Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why health and safety at work matters

The earliest legislative victories of our trade union movement, more than a century and half ago, were around health and safety regulation. The shocking news from Bangladesh, where over 120 workers have died in a factory fire is a reminder of the conditions in manufacturing in this country before those victories.

The workers in the Indian subcontinent are not separate from our economy – they are an integral part of the supply chain leading to many of the purchases which will be made this Xmas. The same companies which employ many workers in the UK are prepared to tolerate appalling working conditions in jurisdictions where they can get away with it.

The approach of the Coalition Government is to seek to water down legislative protection for the health, safety and welfare of employees(and others). Those of us coping daily with the threat of redundancies and privatisation (however it is dressed up) may have little time with which to try to protect the health and safety gains of past generations.

However, with injuries increasing even as economic activity has declined, we need to continue to fight the battles which our predecessors fought in the nineteenth century (and to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world who are experiencing the sort of “light touch” regulation of health and safety to which Cameron and Clegg aspire).

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