Danger! Tory Proposals Hit Workers Health And Safety Protection  And Confront The EU


"The Conservative Party have put themselves on the side of bad employers and have undermined the good employers who are happy to obey current legal minimum standards. The Tory Party Deregulation Plans are repulsive and although we do not get 100% of what we want from the current Labour government – the alternative is unimaginable for working people."

Dave JoyceDave Joyce, CWU National Health & Safety Officer, spells out the future for health and safety in the UK if a Conservatice Government is returned to power at the next general election.

The year 2007 saw a series of dramatic attacks on health and safety at work rights by the opposition Tory Party, signalling a serious warning to workers about what would be in store if we were ever unfortunate enough to see the return of a Tory Government under David Cameron's leadership.

John Redwood, the right-wing, Thatcherite former cabinet minister who is heading the Conservative Party's Economic Competitiveness Policy Review group published an extreme package of proposals in August that would hit working people, entitled "Freeing Britain to Compete". 

At the heart of this major Tory policy review, welcomed by party leader David Cameron, were a series of proposals aimed at loosening health and safety regulations and scrapping key legislation imposed by Parliament and Brussels, none of which could be implemented without breaching current EU legal requirements and could only be implemented by leaving the EU and would be unlikely to achieve the savings claimed according to an analysis published by the TUC.

The Proposals recommend a repeal of the Working Time Regulations, the UK to opt-out from Europe's Social Chapter, a Watering-Down of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations to weaken the "Risk Assessment" requirements placed on employers and a review of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The report further claims that the inspection regime has no sense of proportion and “fails to consider business implications”. Redwood completely ignores the need to save lives or prevent serious injuries.

The Tory announcement once again proved how the anti-worker the Conservatives Party is and how its leader David Cameron speaks with a forked-tongue. Cameron's so called support for flexible working was followed by his support for Redwood's plan to abolish the Working Time Regulations and opt-out from the social chapter in a package of policies that go further than even Margaret Thatcher ever did with policies that would turn the clock back to the dark ages. The question is just how far back in time will safety standards go for working people of Britain if the Tories ever get elected.

However people would be mistaken if they though this was the first indication of such Policies and ideas. It's not! and that makes it all the more worrying.

The previous Tory Deregulation report entitled "Reversing the Drivers of Regulation" listed a whole raft of health and safety laws that would be targeted and up for the chop completely or to be watered down to such an extent they become worthless under a future Tory Government - on the 'Hit List' for 'Urgent Review with the aim of liberating businesses from the burden of what was termed "unnecessary regulations" were one again the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations plus the Fire Precautions Regulations, the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations, the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations and The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.

These policies could also mean that additional health and safety rights could be targeted including trade union Safety Reps rights.

The Report recommended a programme of year on year law repeals should be introduced and that the Health and Safety Minister would explain to the public why it's not possible to create a risk free world and a risk free workplace.   The report signalled a continuation of cheap deaths at work and a return to the old attitude of "accidents will happen.

All contemporary analysis clearly shows that Redwood's proposals for a Tory Government would be to go further than the deregulation of business during the Thatcher years of which he was part.

Many employers and managers are currently failing in their responsibilities to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and this would clearly worsen under the Tories. The aim of the previous Tory government to reduce the regulatory burden on employers resulted in them achieving their desired effect of seriously undermining the effectiveness of the Health and Safety at Work Act and the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive.

They accomplished this by enacting a series of measures designed to create a ‘business friendly atmosphere’ such as the failure to transpose EU H&S Directives correctly, Instructions to HSE inspectors to adopt a ‘softly, softly’ approach when considering enforcement, New rights of appeal against enforcement decisions for employers, HSE budget cuts, Parts of the HSE’s operations contracted-out and a reduction in HSE staffing levels.

In March Tory leader David Cameron showed his hand when he has launched an attack on health and safety regulations designed to protect construction workers but it brought a swift reaction from the Trade Unions. Cameron put down an Early Day Motion number 1151 calling for the new Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2007 to be "annulled". The EDM barely raised a dozen right-wing Tory signatures.

The Tory Leader wouldn't know what its like to work in an industry where Health and Safety at Work regulation are crucial. He clearly failed to do his homework and appears to lack basic knowledge of health and safety. The new simplified CDM Regulations brought together the existing CDM Regulations 1994 and the Construction (Health Safety and Welfare) (CHSW) Regulations 1996 into a single regulatory package. The proposals from the HSE were supported by an industry-wide consultation in 2002. They only went before the Commons on 15th February and a month later Cameron was calling for them to be torn up.

Every year 250 workers are killed and thousands more injured at work. We need every bit of protection we can get. The new CDM Regulations have the support of the HSE, the Government, the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and even the CBI gave wholehearted support to the objectives of the revised Regulations so the Regulations were fine by every one else except Mr Cameron and his handful of Tory friends who's signed the Early Day Motion.

I see this as a serious warning to Trade Union members that if we are ever unfortunate enough to see a Tory Government returned to power with lead by "Donkeys" like Cameron it really would be back to the bad old days when the Tories sabotaged European Health and Safety Directives in the early 90's." 

The Conservative Party have put themselves on the side of bad employers and have undermined the good employers who are happy to obey current legal minimum standards. The Tory Party Deregulation Plans as repulsive and although we do not get 100% of what we want from the current Labour government – the alternative is unimaginable for working people. 

Source: Dave Joyce, CWU


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