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April 11th, 2011:

People die when health and safety regulation is removed

Reproduced below is an article from the Guardian Online by Rory O’Neill which discusses the implications of the Governments cuts in public spending, this is why we marched on 26th March.

Full article available here

A scalping or amputation is unlikely to be investigated now – under Chris Grayling’s regime how bad will an injury have to be?

Pesky safety regulations and meddling inspectors are bringing the economy to its knees and stifling job creation, or so the business lobby says. And it has received a sympathetic ear from the government, which this week announced a giant stride towards safety lawlessness at work.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspections will be slashed, red tape will be cut and most firms will be assured an inspector will never call. All for safety’s sake.

There are three large flies in this deregulatory ointment. The arguments are bogus, the statistics behind them are rigged and there’s enough couldn’t-give-a-damn employers out there to ensure millions suffer work-related health problems each year.

Still, this hasn’t stopped the government scuppering a system it acknowledges has delivered one of the world’s better workplace safety records. Never mind that safety regulations properly enforced are accepted to be the best way to make employers behave safely.

Launching the “Good health and safety, Good for everyone” strategy, employment minister Chris Grayling instead said Britain’s health and safety culture was “stifling business and holding back economic growth“.

And unsurprisingly, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which publishes an annual off-with-their-regs manifesto, was among those to welcome the new strategy.

The most recent edition of BCC’s “Business burdens” report estimates workplace safety regulations lead to a recurring annual cost to business of £374m.

It sounds a lot. But BCC’s sums are seriously skewed.

BCC discounts entirely from its calculations the benefits to business from safety regulation, an omission it only acknowledges in the small print.

Whether it is safety-driven innovation, not making workers sick or not haemorrhaging valuable skills, there are real business benefits to not maiming your staff.

BCC ignores too the cost paid by the victims of slack health and safety standards. This human price outstrips the business cost several times over .

There’s the crunch of breaking bone in a workplace about 80 times every working day. Eyes or limbs are lost at work at a rate of two a day. Official figures indicate last year 1.3 million workers were harmed by their work, an increase on the previous year.

And these are just the injuries employers own up to – under-reporting is acknowledged to be rife.

There’s also a cash cost.

In Britain, occupational cancers alone cost society several billion pounds every year. Add in work-related heart and respiratory disease, mental illness and injuries and BCC’s costs complaints seem trivial bordering on ludicrous.

In fact, the total cost of neglecting workplace health and safety barely falls at all on business – the one party with something to gain from cost- and corner-cutting at the expense of safety.

HSE estimates less than a quarter of the cost of work-related injuries and ill-health is borne by employers, falling instead on “individuals and society”. And some recent evidence suggests this “cost-shifting” by business could be costing the rest of us considerably more.

When business and government frame health and safety protection as a job killer, rather than its absence as a killer full-stop, this keeps the real costs – people who get sick and die – safely out of the argument.

Safety enforcement was in crisis before the latest lurch toward lawlessness.

The prospects of a workplace seeing an HSE inspector last year slipped to once in a working lifetime. Just one in 15 major injuries at work – a scalping, blinding, the loss of a limb or two – resulted in a visit.

At the same time, HSE prosecutions sank to a record low, with just 735 convictions secured.

The workplace is already a safe haven for most rogue employers. Further deregulation will amplify the injustice, but that’s just what the government wants.

A 21 March ministerial statement from Chris Grayling noted the government would now concentrate “on dealing with serious breaches of health and safety regulation”.

If a scalping or an amputation is already unlikely to receive a knock at the door from HSE, under the new regime just how serious will an injury or breach have to be before an inspector calls?

Business over-estimates costs and ignores benefits with a purpose. It doesn’t want regulations and it doesn’t want enforcement. It has a government and a minister keen to oblige.

Somewhere down the line, people die when regulatory protection is removed.

That is not a burden on business, it is a burden on families and a burden on the state.

That’s the ultimate capital crime.

Julie Burchill: The unions have been demonised, so the bullies have taken their place

Reproduced below is a piece from the Blog of the Independant’s Julie Burchill.

The original article is avilable here

As I think I might have mentioned before, I come from a trades union family, and while my dad had the theory down and wasn’t above a bit of secondary picketing, my mother lived and breathed the struggle for workers’ rights. Or, as we call it today, Going Off On One Big Time.  I can’t recall the number of times I’d get home from school expecting to be greeted by an Individual Bird’s Eye Chicken Pie and my dad preparing to leave for his nightshift at the factory only to see my mum – who should have been at work – gesticulating wildly over the fence to the neighbour. My dad would look at me and smirk: “Boss looked at her funny again!”My mum was forever downing tools and marching out of her shop or cleaning job because the boss had allegedly Looked At Her Funny. The nature of this funniness was never wholly defined but we assumed that it was something to do with the boss feeling that he was in some way better than her. And as anyone who had ever seen her sing “My Canary’s Got Circles Under His Eyes” could have testified, this was provably ludicrous.

I don’t miss much about the past, but I do miss the days when workers had the nerve to walk out of a job on a whim because they knew that they could walk into another the next day. I’m thinking of that this week because my friend’s 22-year-old son is currently involved in an appeal against his employers. Not only did his boss look at him funny, but the manager of the shop where he works for some reason saw fit to harass, bully and physically attack him over a prolonged period of time until earlier this year he had a nervous breakdown. Mick Molloy of the GMB, who has been representing him, says: “I would liken the ‘relaxed’ working practices of this company to Lord of the Flies on the shop floor” – and this is not a man given to dramatic pronouncements. We keep hearing – most recently from Jamie Oliver – that today’s youth are pampered little potentates who are afraid to get their hands dirty and expect jam on it, with a level of entitlement unseen in any generation of workers before. But with the unions weakened and demonised, the reality is that the modern workplace is a tragic kingdom of exploitation, especially for the young. Lured by promises of “perks” and the camaraderie of “team spirit”, in reality what they get is very long hours for very little pay and if, like my friend’s son, you happen to work for a slap-happy scumbag, you will have to endure verbal and even physical abuse disguised as BANTER, because WE’RE A FAMILY HERE! (That would be the Manson Family?)There seems to be a special and unexpected tendency for self-consciously hip and liberal workplaces to go in for such vile behaviour. The artist whose work you see here has a friend whose first job was at a design company, of all places, where the boss’s chosen method of team-building was screaming into his employees’ faces “YOU’RE USELESS, I’LL KILL YOU!” followed some time later by “If I shout, it’s only BECAUSE I CARE!” A few months in and this man – “a 6ft-plus shaven-headed bloke!” – had developed a nervous stutter; a decade on, the experience still haunts him.When my friend’s son went to the police to report the physical assault by his boss which was the final straw, he was rewarded by a letter from them some weeks later which told him that even though the bully had admitted the offence, they would be taking no further action against him. At the appeal last week, according to Mick Molloy: “The individual who took the meeting had little or no knowledge of any of his own company’s protocols and procedures and talked amazingly at one point how the experience was ‘a learning curve for him’ and that it would ‘enrich his personal development’. They have found that the young man WAS assaulted but allowed the manager to continue working at the store. This company clearly leaves its employees to ‘get on with it’ – with disastrous consequences. The exploitation of the very young by the highly untrained certainly seems to be the key to the success of this company. Sadly they are not alone.”My mum may have taken it a bit too far at times, but how much better were the days in which workers walked out of jobs just because the boss looked at them funny than the days we live in now, when bright, sweet young men like my friend’s son are driven to the point of considering suicide because their boss is allowed to bully them with complete confidence and impunity. Progress, don’t you love it!

IfL latest 11/4/11

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