Socialist Worker

Nothing for those in peril on the sea

Issue No. 1885

A NORTH Sea helicopter rescue worker who has saved hundreds of lives faces eviction from his home. He was "unceremoniously dumped" by his employer when he could no longer work because of injuries sustained during rescues.

John Boulton is a 47 year old search and rescue helicopter crewman with the Bristow company, based in the Shetland Isles. It covers the hazardous North Sea oilfields.

Rescue helicopter workers often sustain injuries when they are dropped onto cliff faces or bounced around on decks at sea.

John's union, the Balpa pilots' association, had an agreement with Bristow. If John became unable to fly he would receive a compensation package of four times his annual salary. The company is now refusing to pay this, and the union is backing legal proceedings against Bristow.

"I am deeply hurt by the company's attitude," says John. "We risk life and limb, time after time, year after year, and because my injuries eventually made it impossible for me to do my job the company decided not to deal fairly with me but to unceremoniously dump me."

Bristow also own the home John lives in on the Shetland Isles, and want to evict him. They refused John's offer to pay rent to stay there.

Bristow is owned by US multinational Offshore Logistics, which made $16.8 million profit in the six months to last September.

Gun lessons in school

PRINCE PHILIP and his gun-toting chums have landed in hot water after they terrified schoolchildren during a shooting party at the Queen's Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

The children at the St George's Middle School were out at playtime in the school yard which adjoins the royal estate. They were left in tears when suddenly guns started going off and pheasants started tumbling from the sky.

Around 15 of the distressed schoolchildren fired off a letter to the queen and Prince Philip. One 10 year old girl wrote, "What have pheasants ever done to us?" Another said, "We are disgusted that hunters went out shooting wildlife in front of our eyes at playtime. Lots of us were extremely upset."

Headteacher Carol de Witt also joined the protests. "The children were obviously upset and we had some in tears. I also had concerns about the children's safety because there were guns in close proximity to the school," she said.

A royal spokesman merely said, "Shooting is a private thing and we do not normally talk about it."


'Be the best'

A COURT case in Swansea has given a glimpse into the British army.

Trainee soldier Kevin Sharman drowned on an underground caving exercise he was ordered to take part in even though he could not swim.

Army instructor Matthew Doubtfire faces manslaughter charges, which he denies. "As part of his basic training Kevin had to swim 200 metres and tread water for two minutes. He failed," prosecuting barrister Christopher Vosper told the court. "He did not swim at all, and on his army records 'non-swimmer' is recorded against his name."

The barrister described how the recruits were taken in July 2002 to the Porth-yr-Ogof cave complex, where many people had previously died.

The court heard that the defendants and Kevin went into the caves together. He made a leap from a ledge and seemed to struggle to swim for five to ten metres. The army instructor, Matthew Doubtfire, "took hold of Kevin but lost his grip on his caving suit".

A cave rescue team was called and Kevin's body was pulled from the water an hour and a half later. The trial continues.


Watch out for psycho boss

IS YOUR boss a "corporate psychopath"?

Harassed workers may want to try the new "B-Scan" test devised by two top psychologists. Dr Paul Babiak says that the key traits to look out for are "insincerity, arrogance, manipulative behaviour". Sound familiar when you think of your boss?

The only problem though, says Dr Babiak, is that "all these things are valued in business".


Sackings are in the tea leaves

A FORTUNE teller in Belgium has sparked a panic by warning that Ford the car maker is planning 800 job cuts this year.

Ford denied the plan, and perhaps we shouldn't take the musings of a mystic too seriously. But the same fortune teller, Irena Leavens, predicted last year that Ford would sack 3,000 workers at its plant in Genk in Belgium.

Ford denied that too. Then later in the year the company sacked 3,000 Genk workers.


Ipod miracle that wasn't

APPLE'S IPOD gadget is one of the company's biggest sellers. It's basically a mini-computer that stores and plays music.

But consumers are now up in arms, after discovering that the fancy battery inside the Ipod runs out much more quickly than they expected. Worse still, the only answer is to buy a new battery from Apple, at a cost almost as much as the Ipod itself.


Figure it out

£6,700

The annual pay gap between women and men in Britain today.

The Equal Opportunities Commission reported last week that almost 30 years after the Equal Pay Act women are still paid on average £559 a month, or £6,700 a year, less than men.


IN THIS WEEK - 180 YEARS AGO - 1824

IN THE British scramble for Africa they faced determined resistance from the Ashanti in West Africa.

On 22 January 1824 the Ashanti had a stunning victory in the battle of Nsamankow. They massed 10,000 troops to beat the British forces. They not only outnumbered the British, they also had superior tactics.

The Ashanti encircled British governor Charles McCarthy. He tried to win them over with a chorus of "God Save the Queen". This had no impact on the Ashanti, who finished him off and used his head as a prize in the annual yam festivals that followed.


Who says?

"I feel as if someone is directly responsible and he felt he couldn't give me any answers as to who was responsible."

  • SAMANTHA ROBERTS, the war widow calls on Geoff Hoon to "consider his position"

    "The government believes that renationalisation would not solve the problems the railway faces."

  • ALISTAIR DARLING

    "I could count the politicians I have met who are worthy of respect on one hand."

  • TERRY WOGAN, in Women's Weekly

    "A savage attack on the political establishment that would do credit to the Socialist Worker."

  • THE SUNDAY TIMES, on Wogan's insights

    "He is not the worst, he is by far the worst. I am incandescent with anger with him."

  • TAM DALYELL, veteran MP says Blair is the worst PM he has known

    "All the people they killed were civilians. They were simple villagers. They were not Taliban."

  • ABDUR RAHMAN, district chief after a US bombing raid killed four children and three women in Afghanistan last week

    "They have had it for nearly 100 years. It's a bit like Hong Kong-the time has come to give it back."

  • LORD BRABAZON OF TARA demands the plush Pugin Room bar back from the Commons for the Lords


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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Sat 24 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1885
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