YCL North-West Organiser Owain Holland reports on the ongoing Con-Dem offensive on health and safety in the workplace and need for a fightback in the run up to 28th of April, International Workers’ Memorial Day.

Not content with cutting funding towards health and safety the Tory-led government intends to privatise the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). They have already chopped and changed the way the HSE operates and are promoting the idea that health and safety at work is mere “red tape” and “bureaucracy” that just gets in the way. The government will actually be assessing ‘whether there is a continuing need for the HSE’s functions’. The Tories’ push to deregulate health and safety at work has been condemned by the TUC as ‘stupid and dangerous’ and will no-doubt have a huge affect on conditions at work.

hseLast year two business pals of David Cameron were parachuted into the HSE from BP -the company best-remembered for the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even if you didn’t think this reeked of nepotism in and of itself, ask yourself how are two people previously employed to wring as much productivity from the workers by cutting corners in health & safety – as proved by the shoddy standards exposed at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico – supposed to run an organisation responsible for workers’ safety?

The government wants to cut ‘red tape’ and regulations that are supposedly a barrier to business. They are targeting this particularly at small businesses who they say are struggling under burdensome H&S regulations when in fact small companies are more likely to flout regulations in the first place and, incidentally; less likely to have high rates of union membership. Workers in small businesses are already vulnerable and it is evident that these sort of companies need to comply more with existing regulation. Needless to say cutting regulation will not help protect those working for small businesses.

Having lost patience with all their previous means of undermining conditions for working people, the ruling class via their spokesperson Cameron have announced that they will be carrying out the scrapping of 800 safety regulations, bringing us much nearer to their ultimate aim of carrying us back to Dickensian conditions in the name of profit. This is after Martin Temple, the government’s hand-picked man-for-the-job announced that the HSE was ‘fit for purpose’ suggesting that the reduction in HSE funding has reduced the amount of pro-active work being undertaken meaning the organisation has been forced to take a reactive approach, only tackling issues after accidents have happened.

The government flew into a rage at Temple’s recommendations asking him to change the results of his report, something he was not willing to do. As a result they have dismissed him to be replaced for someone ‘who will share their zeal for greater commercialisation’. In other words; someone who will help hamstring the HSE and endanger the lives of working people. If you ever needed more evidence to prove that the Conservatives were not, as they like to claim, ‘for hardworking people’ then you need look no further.

The YCL says don’t let the Tories threaten your welfare at work. Unionise and join in the struggle for workers rights which starts now. The 28th of April is International Workers’ Memorial Day where we commemorate those who never came home from work and fight for the rights of those still at work.

Commemorate the dead, fight like hell for the living!

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