This seminar in Congress House had Hugh Robertson (TUC) and Judith Hackitt (HSE) speaking and was chaired by SERTUC regionalsecretary, Megan Dobney (right of picture).
Hugh made the case that under this government, the cuts to the HSE and getting rid of essential safety enforcement and regulations, will lower standards and result in more work related accidents and illnesses.
In the Q&A that followed I said that things are very depressing but trying to make a small positive out of a huge negative - the best safety protection at work comes from trade union organisation. Many workers currently have completely unrealistic expectations of their legal rights and safeguards. We have to tell them that they will have even less rights in the future. So to protect themselves at work they must join a union and the union must recruit and organise the workforce to make things safe.
Judith accepted that there was unprecedented change but that the cuts do not have to mean that people will be less safe. The HSE is going to try and cut the backroom not the front line. Reviews can be a good thing. The aim is to remove unnecessary bureaucracy not protection.
In the Q&A there was some "heated" comments which as usual Judith took on the chin and batted straight back. Megan had to remind people that they were "entitled to make forceful statements but must remember to remain on the right side of civility" (a wonderful Chair's intervention which I will steal). Judith did speak out against low fines for criminal breaches of safety laws. She would rather that there was much higher fines but that is the job of the Courts. She thought it was a disgrace that the death of a member of the public was worth more than a worker. She ended by saying the HSE were "not the enemy". That is true.
While I do expect more people to be injured at work (and worse) due to the Tory and Lib Dem cuts in the HSE budget and the getting rid of essential protections, we have to blame the coalition and not the civil servants. Who at times have to implement and defend the indefensible.
I will post later on the Lofstedt report.