Not This Time: anti-casualisation campaign
(Film/Video, Conscious Cinema, September 2002)
Simon Jones was killed on his first day as a casual worker at the Shoreham dock of Euromin after being sent there by the employment agency Personnel Selection. While campaigning to bring those responsible for Simon's death to justice, Simon's family and friends have faced a systematic government cover-up of the human cost of casualisation. NOT THIS TIME - THE STORY OF THE SIMON JONES MEMORIAL CAMPAIGN (2002 UPDATE) is the story of that campaign. (from £3.00)
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Article taken from SchNews, Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
"Some employers seem to treat their workers like machinery. They're not. They have families and friends who are torn apart when things like this happen to them."
- Anne Jones, Simon's mother
Tuesday 1st. Some people have climbed the 80 foot floodlights and unfurled banners which say 'Simon Jones RIP' and 'Casualisation Kills'.
On the ground thirty people who have gathered at the docks to commemorate the death of their friend place a wreath. A banner reading "murderers" hangs from the dock gates, which have also been d-locked to stop trucks going in and out. Leaflets explaining what is happening are handed to mainly sympathetic workers. Simon would have been celebrating his 25th birthday today. Eventually the company are forced to close the docks down for the day. Workers are sent home on full pay, probably the first time Euromin have coughed upholiday pay.
Thursday 3rd. People occupy the offices of Personnel Selection, the temp agency that sent Simon to the docks when he was clearly unsuitable to do such a skilled job. The "murderers" banner is hung from the window, while outside his friends leaflet passers-by. The leaflet asks "Why should agencies such as Personnel Selection take half your wages when you're doing the work?"
Eventually Personnel Selection are also forced to shut down for the day, again sending the workers home on full pay with a notice in the window saying this is out of respect for Simon.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Four months ago Simon was sent by Personal Selection to work at Euromin as a stevedore. But as Emma Aynsley, his girlfriend at the time pointed out "Simon had no experience of working inside a ship and should never have been allowed to work there. He was doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the country for about Â£5 per hour, with no training whatsoever. It was like asking someone without a driving licence to drive an articulated lorry."
Simon had only been working on the ship for about an hour unloading stone when his head was crushed by the grab of a crane. He died instantly.
The death of Simon is tragic, but was no accident. In fact it was a direct result of the low paid 'flexible' market workplace which is now endemic throughout the country.
Along the waterfront casualisation has returned to all British docks since the abolition of the National dock scheme in 1989. No holiday or sick pay, no job security, more injuries and deaths. Within four years the accident rate at British docks had leapt by a third. However, the advantages to the companies involved were enormous - a 41% saving in wages caused by 5,000 redundancies and cheaper labour with fewer rights.
Joining Simon's friends on Tuesday was Bob Ritchie, one of the 500 sacked Liverpool dockers, who told SchNEWS "We went on strike for over two years to prevent deaths like this, which are inevitable with an untrained, casual workforce. Before casualisation, this sort of thing would never have happened. If these companies are allowed to get away with employing casual staff to do skilled jobs the death toll will just keep rising."
Which it has. There were 302 deaths from accidents at work last year, 17% more than the year before. Meanwhile the record of Health and Safety Executive is appalling. Out of 50,000 major injuries at work last year 48,000 weren't even investigated by the xecutive. Despite New Labour talking about being 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' when it comes to companies like Euromin it goes decidedly soft.
Simon had gone to the agency after hassle from the dole. Under the JobSeekers Allowance unemployed people are forced to take any jobs, however unsuitable or unsafe, under threat of losing benefits. Employment agencies boom in this environment - there are six pages of them in the Brighton Yellow Pages alone.Bharti Patel of the Low Pay Unit believes Simon's situation was not unusual. "The sanction of benefit withdrawal can mean that people will take any job at any price". The situation is set to get even worse with the introduction of the New Deal".
The Liverpool dockers' strike, which continued for longer than the miners' strike of 1985-86, received little media coverage, being viewed by many as a last ditch defence of dinosaur ways that were now a thing of the past. The New Britain of the late 1990's has little time for such 'labour market inflexibility'. During the dockers dispute Tony Blair was already voicing his support for the Tories' creation of "a more restricted trade union legislative framework than any other country in the western world."
Simon wrote for SchNEWS, and was a supporter of the direct action movement's decision to join the dockers in a mass picket on their first year anniversary. Whereas some people couldn't see what we had in common, Simon thought the connection was obvious - the dockers were fighting the crap-jobs-for-crap-pay system that affects just about everyone. In the end it was a connection that became all too real for him.
As Emma told SchNEWS "Simon was killed by the bosses he hated. I suppose there was a time when you had unions that went on strike over things like this, but not anymore. You've got to rely on yourselves, on each other, because there's no big organisations out there anymore that are going to make things right. If we want to make things better, it's up to us."
By closing down Euromin and Personnel Selection for the day we showed that if we work together then we can make a difference. Simon would have been proud.
The Simon Jones Memorial Campaign can be contacted on 01273 685913.