UK news in briefs

Government 'war games' against the working class

The Cabinet Office has reportedly been carrying out ‘war games’ to prepare for possible strike action against sweeping cut backs. Plans have centred on ensuring there’s enough scab labour available to break strikes in key sectors. 

Ministers have already suggested they will tighten Britain’s already draconian anti-strike laws in the event significant strike action breaks out. A string of recent strike ballots have been ruled unlawful in the courts, using technicalities to annul majority votes for action. Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have threated to further tighten the law “as a last resort” if union bosses don’t co-operate.

Merseyside protest at planned plant closure

Problems at work No.1: Can the boss keep ignoring us?

I work in a textile factory that employs around 30 workers. We have complained to management about low temperatures, the lack of heating and poor ventilation but they ignore us and have threatened to victimise some workers. Some of us are members of a union, but there is no recognition. What are our options?

Whether you are in a recognised union or not, the first step for dealing with a health and safety issue is to establish what the problem is and how it is affecting workers. The best way to do this is for as many workers as possible to meet together to talk about the problems. The boss may immediately try and victimise any workers involved. Decide what, where and how to meet to get organised. Consider what contact you want with the union, if any.

It's Official; poor means skint

A recent government report into poverty paints a depressing picture of inequality in Britain.

The Acheson Report on Health Inequality, set up by New Labour, found that working class people die younger, and suffer more from lung cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes, and suicides than the rich. They also suffer more house vandalism, and their children are less well-fed, despite the fact that their mothers often go without. Children are less likely to have any form of pre-school education, and have less access to child care. Not surprisingly, after this start in life, they do less well at school. The list goes on…

Killing pays

Corporate manslaughter is good for business! Balfour Beatty, who had key rail maintenance contracts which indicate responsibility for the Hatfield train crash, have been rewarded for their lax attitude towards safety by being handed a £125 million contract by Railtrack. This covers Wessex, Kent, Anglia and Great Eastern, and appears intended to make up for the £60m in contracts they have lost since Hatfield. Meanwhile, the manslaughter charges are pending... 

Problems at work No.4 How and why could I start to raise health and safety issues at work?

The amount of Health and Safety legislation in Britain has increased over the last 20 years (much of it coming from the European Union). However, it is largely unenforced, so bosses can ignore it. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the government's official enforcement body and has a history of letting bosses off lightly. Even so, its own figures show that many accidents at work go unreported and the vast majority are avoidable.

Although the government and bosses clearly do not care much about our health and safety, the fact that the legislation exists means we have a chance to use it ourselves in order to improve our own health and safety, not to mention getting right up and tickling management noses in the process.

A Capitalist Crime against Humanity

Are you one of the 1 in 7 destined to suffer or die from this epidemic of capitalist killing? Three thousand people murdered in a year across the UK. A quarter of a million will die before 2020 across Europe. Meanwhile, millions of people are being killed across the world.

Surely, this needs a global response from a US-led multi-billion dollar action with full mass-media coverage. Surely, Tony Blair and George Bush should declare war on the ‘terrorists' who are causing this. Not a chance.

What kind of terrorist could keep up this murder rate? What sort of killer virus can be responsible? The mass murderer is capitalism, the killing machine is operated by the multi-national corporations, and the weapon they are using is asbestos.

Kasual Killing

Nothing demonstrates the both the inequity rife in Blair's Britain and the true blight of “asylum” seekers than the death of a 47-year-old man in a basement rubbish room of the Café Royal in London. For two years, while the rich dined in opulent splendour upstairs the man lived in the bowels of the hotel behind the rubbish bins.

When his naked and badly bruised body was discovered, police first though he had been murdered, before it was established that he lived naked due to the heat generated by the basement boilers and a post-mortem found that his injuries were consistent with a fall. The man had been an immigrant worker employed by an agency – one of thousands without papers who are forced to work for a pittance in hotels across London.

Government-funded deaths

The Centre for Corporate Accountability has revealed that, in the last 20 months, 9 apprentice workers - all under the age of 23 - have been killed on work placements as part of Government-funded courses. It is not known how many apprentices have been injured.

One of the deaths has resulted in a director and company being prosecuted for manslaughter. The trial is due to take place later this year at Exeter Crown Court. Another has resulted in the company pleading guilty to health and safety offences, whilst five of the deaths continue to be under investigation.

At the time, all of the apprentices were undertaking the work-placement part of their course/apprenticeship, and were on vocational courses funded by the government.s Learning and Skills Council, which funds all post-16 training and education for young people.

Formaldehyde kills

It has now been accepted that Formaldehyde, a chemical to which millions of workers are exposed to, causes cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer had already concluded that formaldehyde was probably carcinogenic to humans, but new studies have now found hard evidence showing that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans.

Formaldehyde is used mainly in the production of resins that are used as adhesives and binders for wood products, pulp, paper, glasswool and rockwool. It is also used extensively in the production of plastics and coatings, in textile finishing, in the manufacture of industrial chemicals, and as a disinfectant and preservative (formalin) used in labs and in morgues for embalming.