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Unions set to fight HSE cuts

BY Thomas Elliott
Health & Safety
BG Orange

TUC Congress delegates have supported a motion condemning the HSE’s budget cuts.

They have announced that they will fight any “watering down of health and safety” that the Government’s reform agenda imposes.  

Government plans are set to cut the HSE’s budget by 35% by 2015 and unions fear that this will have a negative impact on the capability of the HSE to regulate safety in the workplace.  

Paula Brown, Vice President of the Public and Commercial Services Union, advised that HSE inspections have significantly decreased in the past 10 years from 75,272 in 1999/2000 to just over 23,000 in 2008/09.  The HSE have already committed to reducing their unannounced inspections by one third and that some sectors such as agriculture and quarrying will receive no inspections of this kind.  Ms Brown also explained that the HSE’s staffing numbers are steadily falling from 4,282 full-time equivalent posts in 2004 to 2,995 as of July 2011.  “The HSE doesn’t yet know if it can keep the money it obtains from cost-recovery”.  If it is allowed to keep it, what is it going to do with it? We are told it cannot spend it on more front-line inspectors, or campaigning activity, so what is it going to spend it on?” 

The closure of the HSE’s Infoline has also received strong criticism as only fatalities or major injuries can now be reported by telephone.  

Dennis Doody of UCATT’s executive council, advised “It is a fundamental right to be safe at work; this Government is destroying that right. The vast majority of workplace accidents are easily preventable. Government policies will increase accidents.”

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