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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 February 2014

Working nights is bad for your health

A nurse

For years scientists and trade unions have compiled a growing body of evidence, warning of the dangers of night shifts.

Diabetes, heart disease and cancers are commonly associated side effects, with some estimating night shifts can take up to five years off a worker's life.

Of course some services have to be running 24 hours a day. People do not get sick, have fires or experience crime exclusively within office hours.

However, the sacrifice made to their health by those key workers must be properly compensated.

A measly time-plus-a-third for nurses, midwives and paramedics who work a Saturday night shift is an insult to NHS workers, consistently putting patients' health and wellbeing ahead of their own.

In the NHS and other emergency and care services, 24-hour cover is a necessity. However, in many other workplaces, night working is used as a way of squeezing ever more profit out of staff, by implementing permanent business hours, regardless of the cost to workers' health.

Many workers feel they have no choice but to do nights. Poverty pay, bullying bosses and lack of affordable childcare during the day mean that for many, night shifts are the only way they can bear the increasing cost of living.

The profit motive means that many employers are happy to exploit these conditions, while lining their own pockets at the same time! It's the bosses' low pay, long hours, anti-worker agenda that creates a 'willing' pool of night staff.

It's the bosses, shareholders and private backers who are the main beneficiaries of night working, yet it's night workers who pay the real price.

Although the bosses would argue they cannot afford to pay staff more just for working at night, the profits generated through 24-hour production should be divided up between those who are actually doing the work.

In the past, workers have taken action to demand better pay and in some cases, abolition of night work.

The trade unions need to launch a serious, coordinated campaign of action around not just night shift pay but combatting the reasons many workers feel they have to work nights.

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In The Socialist 19 February 2014:


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Working nights is bad for your health

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