Regulation of Health, Safety and Welfare

From Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary ...

In the final days before the General Election I would remind you of the stance taken by the Conservative Party with regard to protecting workers health, safety and welfare. The Tories have repeatedly diminished workers rights when in power and were responsible for the harshest erosion of protection via their sustained attacks on trade union legislation during the 80s and 90s.

Cameron and other senior Tories have recently made spurious claims that Health & Safety legislation is in crisis and that we have a culture of ‘over-compliance’. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of people injured each year at work!

The Tories plan to strip away H&S legislation and in particular the laws on Risk Assessment. Anyone who believes that there is a culture of over-compliance needs some basic lessons in the reality of working life. Last year 30 million days were lost due to injuries and ill-health caused by work. And a quarter of a million people were injured at work. These were caused by employers failing to comply with health and safety regulations.

Cameron’s Conference speech of 2009 made various attacks on Health & Safety legislation and trotted out the tired old chestnut (pun intended) of ‘children being forced to wear goggles when playing conkers in the playground’. Even the original author of this tale has admitted he made it up. Cameron’s most brutal attacks would be on existing Health & Safety legislation. Instead of strengthening Safety Reps’ rights – which is what the TUC has been calling for since the Health & Safety at Work Act was first adopted – Cameron would happily remove the legal duty of employers to carry out risk assessments, remove the duty on local authorities to alert the public to ‘obvious hazards’ (obvious to who?) and bring some good old ‘common sense’ to compensation.

An examination of the speech shows that the Tories are buttering up big business in their deregulation approach promising to undo tried and tested legislative support for workers in their desperate drive for government. You have been warned. Use your vote wisely on May 6.

Yours sincerely

Bob Crow General Secretary