Socialist Worker

Nine months - the price of two lives?

Issue No. 1872

WHAT IS the normal penalty for killing two people?

A factory owner has been given a nine month jail sentence for manslaughter after two workers died from inhaling toxic fumes during an unsafe paint stripping operation.

Ghulum Sarwar, aged 23, and Mumtaz Hussain, aged 42, were working at Ian Morris's paint stripping firm ENG Industrial Services in West Bromwich in the Black Country.

On 18 August 1999 the two were on a night shift removing paint from aluminium wheels. This involved placing the wheels in a tank containing highly toxic chemicals.

When the men's workmates arrived the next day they found the workers dead in the rest room.

Toxic fumes had spread from the processing area into the rest room, killing them.

The court head that the incident happened because the firm was grossly negligent in failing to establish a safe system of working for the paint stripping operation.

Boss Ian Morris should have beeen aware of the dangers involved, the court in Birmingham heard.

The workers did not have any testing equipment to measure the concentration of the chemicals. There were no records either of anyone monitoring the contents of the tanks of chemicals, the court heard. Two extractor fans were also not working.

The Health and Safety Executive had issued Morris with an improvement notice five years earlier over paint stripping.


The number for chaos

ONLY ONE month ago the government allowed directory enquiries to be opened up to private firms to compete to offer the service.

It has, predictably, led to a worse service and to attacks on workers.

Last week saw revelations that staff at The Number which owns the 118 118 service, had been under such pressure to meet internal targets that they hung up on customers or gave out the wrong number.


Senior managers are already blaming employees.

The firm has poured money into their advertising campaign with two lookalike athletes. But it is paying call centre workers doing the work an £11,000 a year average salary.

Staff have to deal with callers in less than 40 seconds to qualify for a bonus.

The bonus can amount to as much as 15 percent of their wages.

This means many are under constant pressure to move on to the next call at any price, leading some to give out the wrong number in desperation.

After complaints from callers, the managers have decided to take it out on the workers. Some 60 workers have been sacked in Plymouth and Cardiff. Around 30 more face disciplinary hearings.


No clothes

THE HOWARD League for Penal Reform charity has exposed exactly what David Blunkett's 'tough on criminals' rhetoric means.

The league is having to use its own funds to ensure women prisoners have clothes to wear.

The charity has spent £4,000 on clothing for girls and young women this year because the prison service does not provide basic necessities.

The league has already blown its £2,500 budget for emergency clothing on basics like underwear and pyjamas.

Those in need include a 16 year old young woman who has lived in 14 different children's homes and who was three months pregnant.


Roofless

LIVERPOOL University looking to the private sector to provide student accommodation has led to chaos.

Students had to pay £1,500 in advance to secure a room in new student accommodation.

But private contractors Unite Group had not finished the building by the start of term, leaving 195 students without anywhere to stay.

Unite was forced to offer the students temporary accommodation in hotels.

Verity Coyle, student union vice-president, said, 'The whole push towards public-private partnerships results in institutions divorcing themselves from their responsibilities.'


Figure it out

5 billion is the amount British Energy, Britain's nuclear energy electricity producer, is getting in a government-backed rescue plan to stave off bankruptcy.

And this is the same government that tells us there is not enough money for public services.


The poacher as gamekeeper?

THE PRESS Complaints Commission is supposed to maintain high standards in the British press.

So readers may be surprised to learn that the newest member of the commission is the editor of the Daily Star, Peter Hill.

Press Complaints Commission chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, thinks the Star editor has had a 'long and distinguished career'.

If you want to complain about degrading pictures of women, endless stories about celebs instead of news and the attacks on asylum seekers, you know Peter Hill is the man to speak to.


A real story of rail success

THE STRATEGIC Rail Authority, New Labour's answer to the chaos caused by rail privatisation, is clearly suffering from severe delays in its information.

A recent issue of its glossy brochure Everyone's Railway ran quotes from Lydia, a student talking about how she and other pupils use the Esk Valley rail line to get to school.

Except the North Yorkshire council has withdrawn 60 children's rail passes for the Arriva service due to overcrowding. Now the children have to travel by bus.


Target this gun culture

NEW LABOUR'S crime crackdown will clearly be targeting a new magazine with the front page strap 'Where to shoot, how to shoot'. The magazine has a buyers' guide to the latest weapons.

Is it a new gangsta publication for inner city youth?

No. It's for the huntin', shootin', and fishin' set in the countryside.


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 11 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1872
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