Archive for March 2012

What do we want? Better facilities for trade unions!

Union agitatorsPeople are panic buying fuel because tanker drivers said they might want to go on strike and because a couple of idiot British government ministers told people first to stockpile fuel at home in jerry cans (which is illegal) and then not to stockpile in jerry cans but to just buy double what you normally would.  Cretins.

So what’s are the tanker drivers complaining about?  Let’s look at the list of demands sent to the British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, by the Unite union.  They are demanding minimum standards in …

Health & safety procedures, practices and processes.  Seems fair enough to me if there is a shortfall in what is legally required.  Is there?  A quick Google search to try and find out how many tanker drivers have been killed in the UK returned only one relevant result which was an undated Daily Mail article about a tanker driver crashing off a motorway bridge.  But who knows?  There might be lots of unreported incidents so yep, let’s have a minimum standard of safety for drivers.

Independently accredited training.  Not quite sure what this would achieve to be honest.  Does it matter whether the person telling you how to drive a tanker safely or how to load and unload your truck works for your employer or another company?  Obviously it matters to your employer because paying someone else to do what you can do yourself will cost money but will it actually give the driver anything they haven’t already got except for, perhaps, a qualification they can use to get a job at another company to avoid having to do the training again?

Portable sector pensions.  Is there such a thing outside of the civil service?  This is a company pension that you could transfer from company to company as you move around employers thanks to the aforementioned “independently accredited training” without losing benefits or contributions.  Good for the drivers but not good for employers who will have their hands tied when it comes to offering benefits to employees.

Rates of pay, hours of work and working/holiday/sickness/redundancy arrangements.  Hold on a minute.  There’s a minimum wage, a legal limit on the number of hours you can work, a legal right to holidays, a legal right to sick pay and many, many laws around redundancy.  Do tanker drivers need more rights than they and the rest of the population already have?  Do we really need a separate minimum wage for tanker drivers?  Who’s next?  Who will decide what an acceptable rate of pay is for each job?

Equal opportunities.  A quick Google search for information about racism in the tanker drive industry returned only one apparently relevant result which was for a recent blog entry on Liberal Conspiracy that has been taken down shortly after publication.  A search for plain old discrimination in the industry returned nothing of relevance.  That doesn’t mean that there is no discrimination in the industry of course but equal opportunities is something that should be a given.  I’m not sure tanker drivers need any more protection than the law already affords to them and everyone else in the country though.

Grievance and disciplinary procedures.  Again, there are many laws around grievance and disciplinary procedures and everyone has the right to independent representation and the use of a conciliation such as ACAS to resolve disputes.  Do tanker drivers need more rights than they and the rest of us already have?

Trade union facilities.  And there we have the real motivation behind the threat of strikes and list of demands.  How many tanker drivers are genuinely demanding better facilities for trade unions at the expense of their employers?  “Facilities” presumably includes more pilgrims – union officials paid by their employer to work for their union rather than do the job they were employed for – which is more about saving the unions money than bettering the rights of workers.

These threatened strikes are part of the unions’ war against non-Labour government.  They were behind the student protests, they’re behind the “anti-cuts” protests and they’re behind this one.  They are open about their motivation: they want the Tories out and their Labour poodles back in.

I hope the union agitators are prosecuted under the “anti-terrorism” laws their Labour government brought in and sacked.

The right to die is a fundamental right

An important case was heard today in the High Court from a sufferer of a debilitating disease who wanted the right to choose when and how we was going to die and to have a doctor euthanise him.

It’s important because legal challenges of this sort are usually brought by people capable of taking their own lives who want to protect their loved ones from prosecution for facilitating their suicide whereas in this case the person in this case, whilst mentally sound and able to communicate his wishes, is physically incapable of taking his own life without intervention.  What he is asking for is the right to choose the time that he wants to die and to ask someone to administer a lethal drug overdose.

The whole subject of assisted suicide or assisted dying is an emotive one and no answer will ever satisfy everyone but there are some very important principals at stake, primary of which is who actually owns your body.  Whilst the state can deprive you of your possessions and your liberty, the one thing which is entirely yours and nobody else’s is your body.  So why does the state presume to have the right to decide what you can and can’t do with your body if you are of sound mind?

Another important principle is that of free will.  If a person decides to end their life they may legally do so (yes, it required an Act of Parliament to decriminalise suicide – feel free to have a WTF moment) but only if they end it themselves.  If a person decides to end their life by having someone else pull the trigger, administer the dose or whichever method they choose then that is a criminal offence.  That person has made the choice to end their life and chosen a method of doing it – why does it matter if they are the one holding the gun or the syringe or if they’ve got someone to do it for them?  If you induce someone to carry out an illegal act you are guilty of that illegal act yourself so why is inducing someone to carry out an act that is legal for you to do illegal?

Tony Nicklinson is arguing that under the Human Rights Act, his right to life also includes the right to end it.  The Ministry of Injustice is arguing that assisted dying is murder and if the courts rule otherwise they are changing the law and that is for Parliament to do, not the courts.  The Ministry of Injustice is arguing against something that isn’t happening.  Parliament makes law and the courts interpret it.  Whether their interpretation is what was intended when a law was drafted or what Parliament wants is a moot point, it is how they interpret the law that counts.  If they interpret the right to life in the Human Rights Act as the right not just to have a life but to own your own life then that is the law – not a change in the law but a ruling as to what the law actually means.  It doesn’t matter that Parliament didn’t intend that to be the case, that’s their fault for making a law that doesn’t actually say what they meant it to say.

Terry Pratchett’s documentary on assisted suicide just over a year ago had quite a profound effect on me.  I had long been of the opinion that if someone wanted to die then they should be allowed to do so and that if I was in the position where I had no quality of life I would want someone to do the honourable thing and put me out of my misery but I hadn’t actually seen someone take their own life in that way, nor had I really thought about how it would feel to be in that position.  It took a couple of days for me to really think it through and come out unequivocally on the side of assisted suicide and assisted dying being right.  I do think it is right and that’s my considered opinion having seen the really quite disturbing suicide of Craig Ewert and imagining myself in his place.

There are many moral and ethical arguments for and against assisted suicide and assisted dying but ultimately it boils down to your right to personal self determination.  We can smoke and drink ourselves to death, we can put our lives in daily danger through extreme sports or high risk jobs like bomb disposal, we can gorge ourselves on fatal quantities of unhealthy food but we can’t choose to take our own lives peacefully and on our own terms at a time and place of our choosing?  For me that’s just wrong and I wish Tony Nicklinson the best of luck in his appeal.