Socialist Worker

Hijacked health and safety fears

Issue No. 1869

GOVERNMENT PLANS are afoot to hijack a vital health and safety scheme and use it to spy on asylum seekers working in construction. The Construction Safety Certification Scheme (CSCS) was introduced to improve safety in construction-one of the most dangerous places to work.

But documents obtained by Socialist Worker show David Blunkett's Home Office wants to add a worker's immigration status to the card. Many asylum seekers work in construction and this move could force them into the even more dangerous unregulated section of the industry. Steven Kay, branch chair of the Prospect civil servants' union at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), told Socialist Worker:

'The Health and Safety at Work Act provides protection for all workers irrespective of employment status. People vulnerable to exploitation on the black market, such as immigrants, need extra protection. The only way to do this is to stamp out unsafe practices and catch the unscrupulous employers-this means HSE inspectors paying unannounced visits to workplaces.'

Kay added, 'Contractor passports such as the CSCS are a good way of improving standards and competence of workers, but immigration status is not relevant from a health and safety point of view. Prospect is campaigning against real terms cuts to HSE's budget and for increases in the number of inspectors so that there is a real threat that employers who exploit workers will get caught and stopped.'

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    Figure it out - 26

    One of the new directory enquiry lines (118 118) pays its call centre workers in the Philippines just £26 a week for working nine-hour days. The staff are made to improve their English by watching Harry Potter movies and are instantly dismissed if they speak their own language.

    Seven years of misery

    AN ITALIAN factory worker was taunted by racist abuse every day for seven years in a factory in Yorkshire. Salvatore Barresi won £37,000 compensation in a court case last week. He had teabags and wood thrown at him, was threatened with violence and called a 'fucking Italian bastard'. Yet the bosses at the factory, P Garnett and Sons in Otley, refused to listen to his complaints. Instead they demanded Salvatore work even longer hours.

    More homeless under Labour

    THE NUMBER of homeless people forced to live in bed and breakfast accommodation has trebled since Labour came to power. The government's own figures reveal that more than 11,610 households were living in bed and breakfast in the second quarter of this year.

    That compares to a figure of 4,100 in 1997 when Labour was elected. More than 10,000 people were resident in hostels and refuges in the same period this year-a rise of 14 percent from 2002.

    Steeled for terrorising

    THE US government has always cynically tried to justify its warmongering by using the 11 September attacks. Now it has gone a step further. It has actually melted down steel from the Twin Towers to use in a new US navy ship. The steel was salvaged from the debris at Ground Zero to use in building a £535 million new warship.

    Lloyd 'shot in the head'

    MANY THEORIES surround the death of ITN journalist Terry Lloyd-killed in the Iraq war-but now the truth seems to be emerging. It was thought Lloyd was killed by US troops who fired on the car he was travelling in with colleagues near Basra. US forces said they thought it was part of an Iraqi troop convoy. But Iraqi Hamid Aglan told the Daily Mirror that Lloyd was alive after this.

    He said Lloyd was killed in a subsequent attack by a US helicopter on the civilian-marked minibus he was using to drive the journalist to hospital. This claim is backed by an extensive investigation by ITN.

    Aglan said the experience was terrifying and added, 'The journalist would certainly have lived if I'd got him to hospital. He only had a wound in his shoulder, and was walking and talking to me. But after the helicopter attack, he stopped moving and was covered in blood. He was dead when we reached hospital 10 minutes later. Doctors said he was shot in the head.' Hamid Aglan says British forces ignored his evidence at first but are now treating his testimony as 'highly credible'.

    One big 'family'

    IS YOUR boss like David Brent from the TV series The Office? Certainly that's how secretaries view their bosses. A recent survey of 500 secretaries found them scathing about the abilities of their bosses. They said their bosses couldn't even perform basic tasks like sending an e-mail or using the internet.

    Nearly a quarter couldn't send an e-mail or surf the net, while a quarter had no idea how to put paper into a computer printer. Meanwhile big corporations are increasingly turning to pop music to try to make their workers work harder. A researcher at Warwick Business School says that bosses are making cover versions of pop songs into company songs to sing at corporate events and in special 'sing-along' sessions.

    AT&T, for example, has done a version of 'We Are Family' to supposedly boost morale. But apparently the policy is backfiring as workers have started penning their own lyrics against the bosses. 'Motivational songs are still derided as nonsense by employees,' says the research.

    In this week - Snapshots from history - 114 Years ago - 1889

    THE FAMOUS 'docker's tanner' strike ended in victory. Some 10,000 dockers in the East End of London had struck against poverty and casual labour. They won a minimum wage of sixpence an hour-the 'docker's tanner'-and a guarantee not to be hired for less than four hours. It was central in the development of today's unions.

    Who says?

    'Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini sent people on holiday to confine them.'
    Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prime minister on his love for the fascist dictator Mussolini

    'The fascist dictatorship was a ferocious one that killed and lethally wounded its leading political opponents.'
    Giorgio La Malfa leader of the Republican Party which backs Berlusconi's government

    'The briefing was biased and racist. They were out to get him whatever the cost. It was all hearsay and gossip. They had a fundamental dislike about who he was, rather than anything to do with corruption.'
    Peter Herbert, Metropolitan Police Authority on the police's case against Superintendent Ali Dizaei. The case collapsed this week

    'This is the saddest day for the Met post-Macpherson. At this time black and Asian people shouldn't join the Met. We're fed up with a load of platitudes and spin from the commissioner downwards.'
    Chief Inspector Leroy Logan, chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association

    'Do you see that now the Politburo is not in Moscow, it is in Washington?'
    President Aliyev of AzerbAijan, Bush ally and former member of the Soviet Union's Politburo

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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Sat 20 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1869
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