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12 September 2012
THE DICKENS OF A BUSINESS
The UK Government has launched a war on red tape.
In particular, it is going to make a bonfire of health and safety regulations in the workplace.
The UK business secretary Vince Cable has just announced that hundreds of thousands of firms, including shops and pubs, will be exempted from health and safety inspections.
The idea is to modernise British industry by reconstituting the working environment that was outlawed when the first Factory Act to ameliorate workplace conditions was adopted in 1833.
The belief is that employees will worker harder and be more motivated if they are forced to graft in an unreconstructed early 19th century environment.
As in the time of Charles Dickens, we can look forward once more to seeing underfed young sweeps shining up chimneys, brush in hand, while choking on the soot that blinds their eyes and clogs their noses.
So let’s turn the clock back, then. After all, what’s wrong with dark Satanic mills? At the very least, they economized on lighting.
It’s the do-gooders that have messed everything up.
The Government apparently wants to scrap or overhaul more than 3000 regulations which Prime Minister David Cameron has reportedly described as a “health and safety monster”.
However, according to Prospect trade union – which should know what it is talking about as it represents more than 1600 staff at the official Health and Safety Executive – there are only 200 health and safety regulations in the UK.
Mike Clancy, the union’s general secretary designate, is quoted in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper as saying: “Where the Government gets its figures from is anyone’s guess.”
Our guess is that they just plucked them out of thin air.
But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s make believe they really do want to give British business a leg-up as it tries desperately to claw its way out of the worst depression in decades.
So down with red tape!
The only thing is, the business community itself does not seem to be uniformly happy with the jettisoning of health and safety regulations that have been in place for around 150 years.
Edward Naylor, chief executive of Naylor Industries, a Yorkshire drainage pipe company, told the Guardian: “The last thing we want is a lack of focus on health and safety.”
And what’s the view of Coventry-based Amtico, makers of industrial flooring?
Here’s Jonathan Duck, their chief executive: “I am all for health and safety legislation because it makes sure that the workplace is safe.”
Well, well, well. Perhaps the Government has been barking up the wrong tree, after all.
Maybe it would do no harm to have a word with British businesses and ask them what they want.
Because what we have been hearing from that quarter is that the overriding requirement of British industry at present is an end to the finance famine that has starved their firms of the capital needed for growth. Seems that the big bad banks just won’t fork out. Couldn’t you just lean a bit on those tightwad fat cats, Prime Minister Cameron? After all, you’re a big boy now.
Oh well, it’s just an idea.
Before we drop this subject, however, we should point out that, alongside the Government’s view that employees are more productive in unsafe and insalubrious workplaces, it also believes that in general they perform better when their pay is capped or cut. This is why the Government has imposed an indefinite freeze on public sector pay.
You see the mass of workers need their already low pay to be lowered still further in order to give them incentives to work harder.
Funnily enough, this is not the view that the Government takes in respect of that minuscule group of “employees” that swans around at the apex of the work pyramid. No, what directors of banks or industrial conglomerates need to incentivise them is exactly the opposite of what the average worker needs. The toffs at the top need swish board rooms, expense-account lunches, flash cars, private jets, yachts at St Tropez and holiday homes in Moustique – to say nothing of telephone-number “compensation packages” – before they can be coaxed into getting out of bed in the morning.
You see it’s our old friend, the carrot-and-stick approach.
The stick for the man on the Clapham omnibus, the carrot for Hooray Henry.
Let’s hear it for diversity.
One wouldn’t want a world in which everyone was treated the same, now would one?
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question(3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices(2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat(31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.