Socialist Worker

Deathly jobs

Issue No. 1799

WORK CAN kill you-that's official. Work is three times more deadly than war. Two million people die every year from a work-related accident or disease-nearly double the figure from two years ago.

A UN report reveals that one person dies from work every 15 seconds. This is more than the death rate for drug and alcohol abuse combined, and higher than the number of people killed in wars.

The report says that 350,000 people died from fatal workplace accidents, 340,000 from hazardous substances and some 100,000 from asbestos. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous.

A health and safety expert from the Institute of Civil Engineers caused amazement by suggesting that 'pouring further money into health and safety is akin to pursuing an impossible dream'.

As the building workers' Ucatt union suggested, 'They'd have a different opinion if civil engineers were being killed.'


Short change

INTERNATIONAL development secretary Clare Short accuses the anti-capitalist movement of resting on Western do-gooders who want to deprive Third World countries of the benefits of trade.

Her strategy for aiding global poverty is summed up in her department's relationship with Ghana. Over half the population of Ghana lack a safe, clean water supply. Short's department is withholding aid for a major water project unless it is linked to water privatisation. Water bills have already started to rise.

The World Bank now effectively runs the water supply. Short's department gave £2.8 million to the project. A Strathclyde University study says that the money is 'technical assistance to the privatisation process'.


THE media were geared up to report violence and mayhem on May Day. Their paranoia was not confined to news coverage.

The Guardian sent a memo to staff warning them to dress down so that they wouldn't be conspicuous among the trade unionists and anti-capitalists on the streets. How do Guardian journalists normally dress?


YORKSHIRE SOLICITOR Ged Hale wrote to home secretary David Blunkett with a money-saving idea. Hale suggested solicitors pay for police handcuffs and use them to advertise the firms' phone number to attract prospective clients.
Thanks to readers in Yorkshire for this story.


Criminal behaviour in Brixton?

INTREPID reporter Donal MacIntyre used his TV programme to expose the reality of crime in London-well, sort of. MacIntyre wandered the 'crime blackspot' of Brixton in south London He walked around the area flashing an expensive mobile phone and a laptop computer.

His antics sparked alarm from passers-by, who repeatedly told him to be careful. But he had to tramp the dark streets for three whole nights before anyone would rob him.

Even then he had to dangle the phone under people's noses. MacIntyre reported, 'On the third night, just after midnight, I approached a group of young people, mobile phone in hand, to ask directions. 'In an instant, and on impulse, the phone was grabbed.' Later MacIntyre followed a man who promised to get his phone back for £20 into a balcony on an estate.

The man pulled a knife and demanded the laptop computer hanging off the reporter's shoulder. Maybe the reporter should have just carried a sign saying 'Mug me'.


Toxic terror

THE BUSH administration has torn up the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, signed in 1972. The US pulled out of the agreement because every country had to list its bioweapons and submit to surprise visits by trained weapons inspectors.

Naturally the US would not agree to these inspections, while at the same time preparing for a war against Iraq for something very similar. Blair is attempting to get a watered down version of the agreement. This only allows UN inspections if there is evidence of breaches, but is different from the unannounced inspections.


Housing hell

GOVERNMENT plans to subsidise housing for key workers in London are failing. Some £230 million has been paid out to ease the chronic shortage of public sector workers priced out of the capital. But £20 billion is needed, according to a new report.

The report warned that if the government didn't act quickly its plans for improving the health service and education could be in tatters. Latest house-building figures show that 162,000 were built in Britain between 2000 and 2001. This is the lowest number since 1927, excluding the war years. Meanwhile, according to building workers' union Ucatt, the government spent £750 million on the Ministry of Defence HQ.

New Labour's spending spree included £400 million on the Treasury HQ.
Thanks to readers in west London for this story.


No refuge

THE REFUGEE Council charity wanted to organise a trip to Hampton Court to cheer up refugee children. It called the stately home to enquire about discounted tickets for charities. When it explained the nature of the charity, tickets were refused.

The suspicious Refugee Council called back the next day saying it was a charity for disabled people. The same person promised to put complimentary tickets in the post.


AOL AND Time Warner merged, creating one of the world's biggest corporations. 'It was a brilliant piece of financial engineering,' gushed Rupert Murdoch. Now the company is writing off $54 billion from its books.

AOL/Time Warner's creativity has spread to its accounting techniques. Its books have columns labelled 'Normalised earnings before interest' and 'Backlog securitisation facility'.


Things they say

'I'M AFRAID I can't deny that there is racism in the Conservative Party because it is self evident.'
Tory Asian peer BARONESS FLATHER after Tory MP Ann Winterton's racist joke

'I'M MORE liberal than I was ten years ago. That's not saying a lot.'
Home secretary DAVID BLUNKETT

'WE ALL thought he was pretty odd, even then.'
FORMER SCHOOLMATE of Nazi BNP leader Nick Griffin on their time at St Felix in Southwold

'SOMETIMES in politics you've got to lie, and I think we should be honest about that.'
Liberal Democrat leader CHARLES KENNEDY

'I wasn't impressed by the recent idea on cutting child benefit. That's the sort of thing Margaret Thatcher might have suggested. Is Tony Blair trying to form a new Tory party?'
Pop singer and prominent Labour Party member MICK HUCKNALL

'DID YOU know that there are now eating dogs for the anorexic?'
Another bigoted comment from PRINCE PHILIP speaking to a blind woman

'WHEN IT comes to protecting property and shopfronts we can get 6,000 police on the streets. The non-riots were a blow to the media and the police, who were entirely up for it. What they got was a carnival. That's not against the law yet-is it?'
Daily Mail columnist SUZANNE MOORE on May Day in London

'HE'S BEEN a perfectly good, intelligent ambassador for the business community.'
JO VALENTINE, managing director of business pressure group London First, on mayor 'Red' Ken Livingstone


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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 11 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1799
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