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News release 24 July 2008

Government should stop beating sick workers back to crap work and
make all work good for us

‘When financial business gets itself into trouble and threatens to destroy our livelihoods with recession, government responds with rescue packages but not regulation or punishment. But when it comes to working people, many injured or made mentally and physically ill by the appalling conditions employers are increasingly allowed to subject them to, as deregulation and cuts to enforcement activity bite deep, and precarious work becomes the norm, this government’s action is to punish sick workers further by making it harder to get even the paltry benefits currently available! This would be unbelievable from a so-called Labour government if their betrayal of working people had not already gone further than even the most cynical feared’ A Hazards Campaign spokesperson said in response to the government’s Welfare Reforms.

‘Purnells’ reforms totally ignore the quality of work he wants to force the mentally and physically sick back into. Far too many employers do not comply with even the most basic and minimum of health and safety standards, subjecting worker to exposure to carcinogens, other dangerous chemicals and dusts; unsafe machinery and plant; long hours; bullying and harassment; intolerable workloads and pressures to perform; often for pay at or very little above the minimum wage. At least 25,000 workers are forced out of work every year by bad work that injures or makes them sick, and many hundreds of thousands stay in bad work which they know is harming them so they can pay their bills and provide for their families. Purnell’s DWP is responsible for the Health and Safety Executive and enforcement of H&S but the government is content to let the system of enforcement wither away by rewarding criminal and non-compliant employers with deregulation and advice rather than enforcement action. Now James Purnell suggests cutting holes in the already inadequate safety net, putting sick, vulnerable workers in the hands of the private sector which will be rewarded for getting them back to work, which we fear will be any work at any cost.

‘If there are good jobs available and workers stuck on Incapacity Benefit are well enough to take up those jobs, with appropriate, trained and skilled support, that’s a good thing. But in return the social contract between citizens and government demands that these jobs are safe and healthy. A civilised society would maintain a strong system of law and enforcement to make sure this was true. Sadly that is not currently the case in GB plc where the government prides itself on rewarding business by removing the ‘burdens’ that civilised regulation and enforcement of health and safety would impose, and transferring it to the backs of the many sick vulnerable workers who will be forced from the frying pan into the fire.

In an economy already sliding into recession, where will all these good jobs come from? How will those genuinely too sick to work with depression and anxiety caused by work-related stress, or with disabling pain in their arms and hand from musculo-skeletal disorders caused by badly designed work, gain the benefits they need in order to survive and recover as it is made harder to meet the much tightened but still arbitrary criteria?

‘It’s time say STOP to this government. We want you to enforce the health and safety laws we have and make all work good for us before you start attacking the sick and injured collateral damage for the flexible, deregulated economy you promote. We want good jobs that don’t harm our minds or bodies, or the environment, and that should be the wake up call to this Labour government.’

For more information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Hazards Campaign Secretariat
c/o Greater ManchesterHazards Centre
Windrush Millennium Centre
70 Alexandra Road
M16 7WD
Tel 0161 636 7557
Fax 0161 636 7556

The Hazards Campaign, c/o Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road,
Manchester, M16 7WD . website www.hazardscampaign.org.uk