Asbestos Alert – Crisis is Looming

Quote

Health and Safety Legislation is not ‘Red Tape’ – or unnecessary bureaucracy as David Cameron has claimed, as he boasted he intended to remove it. Removal of vital health and safety legislation, cuts to public funding and an inability to keep building regulations were factors leading to the Grenfell fire which shocked so many of us. But for that awful tragedy, many of us would still be unaware of the risks caused by ‘Red Tape’. It is imperative that professional expert advice and adequate funding is made available for public buildings, homes and workplaces to be safe.

Now is not the time for complacency. The biggest killer in the workplace is asbestos.

In June, Unite reported that the Conservative Brexit negotiations could put the safety of children, workers and parents at risk of mesothelioma as a result of weakening of health and safety legislation.

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has revealed that newly appointed Brexit minister Steve Baker MP, has lobbied the government to weaken asbestos laws. Unite is demanding that the government now provide ‘cast-iron guarantees’ that asbestos regulations won’t be watered down.

Much of the existing legislation, which bans the use of asbestos and controls how the substance is removed, is governed by European Union legislation. Mr Baker’s appointment raises concerns that when the so-called ‘Great Reform Bill’ becomes law, he will be able to use his position to weaken asbestos laws, bypassing effective parliamentary scrutiny.

The three main types of asbestos – blue, brown and white asbestos – can still be found in the workplace. There is no safe level of exposure and all types are dangerous. (TUC guidelines) Unison provide a useful Q and A information  sheet, available here.

Widespread use of asbestos in schools, and the failure for this to be removed because of poorly maintained buildings and underfunding over decades now leaves a crisis and more lives at risk.

Earlier this year the NUT invited members to complete an on-line survey for management of asbestos. The NUT Asbestos Survey Report is shown here. Not everyone responded to the survey, but there is overwhelming support  calling for the government to commit to a phased removal of asbestos from schools.

Shockingly, nearly 50% of all respondents had not been told whether their school contains asbestos. This is concerning given that the majority of schools (86%) do contain asbestos. Less than 5% of respondents had been told that their school did not contain asbestos; therefore the majority of respondents either knew that asbestos was present in their school, or had not been told either way.

  • Of the 46% of respondents who had been told that their school contained asbestos:
  • Half had not been told where the asbestos was located. If staff are not given this information they cannot take steps to avoid disturbing it and they are at risk of exposure, as are pupils.
  • Nearly 75% said that the asbestos was in accessible locations, such as floors, ceilings, and window frames. Schools are unlike the majority of other workplaces in that the majority of their occupants are children, who engage in normal but boisterous behaviours that are likely to disturb asbestos.  It is known that children are more at risk because of the long latency period of asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma.
  • Three quarters said that staff had not been provided with asbestos awareness training.
  • Only 2% of respondents said that parents had been given information about the presence of asbestos in the school.
  • The majority of respondents (85%) had not been shown their school’s asbestos management plan.
  • Over three quarters were aware of incidents of potential asbestos exposure in their school.
  • Nearly half of all respondents were unaware of Health and Safety Executive advice that no World War One or Two gas masks should be worn or handled in schools because of the potential risk of asbestos exposure. Nearly 100 respondents said that such gas masks were still worn or handled in their school, with some respondents reporting that they had been used recently on school visits.

On the 4th July, a Joint Union Asbestos Committee ( JUAC) held its first national conference.

Management of inspections in schools must be informed, comprehensive and safe. One teacher in the UK is dying each month. The video clip demonstrates the NUT questionnaire was inadequate, referring to inspections in SE England.  In the SE only a handful were inspected, and there were problems in all.

The information here collates UK schools which contain asbestos, but this is not complete, but shows the scale of the problem as 86% of schools in this study contact asbestos. This does not mean other schools are safe.

As there is a mass academisation of schools as they move away from Local Authority Control, there is a concern that expert advice and knowledge is not at hand leaving schools isolated. Furthermore cuts to funding, involvement in private companies with conflicting interests adds to concerns. There is no place for competition between schools who strive to make profits for Academy chains.

We need transparency about asbestos in our schools and public buildings. This is a very grave and dangerous issue. The DfE has said that  legislation “does not require schools to inform parents about the presence of asbestos in their children’s school.”

The Labour Party Manifesto makes plans for increased funding in schools, while redressing the historical underfunding in some schools and will invest in new schools, including the phased removal of asbestos in existing schools. All schools will be democratically accountable including appropriate controls to ensure they serve the public interest.

The Labour Party Manifesto rejects the “Great Repeal Bill”, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.

A message for Mrs May re: DUP Agreement

Quote

Mrs May, please note: While we do not begrudge an end to austerity for any people in Northern Ireland, we do object to you risking its security and their safety by breaking the Good Friday agreement. 
We demand an end to austerity in England , Scotland and Wales too. We reject privatisation of our NHS while you cling to power. We reject your expensive and dangerous wars while you sell arms to Saudi. If you can fund the army in NI , why are we facing cuts to police on our streets? Why are our hospitals closing, and our schools underfunded? We reject that our young people are entering adult life without jobs, without affordable housing and paying £9000 a year for an education our generation had for free, and with maintenance grants.
You take money out of public funds to give to NI – not out of concern for anyone living there but merely so that you Tories can stay in power long enough to gain possession of public assets and help yourselves, like vultures to the remains of our public services and hand out to your chums.
Shame on you, Mrs May and all who keep you in power. You are despicable.

#Grenfell – Negligence beyond Belief

Quote


The shock and grief, the outpouring of emotions from anger, sadness and depair is what we are all experiencing. The full scale of this appalling tragedy at the #Grenfell fire leaves us numb. Those responsible are trying to shift opinion in order to avoid blame. Some criticise people by saying they are politicisng this tragic event. But the cause of this event was indeed political – austerity. For that reason it is inherently politicised. It was only this week when Theresa May admitted that austerity was unnecessary, avoidable, a political choice. In that, they are culpable and their actions inexcusable. They will not avoid blame; justice will be done.

There needs to be a full inquest regarding these deaths, not merely an enquiry, where in years to come evidence goes missing or locked away for 80 years

Ten shocking facts about #Grenfell

From leftfutures.org

Britain was shocked yesterday at the sight of Grenfell Tower, a block of flats that housed as many as 600 people in West London, engulfed by flames in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Since the fire, a number of shocking facts have become apparent, and Theresa May has called for a public enquiry:

  1. * Tower lies in the wealthiest locality in the country, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The average income is over £100,000 and the average property is sold for close to £2,000,000. David Cameron and Roman Abramovich both own a house there. The residents of Grenfell Tower are mainly working-class and ethnic minority, living in the cheapest accommodation in the borough, provided through the borough’s council, which pays KCTMO public money to manage the building. Senior managers at KCTMO earned £650,000 between them last year.
  2. *The residents formed an association, the Grenfell Action Group “to record our struggle and… remain as evidence for future generations of how our community has been mistreated by RBKC [the borough’s council] and its social housing management agents the Kensington & Chelsea TMO (KCTMO).” The Group raised serious concerns about fire risk following near catastrophes at other KCTMO properties but were ignored, causing them to write “[we] firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.” 90% of residents signed a petition for an investigation into KCTMO’s handling of safety concerns.
  3. *The residents sought legal support to force KCTMO to improve safety in Grenfell Tower, but could not afford it due to cuts in legal aid. In 2009, under Labour, England and Wales had the highest per capita spending on legal aid in the world, before Conservative austerity measures cut it.
  4. *£10m was spent refurbishing Grenfell Tower from 2014-16, without addressing residents’ safety concerns or installing sprinklers. Instead, cladding was added to make the building look more attractive from the outside (presumably, to richer people who lived elsewhere in Kensington). Residents were told that the building was designed in such a way that a fire in one flat would not spread to others, and therefore advised to stay in their homes in case of a fire. This proved not to be the case,possibly because the cladding was flammable.
  5. *In 2009, a coroner’s report into another fatal tower block fire in London recommended that the government ensure sprinklers are installed during refurbishments. In 2014, given the lack of response from government, Labour MP and former firefighter Jim Fitzpatrick, pressed this in a parliamentary debate. Conservative minister Brandon Lewis said: “Sprinklers work. We know that. No one can deny it… They are an effective way of protecting lives and property.” But he rejected the idea that the government should enforce the fitting of sprinklers, citing the need to reduce the burden of regulation. Gavin Barwell, his successor as Housing Minister, and now Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, pledged a review of building regulations in this area, but never carried it out.
  6. *312 Conservative MPs voted against a Labour bill last year which required landlords to make homes “fit for human habitation”. 72 of those are themselves private landlords.
  7. *Ten fire stations and 500 firefighters’ jobs have been cut since 2009. Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London and now Foreign Secretary, told an assembly member objecting to these cuts to “get stuffed”. The new mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, will review the cuts.
  8. *Thousands of ordinary people have donated money, supplies and time to help the victims of the fire, including many Islamic groups. According to witnesses and survivors, the Muslims who were awake for Ramadan prayers, having fasted all day, were crucial to raising the alarm and helping neighbours from the building.
  9. *As of Thursday, after decades of Conservative rule, Kensington is represented by a Labour MP (Emma Dent Coad) who has a strong record of campaigning against gentrification, for housing rights and writes a blogendorsed by the Grenfell Action Group.
  10. *Theresa May visited Grenfell today, but refused to speak to a single resident.
    To sum up: in the richest borough in the country, poor people died in their homes, despite repeatedly warning the authorities of safety concerns and possibly as a direct result of actions taken by KCTMO. The government knew what should be done to avert such tragedies and did nothing. Cuts stopped the tragedy from being prevented through legal action or mitigated by the fire service. Those responsible remain in power. But the people are fighting back.

 

Austerity was political ; Cruelty therefore deliberate #ToriesOUT

Quote

So Theresa May now admitting that Austerity was a political choice and cruelty deliberately inflicted on the people. #ToriesOUT They must pay.

Because of Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty and courage, people have seen the truth – Austerity was a myth. I, Daniel Blake portrayed the injustice. 

Theresa May has admitted this was unnecessary, is saying austerity is over and therefore this has been deliberately inflicted. The Tories must now accept the consequences, and step down from government.

All of the deaths, the deprivation, all of the poverty – all were deliberately inflicted.