“Those workers did not have the benefit of trade union representation.” That was the how one delegate described the reason for the fate of the Bangladeshi workers who died when the factory where they worked, making clothes for British high streets, collapsed.
“Remember the dead – but fight like hell for the living,” was the call as UNISON’s local government conference debated the attacks on health and safety this afternoon.
Another speaker called the attacks on health and safety, with the claims of regulation gone mad, as “de-regulation gone wild,” and urged delegates to return to their branches.
Roger Bannister of Knowsley, stressed that: “This crew [the government] write their health and safety policies like two UKIP members moaning over a pint in the pub. We have to recognise that and do something about it.”
John Williams of Liverpool City said that health and safety had been “savaged” since the 1980s, adding that local government was not always the safe environment that might be imagined, and with fewer staff doing the same work, the risks have increased.
A further delegate quoted the Hazards campaign magazine as saying: “The problem is not too much red tape, but too many bloody bandages.”
Nancy Bald of Newcastle recalled the start of health and safety legislation in the 1970s, and she noted that “it’s very important to recall what happened back in those days.” She urged activists to become health and safety reps.
Tony Foster of Warwick District Council – who is about to be made redundant – told conference that he saw health and safety breaches every day.
“Please,” he said, “think about this and support this motion”.
In another motion that also dealt with with the impact of deregulation, Graham Anderson, Food Standards Agency convenor for Scotland, introduced a motion on privatisation of meat inspection.
He recalled the likes of BSE, foot and mouth, various outbreaks of e-coli and, of course, this year’s horsemeat scandal.
“Supporting this motion will help us protect consumer safety and animal welfare,” concluded Mr Anderson. ”They say don’t put the cart before the horse – I say: don’t put profits before our health,” added another delegate.