Socialist Worker

Corporate manslaughter law will change little but the label

Issue No. 2030

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill is currently rumbling through parliament. It was a key element of the Warwick agreement between Labour and the unions.

Since the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced in 1974, over 10,000 people have been killed in work-related accidents. Only 11 company directors have been convicted of manslaughter and only five have been imprisoned. The new bill will mean even fewer bosses will go to jail for killing workers.

The bill will prosecute companies instead of individual bosses. Fines will be imposed instead of jail sentences.

A damning report from Thompsons solicitors says, “No new sanctions will apply to the new offence and it will be far harder to secure a conviction for corporate manslaughter than for the existing health and safety offences. The only real difference will be the label.”

The report points out, following the Hatfield train crash, “it is likely that prosecutions under the new law would have succeeded. But it will be much harder to secure a conviction for corporate manslaughter than it is presently to secure convictions under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. But the fines are the same or more limited.” In other words, at best it would make no difference at all.

So much for Warwick.

Single status

Time for a united fight

The single status agreement signed by the unions in 1997 was supposed to level up pay for women workers in councils and local authorities. But the cruel reality is that it’s leading to cuts in jobs and wages.

According to the local government employers, the cost of the single status agreement is £5 billion more than they’ve budgeted for. Two thirds of local government bosses have so far done nothing about the agreement.

But the 31 March 2007 deadline is looming. The treasury has washed its hands – so across the country, bosses are driving down the pay of some to level up the pay of others.

Union leaders are now being forced to deal with thousands of low paid workers being attacked in the name of the agreement they signed up to. Instead of resisting cuts, the unions have fudged and prevaricated. When workers vote for strike action, as they did in Glasgow, the unions call off the action for limited concessions.

Workers need to link up across local authorities for a unified, militant fight for equal pay, decent pay and pensions – and they need to do it quickly.

Army recruitment

Leave those kids alone

Army recruiters are targeting schools in some of the most deprived areas.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Plaid Cymru discovered that schools in Swansea were visited ten or more times on average during the 2005-6 school year – while children in the better off Vale of Glamorgan were not visited at all.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Assembly defended army recruitment in working class areas as offering people “career opportunities”.

Nearly three decades ago Elvis Costello sang brilliantly about the army offering boys from the “Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne” just such “opportunities” to die for queen and country. Some things never change.

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What We Think
Sat 9 Dec 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2030
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