Sting in the Tail: Safety Last

James Tyne, Director General of the British Safety Council since 1968 has no illusions about how the Health and Safety at Work Act operates in practice.


Writing in The Independent (7.10.89) under the heading “Safety sacrificed at the altar of profit”, he states:


 Regrettably, too many inadequately trained, ignorant and uncaring managers in too many workplaces believe they can beat the cost of unsafe practices and systems and take a chance on the consequences. With a visit from a Government safety inspector likely only once in five years, the safety/cost conflict is all too easily sacrificing safety to the god of profit . . . Is safety being sacrificed for profit? Of course it is — at work, on the road, in the air, at recreation, in the home.


All those reformers who imagine that all that is needed to solve social problems is to pass legislation, should heed Mr. Tyne’s expert analysis. As long as profit is the purpose of production safety will always come last.


Unholy Alliance
The coming elections in Nicaragua show just how topsy-turvy reformist politics can be.


An article in The Sunday Correspondent (12 November) tells us that the main opponent of the ruling Sandinistas will be Violet Chamorro, widow of one of Nicaragua’s most famous martyrs who was murdered by supporters of the then dictator, Somoza.


She is supported by the US government as well as by God and her deceased husband, both of whom she claims to have consulted.


Meanwhile, the two main Sandinista newspapers are edited by a brother and a son, while a daughter denounces her mother for throwing in her lot with her father’s killers.


Confused? The article continues:


  Nor does this exhaust the contradictions. Chamorro’s United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO) coalition enjoys the support of the Communist and Socialist parties, who accuse the Sandinistas of an addiction to one-party forms of rule. In any other Latin American country, such a line-up would send the United States Embassy dashing to endorse the other side.


The staggering hypocrisy of the Communists accusing anyone of an addiction to one-party rule should suprise no one. After all these so-called “Communist” and “Socialist” parties are in reality parties that support capitalism; and hypocrisy is their stock-in-trade.


In this ruthless struggle for power we can be sure of one thing — no matter who wins — the working class will lose.


A Poisonous System
The use of various chemicals in food for colouring and preservation has long been known as likely to be injurious to the consumer. Now we learn (The Observer 29 October) that the workers in the food industry are in an even more dangerous position.

The findings have been collected in a series of papers edited by Dr. Charles Clutterbuck, lecturer in trade union education at Blackburn College, who argues that food workers face “double jeopardy” of health risk at their place of work and as consumers.
. . . About 200,000 tonnes of additives are consumed each year in the UK – 10 lbs. for each adult — and “the ill-health effects range from asthma and allergy, skin complaints and diarrheoa to perhaps cancer”, the Clutterbuck papers say.
. . . Yet more than nine tenths of the 3,700 chemical compounds employed in the food industry are used solely for cosmetic purposes — for instance, to make peas greener or meat redder.
. . . Scientists were debating whether the small quantity of aspartame eaten by consumers were hazardous. Yet these GMB members were working every day in clouds of aspartame so thick that they could not see across the room.


So there we have it — in order to compete in the market the food manufacturers use dangerous chemicals to make the products look more attractive.


The poor unfortunates who have to work producing this poison are themselves poisoned in the clouds of chemicals.


Does this not provide food for thought? It’s time we cleared away the poisonous cloud that is capitalism!


Poles Apart
Mrs. Piasecka Johnson, a Polish-born American multi-millionairess, has bought a controlling interest in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk for sixty million dollars.


She plans to double the yard’s production and increase the workforce “but at a profit”. The unions have been asked to sign a no-strike agreement.


Mrs. Johnson has also started Poland’s first foreign-owned private bank. She aims to attract western European capital to invest in Poland and is urging EC countries to allow income and capital gains from foreign investment to be tax free.


Sounds great for investors, but what’s in it for those shipyard workers? Well, they get the privilege of producing the profits for the investors and will even get paid for doing it! Private enterprise is SO different from state capitalism.


Beyond Our Ken
“Useless waffle” was how Ken Livingstone, Labour MP, described his party’s new economic policies.


He stated in The Guardian (7 September) that:


 Unless a Labour Government is prepared to redirect overseas investment into our Industry and make far-reaching cuts in defence spending, It will be forced to raise taxes and alienate potential Labour voters.


Livingstone is yet another dreamer who thinks he knows how to run British capitalism in the interests of the workers. True enough, raising taxes will lose Labour votes, but his “far-reaching cuts in defence spending” will hardly thrill all those voters who are employed in the defence industry.


But that’s the fate of “socialists” like Livingstone. No matter what way they re-arrange capitalism they will alienate a lot of voters.


Incidentally, if he is still a Labour candidate at the next election and he doesn’t get the policy changes he wants, will he be telling his electors that the policy is “useless waffle”?


We’ll be watching.


An Open Letter
The Scorpion’s Nest
1st. December 1989


Dear Arunbhai Patel,
Once you were hailed by the media as a model of Thatcherite enterprise.
A penniless refugee from Uganda in 1968, you eventually borrowed £20 million to buy Finlay’s newsagent chain and were confident of building a global retailing empire.


Alas, Finlay’s has collapsed due to sky-high interest on your borrowing and you will even have to sell your house to pay your debts. Now you tell us “But I’m still a capitalist through and through”.


Sorry, Mr Patel, but your state of mind doesn’t make you a capitalist. For that you need a considerable amount of ownership, and getting it (and holding it) is not so easy, as you and many other would-be capitalists have discovered.