A MASSIVE blast last week destroyed a four-storey factory in seconds. Nine workers at Stockline Plastics in Maryhill are dead and 40 others have been maimed or badly injured. The carnage happened in a densely populated part of Glasgow. It has stunned the city.
This tragedy could have been prevented. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served a notice on the factory owners in February 2000. It called on ICL Plastics, the parent company, to improve safety for employees exposed to hazardous chemicals. Laurence Connelly has worked there for ten years. He says this accident "was waiting to happen".
For two years he has been "creating a stink and complaining to the HSE about the misuse of chemicals". But the bosses made his life a misery and branded him a troublemaker. He even called the HSE a week before the accident but got no reply to his complaint. Yet last Tuesday lunchtime an industrial gas oven exploded. Near it were stored large barrels of highly flammable cleaning fluid and bags of flammable plastic coating powder.
Dr Charles Woolfson, head of the European Centre for Occupational Health, Safety and the Environment at Glasgow University, says, "Explosions of this magnitude occurring in a densely packed area raise questions about the control of industrial hazards. Clearly there's been a failure of safety management. That is a matter of deep concern."
This is not the first time that ICL Plastics has dealt in death. A few years ago Channel 4's Dispatches programme revealed the Maryhill factory was exporting electric shock batons and torture equipment to China and other repressive regimes-equipment that had been banned in Britain.
The Maryhill explosion was caused by the relaxation of proper planning controls, the deregulation of safety legislation, and the encouragement of union busting by the Labour government and a Labour-controlled council.
Why is Respect gagged?
I WAS really angry when Respect: The Unity Coalition were not allowed on the platform of the University of London Union's hustings last week. A group of students and young people from Respect went down to protest and to try to get Respect on the platform.
Despite a fair amount of support from the 150-strong audience, and mayor Ken Livingstone, Respect was denied a place by the ULU president. The platform had candidates from the three main parties, Greens and Christian People's Alliance. Yet they said no to Respect!
Unfortunately this is part of a pattern. Amnesty International, Transport 2000 and the London Civic Forum have all got hustings coming up, and are so far denying Respect a place on the platform. The Greater London Action on Disability (GLAD) have also refused to allow Respect's partially-sighted candidate Waqas Hussein at their hustings.
The only organisations who have invited us are Operation Black Vote, Muslim Council of Britain, Just Peace and CND. The London Pensioners Association finally agreed to let Lindsey German speak last week.
I cannot believe we are having these problems from campaigning organisations. Excluding Respect on the grounds that we have not stood before in an election stops new parties having a chance to get heard. Respect has an MP and two councillors. We urge all supporters to contact these organisations and protest against the exclusion of Respect.
BNP's attack on post workers
THE BRITISH National Party is circulating a disgusting leaflet to members of the CWU postal and telecoms union. It attacks our union leader Billy Hayes and other members of the national executive who publicly support Unite Against Fascism. Among other things, the BNP lambasts the CWU leadership for spending its members' money on Unite, calling it a front dominated by the SWP for the purposes of recruitment, and for affiliating to other "communist" organisations. I am proud that our union supports and helps fund Unite, which organises against the BNP.
I attended an organising meeting last week of Torbay Unite and of the 11 people present only one was an SWP member. The dominant presence was that of members of a variety of trade unions. It is obvious that the BNP is running scared. They are afraid there will be a massive effect if postal workers refuse to handle their election material. Billy Hayes has said he will back such workers.
They even ask for "whistle blowers" to inform them of where this happens. No doubt this is so their Nazi friends can try to intimidate individuals by posting their details on their evil website.
I can give the BNP the name of one postal worker who refuses to handle their poison and is doing his utmost to persuade his fellow workers to do likewise-me!
Students' support for Palestinians
RECENTLY 463 students turned up to Liverpool Guild of Students to vote for the Friends of Palestine's motion to twin Liverpool University with the University of Birzeit in Ramallah, Palestine. The meeting was a huge success despite the efforts of people opposed to the motion to disrupt it.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of students and supporters from outside the university, the Extraordinary General Meeting was closer to getting the required quorum than it has been for about ten years. Although the guild's constitution meant that official policy could not be passed, there was overwhelming support for the motion from the hundreds of students who were there.
Those who opposed the motion stayed outside and urged people not to go in to vote. Despite this the campaign, and rally after the meeting, made guild history and brought the issue of human rights abuses in Palestine to thousands of students in the university.
We have shown those who oppose the motion that students feel strongly about this issue and are not afraid to speak out about it. Now Palestine is being discussed all over campus. Preston University and Bolton Institute are also trying to twin, and came along to support us.
MIKE ROSEN repeats the claim (Socialist Worker, 8 May), which I have heard elsewhere, that New Labour's former minister Stephen Byers used to be a member of the International Socialists. I was a member of the IS from 1962 to 1977, when it became the Socialist Workers Party.
I served on numerous committees and travelled all over the country speaking at meetings. I never met Byers, and never heard his name mentioned in connection with any of the activities we organised. If he was a member he was a pretty useless one. But then that's no surprise, is it?
Eyewitness to harassment
IN ISRAEL there are around 24 organisations dedicated to active assistance for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. I went on one of these activities. Around 400 women every morning and evening monitored human rights abuses at Israeli checkpoints.
Four of us drove through the Green Line border checkpoint with the West Bank. It is a tarred road that only cars with Israeli number plates are allowed to use. Coming from each Arab village was a gravel footpath. There was a tall pile of stones where it met the Jerusalem Road to prevent illicit access.
We came upon a Palestinian taxi whose occupants succeeded in removing the stones to let the car through to travel 20 metres to turn off onto a permitted side road. Unfortunately they were caught by an Israeli army patrol who took away the occupants' IDs and keys, leaving them stranded.
Army headquarters said it would take three hours to deal with. When we came back later they said it would take another two or three hours. To see these humiliations with your own eyes helps you to understand the unending Palestinian revolt.
Sham of British justice
THERE ARE few matters more painful than the loss of a child. It's even worse when that child is the victim of a racist murder. We have now been told that the murderers of Stephen Lawrence will never face justice.
The awful stench of British racism gets even more nauseating when we know this happened because of the institutionalised racism in the British police force.
College starts anti-BNP battle
NEWS THAT the BNP is targeting Barnsley in the local elections with 14 candidates standing in 14 of the 21 wards has created waves of shock and anger. A good first response was a 30-strong meeting of staff and students at Barnsley College.
Speakers included representatives of Unison and Natfhe, the Barnsley Zimbabwe Community Association and the college principal. We agreed to organise a mass leafleting of college sites next week. The principal agreed that every lecturer be encouraged to spend ten minutes on an agreed day talking to students about the dangers posed by the BNP.
We got Irving on the run
UNITE AGAINST Fascism supporters from Crawley, Horsham, Worthing and Brighton stopped a meeting by shamed "historian" and BNP sympathiser David Irving last Saturday.
Mr Justice Gray labelled David Irving an "active Holocaust denier" when he tried unsuccessfully to prosecute Deborah Lipstadt for libel in April 2000. Saturday's meeting had been organised in secret. But protesters overheard details to "meet at Horsham station car park at 1pm" and set off.
A group of Unite supporters occupied the function room at the Norfolk Park Hotel, Arundel, where the meeting was set to take place. The hotel management locked the doors and refused entry to the 15 fascists. David Irving was last seen driving out of town in a silver Range Rover with anti-fascist protesters pursuing him on motorcycles.
Ken-Respect is number one
HERE IS an open letter I sent to Ken Livingstone: 'Dear Ken, I'm sorry that you couldn't stop to chat when we briefly met at Deptford Station last week. I thank you for your generous handshake when I told you that you had one of my votes in the London mayoral elections.
But your demeanour changed when I added that I would also be voting for Lindsey German in the same election and George Galloway in the European poll. You told me that Respect didn't have a chance and that a vote for Respect was an aid to the Tories.
That was such a shame, because as you well know those arguments don't hold any water. I admired the way you stood up to Blair and gave the New Labour project a bloody nose when you stood as an independent in the first London mayor election in 2000.
I admired the fact that you welcomed the anti-war protesters. Because of your record you've got one of my votes. Please don't expect me to deliver any votes for your newfound friends in New Labour.'
Tackling issues In London
THE REDUCTION of crime in Britain is possible with the use of preventive measures. The social exclusions and cuts in education funds are what London expects a progressive mayor to tackle. Increasing funds for education and housing is most important for our youth and adults, and for them to get more engaged in social life of London as this will reduce the chances of offending.
Decent treatment and respect is what all Londoners want from the mayor. Respect's mayoral candidate, Lindsey German, as a Londoner with political conscience and knowledge, will provide that.