Oppose the Commercialisation and Privatisation of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

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2014 National Delegate Conference
4 February 2014

Conference condemns the current attack by the Conservative-led Government on health and safety rights in the workplace. David Cameron has declared his aim to “kill off the health and safety culture” which he views as an “albatross around the neck of British business”. This should be seen as part of the wider attack on working people including UNISON members and their families. Most deaths and injuries at work are preventable and the plans of the current Government will only worsen protections in the workplace. Health and safety regulations do not kill jobs but a lack of regulation kills workers.

Conference notes:

1)The important functions performed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in keeping workers safe through enforcing employers’ health, safety and welfare responsibilities in workplaces;

2)That one aspect of the Government’s attacks on health and safety is its questioning of the functions and operation of the HSE;

3)That the recent Government-initiated review of the HSE, headed by Martin Temple, a former Director-General of an employers’ organisation, recommended:

a)That the HSE should continue to perform its current functions as a non-departmental public body;

b)That the HSE should maintain its current board structure which includes a role for trade union representatives.

The Review also highlighted the potential damage that can be done by models of HSE funding that tie its organisational income to the fines that it levies.

Conference condemns the Government response to the Review which has been to ask the HSE to immediately:

i)Examine commercial models for the HSE;

ii)Review the HSE board to ensure that it has the right skills to oversee future efficiencies and commercial income-generating options.

Conference believes that the Government’s true intention in setting up the Review was to seek support for its pre-determined ideologically-driven aim of commercialising and ultimately privatising the HSE.

Conference notes that there are concerns with the current funding arrangements and effectiveness of the HSE under the Con-Dem Government:

A)The HSE is to receive 40% less funding than it received in 2009/10;

B)Hazards magazine and the TUC have identified concerns that the HSE has begun to state that it seeks to avoid “employer over-compliance” with regulations. This is a bizarre position for a regulator to take and such examples would be better considered as best practice;

C)PCS have identified a concern with the HSE becoming less proactive and more reactive in its enforcement.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

I)Highlight the importance to our members and the wider working public of the HSE’s functions and its position as a public body;

II)Oppose moves to commercialise and privatise the HSE;

III)Oppose funding cuts to the HSE;

IV)Support organisations including Hazards and the Institute of Employment Rights in criticising and campaigning against the government’s reckless ideological assault on the health and safety of workers;

V)Work with the Labour Link to seek support for the HSE as a properly-funded public body, and a rigourous and proactive enforcer of health and safety requirements.