller, he wrote: “I believe we now have a cover that could take us through to the end of 2016 and visit all the desired destinations… I have now been invited to meet key parties in Australia.”

Renowned asbestos victims campaigner Dr Barry Castleman (holding flag), at a surprise 69th birthday party organised by corporate spy Rob Moore in Hanoi. Moore is pictured standing in the background.
Renowned asbestos victims campaigner Dr Barry Castleman (holding flag), at a surprise 69th birthday party organised by corporate spy Rob Moore in Hanoi. Moore is pictured standing in the background.

Dr Barry Castleman, an American expert on asbestos, met Moore at a conference in Vietnam. The veteran expert witness travels the world appearing for claimants. He has given evidence for victims of CSR, the owners of a blue asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia once owned by mining magnate Lang Hancock.

In Vietnam, the doctor warmed to Moore after the Brit arranged a surprise 69th birthday party.

Dr Castleman readily agreed to be a trustee of the charity.

Stephen Hughes, a British Socialist Member of the European Parliament, was also invited to become a trustee. The now retired parliamentarian was unaware that Moore had been reporting back to K2 on his anti-asbestos advocacy in the Brussels parliament.


Moore exposed

AS well as spying on asbestos activists, in late 2015 Moore took on a new paid assignment for K2: to infiltrate Global Witness, a human rights NGO, and Nigerian anti-corruption campaigners.

K2’s client was concerned about a bribery investigation involving a Nigerian Delta oil licence awarded to Shell and ENI, the Italian energy firm.

However, after passing several intelligence reports to K2, in June 2016 Moore suddenly revealed that he was a spy. During a meeting with Simon Taylor, the head of Global Witness, Moore admitted his corporate espionage for K2. He said he wanted to expose the asbestos industry and offered to work for the NGO as a double agent on the Nigerian case.

The offer was refused as Taylor felt Moore could be a triple agent and couldn’t be trusted. Global Witness instead urged him to “come clean” to all those he was betraying.

Meanwhile, Leigh Day was tipped off because of the risk to the anti-asbestos movement. In October, the law firm ignored Moore’s pleas not to sue him and launched legal proceedings for misuse of confidential information. Leigh Day, who is also acting for Laurie Kazan-Allen, demanded he return documents. So far over 35,000 have been handed over.

Dr Castleman recalled how Moore admitted spying for K2 when he confronted him by phone. “But he said along the way he had developed sympathy and didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know and was really on our side.”

Dr Castleman does not buy it. “Rob had been telling me up to that point he was onto a story connecting Russian oligarchs, Wall Street and people in London profiteering off asbestos. He never got round to explaining it and said it was all ‘hush hush’ the way you would if you are making stuff up.”

It appears that a spooked Moore first started developing an exit strategy from corporate spying in mid-2015. The plan involved reinventing himself as a whistleblower, much in the same way that he had reinvented himself as a campaigning investigative journalist in order to spy on people since 2007.

The need to get out of spying appears to be driven by a fear his cover had been blown – by 2015 some in the anti-asbestos movement were already beginning to suspect him.

Linda Reinstein, the co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation in the US, invited Moore to two of her conferences – one in 2013, and the second in April 2015 – after an introduction by Laurie Kazan-Allen.

It was Reinstein who warned Australian union official Barry Moore to “be careful”.

“There was definitely something amiss first time I saw him,” Reinstein said. “I watched how he wandered around – I’m a mum and a widow and a businesswoman, and I get strange vibes sometimes. I just knew that he stunk.”

At the second conference two years later, Reinstein said Moore drew even more attention – and suspicion – to himself. “He was taking pictures of everyone there. I told him that in all my years of organising conferences, I’ve never had anyone photograph everyone and every slide. He was out to catch as much data from our conference as he could get. He played me. He’d get an Oscar for his role as a spy.”

Andrew Dettmer, national president of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, came across Moore twice – once at an international conference in Geneva in May 2015, and then six months later in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Dettmer says that Moore ingratiated himself into a group of union delegates, before he (Dettmer) was forced to confront him. “At one stage, I had to take him aside and take him to task. He was basically trying to get us to do things, putting all these suggestions forward. At the time, I thought he was doing it for the purposes of making a more convincing documentary, but of course now I realize what he was trying to do was… direct us in particular ways that would potentially open us up to collateral attacks from the asbestos lobby.”

According to a source close to Moore, around this time, his partner was “worried” about his double life and he was anxious that his younger sister, the top BBC executive, would be tarnished by his unmanaged exposure.

So in May 2015, Moore approached a very senior British television executive from Mentorn Media, a leading production company, with the idea of making a hard-hitting documentary about the asbestos industry. He told the executive about his role as a spy but insisted he must not be outed.

Moore offered to provide inside information on the Kusto group while drawing wages for spying on the anti-asbestos movement. It was an offer that raised some very ethical questions.

Matteo BIgazzi, from K2 Intelligence... he was corporate spy Robert Moore's handler.
Matteo Bigazzi, from K2 Intelligence… he was corporate spy Robert Moore’s handler.

However, in the one year that Moore engaged with the TV executive, he produced no hard evidence of anything like the financial conspiracy story he had spun to Dr Castelman and others. Rather, the spy went on to set up the bogus charity, Stop Asbestos, and continued to submit invoices to K2.

In June 2016, the Mentorn executive introduced Moore to a senior journalist at the BBC’s flagship current affairs strand. He too was underwhelmed by Moore’s dossier of evidence and walked away when the project started to mutate into a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the spy’s journey to redemption. Moore even envisaged a heroic ending where he is filmed outing himself on stage at an anti-asbestos conference full of delegates he had spied on.

The whole scheme is not so surprising given Moore has claimed that since 2007 some TV companies and broadcasters were aware of his work as a corporate spy and saw it as a cheap and ethical way to research programme ideas.

In the end, no hard-hitting film was ever made with Moore about the asbestos industry. But neither did anyone in television respond like Global Witness to Moore’s confession by alerting those he was betraying. It is not insignificant that the Judas journalist’s last invoice to K2 was dated October 2016.

Moore told New Matilda: “I remain in an impossible position where I am prevented from discussing this case due to orders made by the Court to protect parties to these proceedings. I intend to abide by those orders. When all the facts can be made public, I will be in a position to tell the whole truth about these events. When I do so, I trust that my actions and the reasons behind them will become clear.”

K2 refuses to discuss its clients but has said it will defend the action brought by Leigh Day in the UK courts.

The Kusto Group has no office telephone number and an email that does not work. It has, however issued public statements in the past denying money laundering and any link to the BTA fraud, which can be read as part of a media report here.


Contacts burnt

RETIRED Australian union official, Barry Robson – like so many anti-asbestos campaigners – bristles with anger at the mere mention of Robert Moore.

“If I ever see him again, I’ll spit in his face. To me it was a trust thing. You think that he was going to make this documentary on banning asbestos around the world… I’m so angry about it,” says Robson.

Laurie Kazan-Allen, whose near fatal heart attack Moore reported back to his paymasters, is bruised but undiminished in her conviction.

“Let the asbestos profiteers be warned,” she said at a recent conference. “Ours is a legitimate, grassroots campaign supported by thousands of individuals around the world. Poisoning for profits is reprehensible, unethical and indefensible. Industry stakeholders can no longer hide behind their wealth or positions; you cannot silence those who have stared death in the face as they watched loved ones die excruciating deaths from asbestos cancer. Ban asbestos campaigners will not be bullied or deterred from their efforts to make the world a safer place.”

International Workers’ Memorial Day 2017

International Workers’ Memorial Day is an annual trade union commemoration of those that have lost their lives at or as a result of work. It is marked on 28th April each year and special events to remember the fallen take place around the world, including in Bristol. This year we are hosting a public meeting to reflect on the relationship between business, the state and the labour movement. We have guest speakers talking about the blacklisting of trade union safety reps and the threat to the labour movement from state surveillance and infiltration.

6.30-8.30pm, Thursday 27th April 2017, CWU Offices, 20 Church Rd, Lawrence Hill, Bristol, BS5 9JA

For tickets or further details contact us at

A poster publicising the event can be found here: Behave