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Government's programme of military spending:

No Enrichment of Private Interests! No Spending for War!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Government's programme of military spending:
No Enrichment of Private Interests! No Spending for War!

Britain's Global Military Presence:
Britain's Military's Overseas Base Network Involves 145 Sites in 42 Countries

No to Stepped Up Military Spending!:
Boris Johnson and the Magic Money Tree for War

Growing Concerns over the Conflict in Ethiopia:
The Ethiopia Crisis and Foreign Intervention

Students Continue to Demand their Rights:
Mass Testing Launched before Students Return Home

Teachers and their Unions Demand Resources:
No Solution to the Covid Crisis in Schools without the Participation of the Teachers!

Avonmouth Explosion:
Workers Killed in Bristol - They Will Be Remembered

Government's programme of military spending:

No Enrichment of Private Interests! No Spending for War!

On November 19, the government announced [1] what was claimed as the biggest programme of military spending since the end of the Cold War some 30 years ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed that he had taken this decision "in the teeth of the pandemic because the defence of the realm must come first". He added, "Britain must be true to our history and stand alongside our allies."

The Prime Minister's words confirm that there is to be no change in Britain's racist colonial and warmongering foreign policy tied to US imperialism and other NATO powers. To confirm this reactionary stand in defence of a pro-war government and a pro-war economy, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace claimed, "Next year represents a huge opportunity for this country, and Defence will be at the forefront of creating the jobs and business opportunities that will help us build back from the pandemic." The Prime Minister and Defence Secretary are proud to admit that their aim is to continue the militarised direction for Britain's economy and to put war and private interests in command.

The amounts by which the government is planning to increase military spending and paying to the rich are staggering. In the November 25 Spending Review [2] of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, it states that the additional funding in "defence" is to be "over £24 billion in cash terms over four years", including an equally staggering £6.6 billion in Research and Development. This settlement means that the Defence budget will "grow at an average of 1.8 per cent per year in real terms from 2019-20 to 2024-25... The government will also continue with the renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrent." This makes the UK the largest European defence spender in NATO and second only to the US. It is also worth noting that this almost exactly mirrors the level of budget cuts that the previous and present governments said that they required the NHS to deliver in £22 billion of savings by 2020/21.

The government says that this investment in military spending is aimed at "cutting-edge technology, positioning the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space and addressing weaknesses in our defence arsenal that cannot be allowed to continue". The Prime Minister also announced "a new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, the creation of a National Cyber Force to protect our people from harm and a new 'Space Command', capable of launching our first rocket in 2022" [1].

This will be underpinned by a record investment of at least £1.5 billion extra and £5.8 billion total on military research and development and a commitment to invest further in the Future Combat Air System. This, the government claims, will go "beyond military use with a vast number of civilian applications such as autonomous vehicles and aviation" and that all these projects "are expected to create up to 10,000 thousand jobs annually across the UK...harnessing the UK's skills in construction and science and reinvigorating those industries in the coming decades" [1].

It is in this context of further militarising the economy that the ruling elite is "investing" in a privatised "civilian economy". In the Spending Review 2020 [2] it points out that the government has spent over £280 billion this year to "support public services" in the Covid-19 pandemic. It also announces £55 billion of "support to public services" in responding to Covid-19 in 2021-22. What it notably fails to mention is that the lion's share of this funding from the Treasury has gone to all kinds of private individuals and companies through the emergency procurement rules.

The tip of the iceberg of some of the scandals over these contracts of £12.3 billion for PPE when so many front line workers did not get the appropriate protection and the £18 billion of contracts to a failed "test, track and trace" system of companies have already been revealed not least by the National Audit Office [3].

Many of these companies are directly or indirectly now involved in military projects, as well as across the economy. There are of course companies like BAE systems and other military companies that make Britain already the second largest exporter of weapons in the world, notoriously fuelling the bloody conflict on the side of Saudi Arabia in Yemen over the last six years. But also, there are companies like Serco [4] always favoured with contracts by government ministers, which have had many spectacularly failed rip-off contracts in tagging prisoners [5], in health as well as operating with lucrative contracts in the military. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen Serco gain a number of multi-million pound contracts within the NHS through these emergency procurement rules. These include contact tracing and setting up of Nightingale hospitals.

Looking at the whole set of relations that exist in Britain today demonstrates that the government is presiding over a pro-war, pro-austerity, pay-the-rich economy. It cannot be claimed that there is a balance between "defence" and public spending. The government continues to enrich private interests, and all the social wealth that the government lays claim to is then disbursed to this end. The burden is placed on working people as the source of this social wealth. The claims of the people and nations of Britain are not considered other than a "cost" or a "burden" to the ruling elite and on which the ruling elite decide only in their interests. There is no discussion about the people's claim on what they produce and what should go to health, education, a non pro-war defence budget and on the environment in which the peoples and nations of Britain have a real say on these matters. What is spent on social programmes such as health and education only goes so far as it is of benefit to this pro-war, pro-austerity economy, and, as can be seen, the interests of oligarchs and warmongers set the direction. There is no discussion as to whether Britain should have nuclear weapons and so on. Today, people are speaking out for an alternative to pro-war government and a direction for the economy that invests in the well-being of all. The focus at the present time must be for no enrichment of private interests and no spending for war!


1. PM to announce largest military investment in 30 years - Press Release, November 19 2020

2. Spending Review 2020, November 25 2020

3. Investigation into government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic - November 18 2020

4. NHS Support Federation: NHS Not for Sale - NHS Privatisation the Evidence
Serco employs 31,700 people in the UK and delivers services in defence, justice and immigration, transport, health and citizen services

5. The company paid £70million as part of a settlement to the Ministry of Justice in December 2013 after they and fellow outsourcing group G4S faced allegations of charging the Government for electronically monitoring people who were either dead, in jail, or had left the country. The company was also fined further £22.9 million is a case finalised in 2019 by the Serious Fraud Office.

Article Index

Britain's Global Military Presence

Britain's Military's Overseas Base Network Involves 145 Sites in 42 Countries

In Norway, the British military has a helicopter base codenamed "Clockwork" at Bardufoss airport, deep in the Arctic Circle. The base is frequently used for mountain warfare exercises and lies 350 miles from the headquarters of Russia's northern fleet in Severomorsk near Murmansk.

A report published by Declassified UK reveals that Britain has the second largest network of military bases around the world after the United States. These bases include 60 that Britain manages itself in addition to 85 facilities where Britain has a significant presence, and which Britain has easy access to as and when required. The findings come in the wake of the government's announcement of an extra £16 billion of military spending over the next four years - a 10% increase.

Declassified UK says:

"The spending announcement was originally meant to be combined with a review of defence strategy, that was being championed by Johnson's former chief adviser Dominic Cummings. The results of Whitehall's 'integrated defence review' are now not expected until next year. Indications suggest the review will recommend a traditional British strategy of building more overseas military bases.

"Last month, former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the UK needs a more permanent presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The current Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, has gone further. In September he announced a £23.8-million investment to expand Britain's army and navy bases in Oman, to accommodate the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers as well as many tanks."

The report sums up Britain's global military presence as follows:

Declassified UK explains: "We have defined 'overseas' as outside the United Kingdom. The base must have a permanent or long-term British presence in 2020 for it to be counted. We included bases run by other nations, but only where the UK has constant access or a significant presence. We only counted NATO bases where the UK has a major combat presence e.g with Typhoon jets deployed, not just officers stationed on a reciprocal basis."

For the full and comprehensive report, including maps, see:

Article Index

No to Stepped Up Military Spending!

Boris Johnson and the Magic Money Tree for War

Terina Hine, Stop the War Coalition

The government has made clear its priorities by granting the biggest increase in military spending in thirty years whilst simultaneously announcing a pay freeze for millions of workers.

The widely reported £16.5 billion increase does not include the increases already agreed, taken together this military extravagance amounts to the colossal sum of £21.5 billion - a 10-15% rise for the remainder of this parliament. This is on top of the MoD's current £41.5 billion annual budget.

The UK already has the sixth largest defence budget in the world and tops the league table of military spending in Europe. So why this massive increase?

According to Boris Johnson, Britain has been "a nation in retreat" and needs to show the world a global Britain beyond Brexit: we need to compete militarily with cyber-weapons, give the army "whatever it needs", and provide the navy with ships so that Britain can once again rule the waves. And to prove our commitment to the new US administration we must reaffirm our position within NATO as its second biggest contributor.

But do not be fooled. This is not spending to "defend the realm" as Johnson has claimed. It is spending for prestige and status, its aim, as the PM himself pointed out, is "to bolster our global influence."

It is a move which has united the Tory backbenchers and has received support from many on the Labour benches. The PM's move was clearly designed to get his backbenchers onside after a period of embarrassing government U-turns and days of chaos surrounding Dominic Cummings' ignominious departure from Downing Street. It also helps distract from the mess the government has made of its COVID-19 response.

Unlike with the free school meals debacle, the "economically prudent" have failed to ask where the money will come from. We were told there is no money to feed hungry children, as the economy has suffered the "biggest annual contraction for 300 years", yet apparently it is OK to spend over £21 billion extra on the military.

We will no doubt be hearing more about the dire economic conditions when Rishi Sunak presents his 2021-22 spending review. What we are unlikely to hear is that similar billions will be spent on the NHS, or on adult social care or on pay rises for frontline workers.

When £21.5 billion can be found to spend on war we are left puzzling about why there is no announcement to fund sick pay so workers can isolate during the pandemic, or to help schools implement COVID-19 restrictions or provide laptops for students missing school to self-isolate. Paltry amounts by comparison.

It was suggested that cuts to the overseas aid budget might help pay this extravagant military bill, yet it is generally thought that money spent on aid is a far less costly way to reduce international threats. But let us not forget, this announcement is not about making us safe.

We live in a country where families can't get funeral costs covered when their loved ones die, where food bank usage has expanded beyond recognition, and homelessness is at a level not seen for decades; a country where front line workers have put their lives at risk throughout the pandemic and are clapped by way of thanks.

It is welcomed that NHS frontline workers will be exempt from the public sector pay freeze, but it is clear teachers, fire-fighters and other NHS workers will not be.

To help put into perspective the vast sums being discussed: £21.5 billion equates to almost twice that required to enable the current social care system to cope with expected demand and be properly staffed over the next four years, or it could provide funding to build 60 new hospitals. £21.5 billion is £6 billion more than the savings made by the proposed public sector pay freeze.

The £3 billion being spent on the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is a hundred times more than the cost of providing free school meals for the school holidays.

In its defence we are told that military procurement will aid "job creation" but these are jobs in weapons of war - why not invest in green technology instead? The £12 billion announced for the Conservative's green revolution included considerable creative accounting, with numerous old projects being dressed up as new. Surely this is where the future lies and where serious investment should be directed?

The two biggest threats today are the climate crisis and the pandemic. Investing in weapons of war will keep us safe from neither. If the government was interested in either protecting or defending the British people, its first priority would not be to pour even money into its inflated military.

No increase in military spending!

Sign the petition #HealthcareNotWarfare: No Increase in Military Spending:

(24 Nov 2020)

Article Index

Growing Concerns over the Conflict in Ethiopia

The Ethiopia Crisis and Foreign Intervention

Protest in South Africa in support of Tigray

It is now estimated that around 1 million people in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, have been displaced by the current military conflict and the UN has announced that the government of Ethiopia has only this week agreed to "unimpeded" access for humanitarian purposes. The Ethiopian government at first demanded that it must control any humanitarian corridor. There have already been widescale reports of a lack of food and medical supplies and the war has been launched at exactly the time when farmers harvest their crops. The Ethiopian government last week announced that its troops had occupied Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray, but the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the governing party in Tigray, said that the war was still being waged throughout the regional state and that its troops had made significant advances.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, had repeatedly made attempts to intervene in the growing crisis in Ethiopia, citing grave concerns about the fate of tens of thousands of refugees. At the end of November, he launched an official appeal for $147 million to aid up to 100,000 refugees fleeing fighting in Tigray. Over 43,000 of these refugees have already crossed the border into Sudan but it is reported that Ethiopian government troops are now patrolling the border to prevent a further exodus. The World Food Programme also issued an appeal for $209 million to support over 6 million beneficiaries in Ethiopia. At the same time, the UNHCR has belatedly raised concerns about more than 100,000 Eritrean refugees who have been living in four refugee camps in Tigray for many years and who are running short of food. Most are political refugees fleeing persecution in Eritrea. There have also been unconfirmed reports that the Ethiopian government has allowed the Eritrean army to forcibly repatriate some of these refugees back to Eritrea.

The fate of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees and other civilians is just one of the consequences of a war that is being waged in Ethiopia by the government of Ethiopia and its allies against its own citizens. These allies, it is reported, include the army of Eritrea. The Ethiopian government cannot be said to have mandate to govern much less to wage war, since it consists of a political party and Prime Minister who have never been elected. Nevertheless, by violent means there is an evident attempt to centralise political power, and even to change the constitution which the government claims it is upholding. Fighting against these attempts are the TPLF-led government of the regional state of Tigray, which won popular support in a recently-held election and which led the struggles in the last decades of the twentieth century which created the conditions for the adoption of the Ethiopian constitution. This constitution, finally adopted in 1995 following country-wide consultations, ensh rines the rights of the people of Ethiopia to elect and be elected and the rights of nations to self-determination, including secession. The negation of these rights, in many other countries in the region as well as in earlier periods of Ethiopia's history, has invariably resulted in political oppression and is at the heart of the current conflict.

The political crisis in Ethiopia is now a war with, it is feared, many casualties, as well as tens of thousands of refugees. The true scale of the humanitarian disaster is unknown because the Ethiopian government has cut phone and power links to Tigray and has, so far, refused the UNHCR and other agencies any access even for humanitarian purposes. In addition, there are reports that Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia, as well as those who support them, are being victimised and imprisoned. The involvement of the Eritrean government is apparently a consequence of its political antagonism to the TPLF. It shares with the Ethiopian government the view that even now the TPLF remains the most resolute opponent of its political aims in the region. Militarily linked to the Eritrean government is the UAE, which has a drone base in Eritrea, which it uses to pursue its war in Yemen. It is reported that drones from this base have also been used to attack Tigray.

The war has from its outset therefore assumed an international dimension. The Ethiopian government has also enjoyed the support of the current US administration for its military attack on Tigray. As a consequence, it has ignored pleas from the African Union, as well as from other countries that have called for an end to military action and stressed that political differences should be resolved by peaceful means. The humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia which is a consequence of the war has created the condition for all the major powers to more actively intervene in the conflict, whether through the auspices of the UN, which appears to be the means currently preferred by the British government, as well as by other means. The EU has already declared that the conflict is not an internal affair and is of "international significance", and has threatened the removal of financial support to Ethiopia. It has now been announced that the World Refugee and Migration Council (WRMC), chaired by the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, as well as other former US government officials, have written to all members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General to call an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council. In its letter the WRMC states that the crisis in Ethiopia "poses a humanitarian challenge and risks becoming a serious threat to international peace and security with the prospect that Ethiopia's neighbours may be drawn into the conflict".

Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in general remain an area of great contention between the major powers such as China and the US, as well as between the regional powers. The current conflict therefore holds great dangers not only for the people of Tigray but all Ethiopians, as well as those throughout the region.

Progressive forces in Britain who have for many decades organised in support of the advances made by the Ethiopian people, standing shoulder to shoulder with them, share the growing concerns over the conflict and its outcome. In these circumstances, they also share the conviction that the peoples of Ethiopia will empower themselves and take their destiny in their own hands.

Article Index

Students Continue to Demand their Rights

Mass Testing Launched before Students Return Home

Mass testing of students began on Monday, November 30, at universities across Britain and the north of Ireland. This testing programme is temporary and will last a week, at makeshift test centres that have been set up on campuses, and is timed with the end of term and the return of students to their homes over the winter break. The testing is voluntary, however, with the majority (130), but not all, universities having expressed interest.

High-speed "lateral flow" tests are being employed that give results in less than an hour. Though rapid, these tests have a low accuracy and consequently higher rate of giving false negatives and positives compared with the tests standardly available. Students are therefore being instructed to take two tests separated by a three-day gap, the guideline being that they would be allowed to leave their university accommodation within 24 hours of the second negative, within a "travel window" lasting from December 3-9. Confirmed positives would be told to self-isolate.

The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has expressed "grave concerns" and has criticised the plans as rushed, confused and last-minute. As such, it and labelled them a "recipe for chaos". "Testing so many people and following necessary safety measures would be an extremely challenging operation," said the lecturers' union.

The National Union of Students (NUS) demanded that the testing be available to all students. "We are not aware of how universities will decide which students are tested if testing is oversubscribed," the NUS said.

A recent Commons Research Briefing [1] points out that concerns had been raised before the return of masses of university students to university in September and October by the UCU who said that universities could become the "care homes of a second wave", while the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had warned that outbreaks were "very likely in universities".

The briefing explains that, on arrival at that time, students were typically placed into "households" to prevent transmission, but a series of outbreaks nevertheless occurred. Many affected students who were subsequently put into self-isolation complained about the level of support and their tuition fees under the circumstances, with a number of universities reverting to online teaching.

Incredibly, the briefing reports that the government does not publish data on outbreaks at universities. However, the authors cite the UCU figure of 47,528 cases among staff and students that had been reported as of November 25 since the start of term. Yet, as not all universities publish this data, it is an underestimate, says the briefing.

In these conditions, students have been taking the initiative, as Workers' Weekly recently reported [2].

Students at testing station

The NUS have launched a campaign under the hashtag #StudentsDeserveBetter, accusing the government of having "ignored the needs of students throughout the pandemic".

The union is currently organising actions and has launched a petition over the following demands:

"Uphold students' basic legal rights - students should not be... scapegoated [or]... threatened and policed by private security forces."

"Give students the right to leave without financial detriment - including exiting accommodation, deferring or permanently leaving our courses."

"Ensure fair treatment during accommodation lockdowns - rent reimbursement for lockdown periods and free internet access, care packages with food, wellbeing materials, and necessities, and targeted educational & mental health support, with facilitation of social activity."

"Provide an effective strategy for education now and for post-Covid recovery". Beyond the current pandemic, the NUS is demanding "a new strategy that delivers lifelong, funded and accessible education for everyone in society."

The context of this and other student action is of an approach taken by the government to "balance the risks and benefits", with students marginalised and treated as a source of rent and tuition fee revenue. Students are upholding that education is a right, not a matter of such balancing acts. The solution lies in consciously mobilising students and staff to work out collectively how to provide and receive education in all conditions and for any necessary support to be provided to achieve this.


1. Carl Baker, Paul Bolton, Susan Hubble, "Higher and further education, back to campus 2020-21", Research Briefing, House of Commons Library, November 25, 2020

2. Workers' Weekly, "Students Fight for their Right to Education: Manchester Students Step Up Fight", November 21, 2020
Workers' Weekly, "Students Take a Stand: Students Face Unprecedented Covid-19 Lockdown Measures", October 3, 2020

Article Index

Teachers and their Unions Demand Resources

No Solution to the Covid Crisis in Schools without the Participation of the Teachers!

Teachers are having to cope with the often contradictory and idealistic guidelines from the government in a situation where there is a great danger from being infected with the Covid-19 virus, not enough resources to implement necessary safety measures, and yet it is up to them to guarantee the education of the pupils.

Analysis by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) reveals that one in four schools may not be able to meet Covid-related costs despite increased funding from government, and deprived schools will be among the hardest-hit. A report of the NFER showed that for many state schools, the increased costs of measures to try and cope with the pandemic are not matched by school funding.

Government ministers have said they expect schools to meet the costs from their existing budgets, and have repeatedly pointed to plans to increase school spending by £7.1 billion by 2022-23. Despite these rises, NFER identified 1,500 schools that were "particularly at risk of great financial hardship", as they entered the pandemic with either a deficit or small surplus.

The research also found that more deprived schools, which face the biggest challenge in supporting pupils to catch up, stand to see smaller increases under the government's national funding formula (NFF) because they have historically received higher levels. Schools have lost hundreds of millions of pounds from a combination of lost income and increased costs since the pandemic began. Although the government launched an exceptional costs fund, its scope was limited and it only covered the tail end of the last academic year.

"This government has some nerve telling teachers to keep calm and carry on," wrote Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU). She pointed out how ministers have insisted that circuit breakers, rotas and extended holidays were not an option.

Mary Bousted writes: "The teachers, leaders and support staff that I speak to tell me that they feel abandoned. They are exhausted. If their school is in a high Covid area they are coping with significant staff absence as their colleagues isolate. One MAT CEO told me recently that each day 10 per cent of the teaching staff are absent - either because they have Covid or because they have been in close contact with someone infected with it. As staffing budgets are decimated, school leaders abandon 'rarely cover' principles and teachers lose their non-contact time.

"Just working to keep a school Covid-secure adds to the workload. The time taken to supervise staggered start and end times and lunchtimes, to keep pupil bubbles separate, and to supervise hand washing for primary school pupils, builds up.

"Coping with rising levels of poor pupil behaviour adds to the exhaustion as children and young people express, in school, their anxieties about family breakdowns, parental financial worries and their own fears of catching the virus. Then there is the requirement to provide remote learning for pupils who are isolating, on top of a full teaching timetable, using IT platforms that are unfamiliar and on which few have been trained. There is a keenly felt anger at the disingenuousness of a government which promised schools laptops for disadvantaged pupils, only to renege on that promise at 5pm on the Friday before half-term."

Mary Bousted is the Joint General-Secretary of the National Education Union alongside Kevin Courtney

Mary Bousted affirms that these pressures are compounded by the belief many education professionals have that their workplace is not safe enough. She says: "These are particularly acute in secondary schools and sixth-form colleges which are packed full of pupils who, SAGE now tells us, can transmit the virus.

"Viral levels in secondary age pupils are rising faster than any other age group; they are now 51 times what they were at the beginning of September, and secondary-aged pupils now have higher viral infection rates than any other age group.

"Uniquely, education staff are working in crowded places, with inadequate ventilation and cleaning, without social distancing, and with mask wearing only in communal areas. These are good conditions for viral transmission - which could explain why attendance rates among secondary school pupils are declining so rapidly. Nationally last week 22 per cent of secondary-aged pupils were absent. This rate will be much higher in areas of high infection.

"So, in addition to hugely excessive and debilitating workload, school staff are scared. They are worried that they will catch Covid and terrified that they will expose their families to the virus."

Despite being told from the very beginning of the crisis that the teachers are the ones whose discussions and solutions must be taken account of, the government has stopped its ears and eyes and continued to impose conditions which bear no relation to reality. It is all very well putting forward "solutions" to the crisis, as the government, not to mention such figures as Tony Blair, have arrogantly done, but if the human and material resources are not there, it adds to the anger and frustration of teachers, education professionals and teaching unions who are left carrying the can. Despite their passionate dedication to teaching and to the wellbeing of the children, teachers are beginning to reach breaking point.

Of course, problems of the teaching profession and the future of education did not begin with the coronavirus pandemic. In many ways, they have simply become exposed and exacerbated by the difficulties of being teachers being placed in the firing line of the pandemic. In addition, concerns now are growing over what is going to happen to pupils taking GCSE and A-level exams. If teachers are working in a school where year 11 and 13 have had to isolate repeatedly, they are worried sick about how they are going to cover the syllabus.

It is becoming ever more imperative that teachers participate in the solution to the Covid crisis in schools and that the education system is invested with the resources to implement solutions. It is simply not acceptable for the government to demand that teachers bear responsibility for implementing guidelines in the present circumstances, circumstances which also are making it ever more difficult for the teachers themselves to discuss and collectivise their experience.

(With files from Schools Week, NEU)

Article Index

Avonmouth Explosion

Workers Killed in Bristol - They Will Be Remembered

A floral tribute outside the plant at Avonmouth. A boy of 16 was among the workers killed.

Four workers were tragically killed in a large explosion at a wastewater treatment facility at Avonmouth in Bristol on December 3. A fifth person was injured in the blast. Firefighters were called to Wessex Water's premises in Avonmouth to search for missing people, but the rescue ended in tragedy. Police declared a major incident and are investigating the circumstances of the blast. Enquiries will involve several connected agencies. The company is working with the Health and Safety Executive as part of the investigation. People have been urged to avoid the area. The explosion, which shook buildings nearby, happened in a chemical tank at the water recycling centre. Gases collect and are collected in this type of process. The silo involved holds treated biosolids before they are recycled to land as an organic soil conditioner. It is not common knowledge of what happens to the gases and what precautions are made.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said: "This has already been such a challenging year, and this news of the further loss of life is another terrible blow. As a city, we will mourn for them."

Workers' Weekly sends its condolences to the families and colleagues of the workers who died in the explosion, and pays tribute to the emergency crews who attended the scene.

Explosion site in the Avonmouth plant.

Workers continue to work in unsafe conditions, including during the pandemic where the maximum precautions have not been taken such as social distancing and wearing of PPE. Accidents are still a regular occurrence, for many reasons across industry, where managements still cut corners.

Workers continue to die in various places at their places of work. In the Black Country, West Midlands, on November 30, for example, a man in his 40s was struck by falling slabs at a Dudley industrial estate. A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: "Police were called to reports of slabs having fallen on to a man at an industrial unit in Lyde Green, Cradley, at about 3.20 pm". He was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

These deaths, whether through neglect by the companies concerned, or by forcing the workers to operate in unsafe conditions, underline the necessity for workers to be involved in deciding on safety procedures at work. The causes of these tragedies must be identified and remedied, and proper compensation paid to the victims and their families. Unsafe working conditions are unacceptable.

Article Index

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