Tag Archives: Chris Grayling

The government’s work programme: getting the young safely into work

24 Jun

Youth unemployment is a serious issue currently facing the UK. In February it was revealed that nearly one million 16-24-year-olds were out of work, the highest number since comparable records began in 1992. And as getting these young people back into work increasingly becomes a priority, so too must their safety in doing so.

On Wednesday night I attended an All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs whose aim was to discuss the government’s work programme. The event was held at Portcullis house, chaired by Stewart Jackson MP and attended by the employment minister Chris Grayling, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, and a host of young people. Simon Hughes actively encouraged the audience to question Chris Grayling, telling us not to “let him off the hook”.

Grayling outlined the elements to his strategy to provide unemployed young people with the support to get back into work. The approach will comprise of three schemes: the government is looking to create opportunities for young people to undertake eight-week work experience placements; it is looking to create far more apprenticeships – 250,000 by the end of parliament; and is currently compiling a list of employers from all sectors who will take on the services of the long-term youth unemployed, with incentives for them doing so. These employers have applied to the government for the right to be able to provide this employment.

Should the initiative go ahead we could witness an unprecedented number of young people entering the workplace for the first time. While I appreciate the benefits embarking on a spell of work experience and gaining a valuable reference from an employer can bring, young people are more at risk of death, injury or illness for a number of reasons, namely a lack of experience and confidence. I’ve worked in risky and hazardous work environments in the past; I knew full well the risks, but did not have sufficient experience to demand the hazards were managed correctly. And I know I’m not the only young person who has done this.  

If the initiative is successful the companies employing this new generation of apprentices and workers need to effectively and supportively manage their safety and health. And I hope that outlining their health and safety policies and the special consideration they will give to young workers will have been a fundamental part of their application to the tender.

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Remember the dead and fight for the living

28 Apr

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD), and as such I attended a couple of events to ‘remember the dead and fight for the living’. At 9.30 this morning, workers, union employees and union members from all areas of the public and private sectors – along with myself – gathered beside the statue of the unknown construction worker next to the Tower of London to pay our respects.

As someone who has experienced the death of a family member due to injuries sustained at work, I found it allowed a poignant opportunity to contemplate the scores of people around the world who have had their lives cut short because of negligent health and safety management at work. Black balloons were released, one for each worker who had died in London in the past year, there was a minute’s silence and wreathes were laid in commemoration.

The crowd heard a series of speakers, one of which was Unite general secretary Gail Cartmail. She expressed concerns about workers’ who fear speaking up about their safety with in a climate of widespread job insecurity. It will be interesting to see whether this becomes more of an issue as increasing numbers public sector workers are made redundant.

There was also a lot of anxiety expressed about the future of health and safety with the reforms to legislation commissioned by Chris Grayling, secretary of state for employment, and the falling number of proactive HSE and local authority inspections and the cessation of inspections to workplaces categorised as ‘low-risk’ (such as quarries and many areas of manufacturing).

At 12 o’clock, amid all the tourists and news crews setting up to film the royal wedding tomorrow, a protest was held outside of the Department for Work and Pensions’ offices in Westminster. Wonderful trade union banners were unfurled and a megaphone was produced, and a series of trade union representatives and campaign organisers proceeded to pronounce their commitment to making workers’ lives safer and their frustration and condemnation of the looming cuts. HSE inspector and Prospects representative Simon Hester even managed to rouse Chris Grayling from his office, who pronounced to the crowd ‘my door his always open to the TUC’ (but presumably not at that moment, as he didn’t stop to talk for any longer and wandered off in the other direction…).

It was interesting to speak to so many people committed to health and safety, and heartening to know that with their and the British Safety Council’s efforts, occupational safety and health will always be a high priority on the political agenda.