Justice for Simon Jones
Killed by the profit system he hated
SIMON JONES would have been celebrating his 27th birthday on Friday. But his life was tragically cut short on 24 April 1998 when he got a new job as a casual worker at Shoreham docks in Sussex. Simon had only been working two hours before a crane grab closed over his head and killed him. HELEN SHOOTER explains how lust for profit cost Simon his life.
SIMON WAS taking a year out from his Sussex University course when employment agency Personnel Selection offered him the docks job. He had just a few minutes training before he started work inside a ship loading bags of cobbles onto a crane.
He had to hook the bags onto chains inside the crane's grab jaws. The chains had been welded on to save time and money. The two tonne crane grab was brought too low over Simon's head. When it closed it crushed his head, almost cutting it off.
Simon's workmate, Sean Currey, was later asked to clean the blood and his friend's remains off the bags of stones so they could still be sold. Sean refused and his bosses sent him home for the day without pay. Simon's family and friends were devastated and angry at his death. His mother said, "Some employers seem to treat their workers like machinery. They're not.
"They have families and friends who are torn apart when things like this happen." Emma Aynsley, who was going out with Simon at the time, said, "It's the hypocrisy that gets me. All these politicians express sympathy about Simon and at the same time doing nothing about it. We want the truth to come out about casualisation because it's killing people."
In the two years since Simon's death no one has been held to account. Shoreham docks is run by Euromin. The boss of Euromin's British operation, James Martell, has not been put on trial.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has twice ruled that there was "insufficient evidence" to warrant a charge of corporate manslaughter. The Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, also decided not to prosecute any Euromin managers because he claimed there was no case against them.
Simon's brother, Tim, won a court case in September last year. That led to the High Court ruling in March this year that both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service had behaved "irrationally" in not prosecuting Euromin.
The CPS decision "beggared belief" and was "baffling", said the judges. But Euromin still hasn't faced trial. Simon's mum, Anne, said, "When the CPS told us they weren't going to prosecute we couldn't believe it-with the amount of evidence available it was incomprehensible. "There just seems to be a lack of political will when it comes to prosecuting employers for corporate manslaughter."
Fighting to expose truth
THE GOVERNMENT'S Health and Safety Executive (HSE) watchdog has denied justice to Simon's family. It too has ruled that there is "insufficient evidence" to prosecute Euromin. Yet the HSE admits it received a complaint about "poor working conditions" on the docks as early as 1995.
Keith Warburton, a former Euromin executive, says he told an HSE official that unless they kept an eye on the firm, it would "only be a matter of time before someone was killed". Personnel Selection, the employment agency that got Simon the docks job, has not faced charges either.
It is supposed to assess the health risks for its agency workers. But it sent Simon to do a dangerous job knowing that his work application form did not mention any experience of working inside a ship. Home secretary Jack Straw says he is considering toughening up laws on corporate manslaughter.
But bosses are pressuring him to water down the proposals. The government's consultation paper now says it has "no firm view" over whether bosses should face criminal penalties, "because it does not want to create a scapegoat culture".
This sends a signal to every company that New Labour is prepared to cave in over holding employers responsible for workers killed at work. It won't deliver justice for Simon's family and friends. They have fought a long campaign to force Simon's bosses to face up to the blood on their hands.
Some 30 protesters occupied two towers in Shoreham docks in September 1998 and unfurled banners which said "Casualisation kills". They forced Euromin to close the docks for the day. The campaigners also occupied Personnel Selection's Brighton office and hung a banner with the word "Murderers" outside the window.
The campaign were organising a party and protest for what would have been Simon's 27th birthday on Friday of this week on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral in London. Colin, one of the campaign organisers, said, "Simon's family have gone to the High Court and won. Despite this, no one has been prosecuted because this government and its agencies are determined to cover up the human cost of casualisation in this country.
"Unfortunately for them we are not going to let them."
- "THE GENERAL manager of Euromin James Martell's greed and hunger for profit, and his negligence and carelessness, slaughtered a young man just as clearly as if he had pushed him off the dock with his own hands.
- GEORGE GALLOWAY MP, speech in parliament, March 1999
A grim record
- Some 258 workers were killed in sudden deaths at work in Britain last year. Some 86 of these were on construction sites-a 20 percent rise on the previous year's figure.
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated only 14 percent of serious injuries in the construction industry last year.
- The HSE only plans to increase the number of investigations by the year 2002 by around 3 percent.
- The average fine against firms convicted for deaths in all workplaces is only around 15,000.
- Only five directors have faced charges of manslaughter in the last 30 years.
JUSTICE FOR SIMON JONES
Friday 1 September, 1pm Steps of St Paul's Cathedral, London
Contact the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign on 01273 685913 or visit the website at www.simonjones.org.uk
The campaign has produced a video which supporters can show to build the fight for justice for Simon and all casual workers