UNISON warns Lib Dems – Don’t take health and safety back to dark ages

Date: Fri 25 March 2013

The Coalition Government should abandon measures that would drive a coach and horses through health and safety legislation.

That was the message today when UNISON lobbied senior Liberal Democrat politicians at the party’s Scottish conference.

In a victory for common sense, the House of Lords threw out out a damaging clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill earlier this month. The Bill is now going back to the House of Commons for further consideration.

UNISON is calling on Ministers to protect workers against careless employers and agree not to reintroduce Clause 62 (formerly Clause 61).

Patrick McGuire, of the union’s law firm Thompsons, told senior party members, including Deputy Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael, that it would be absolutely wrong to continue with such an unfair attack on people who are injured at work – one not specified in the Coalition Agreement.

He added that doing so would “take us back to the dark ages in terms of health and safety.”

The clause would have amended Section 47 of the Health and Safety of Work Act 1974, potentially removing the ability of an employee to enforce a civil claim for workplace injury on the grounds of a breach of workplace regulations, making it virtually impossible for people to win compensation for injury at work.

This highly contentious and far-reaching amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act was only introduced after the Committee stage in the Commons, so has not been subject to the scrutiny normally associated with such changes.

Patrick said that UNISON’s objections include:

  • Savage impact upon workers’ safety
  • Entire health and safety regulatory framework effectively rendered redundantUtter disconnect from declared legislative intent

    Complete disregard for views of Government’s own expert, Prof Lofstedt

    Illegal – will cost the taxpayer huge sums in legal challenge and Francovich Damages

  • Creates 2 tier health and safety regime making private workplaces less safe and delivering no financial benefit to public employersWorkplace regulations are currently enforced because of the threat and pursuit of civil injury claims. If this risk is reduced, irresponsible employers will ignore vital laws, increasing workplace injuries.