ON THE TRACKS
The money he was getting was danger money. As far as I
am concerned my son
was murdered. - Mrs Mungovan.
Michael Mungovan had only been working on the railways for three
days when he was sent to work unsupervised near Vauxhall station
in south London. He was securing a section of track when he stepped
into the path of a train travelling at 50 mph. The 22 year old student
During a two week inquest that ended on Monday, the jury was told
that Mr Mungovan did not have a valid track safety card, his colleague
on the day of the accident did not have the relevant supervision
skills and the experienced worker who Michael had been assigned
to work with was suspended at the time. The jury at the inquest
decided that Michael was unlawfully killed and the police
will now be reopening a criminal investigation.
The death of Michael mirrors that of Simon Jones, who was sent
to work as a docker with no training and killed within two hours.
Michael had been in a classroom for only one and a half days
training and given just half a day on a rural single line before
being sent to work on one of the busiest junctions in the country.
His death once again highlights the hazards of untrained casual
workers being given dangerous jobs with little training. Jobs that
not so long ago would have been done by a highly skilled railway
In a submission to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee
last year, the RMT rail union said that the number of permanent
staff employed on the tracks had fallen from 31,000 before privatisation
to between 15,000 and 19,000. The unions former general secretary,
Jimmy Knapp, told MPs that many of them were being replaced by casual
workers recruited in pubs and
clubs. There are now 100,000 individuals that have got personal
track safety certificates. Who these people are I would not know,
and who looks after them and sees that they are doing the right
things I would not know, but that is a staggering figure.
Michael was employed by temp agency McGinley Recruitment Services,
who in turn were being used as subcontractors by Balfour Beatty
Rail Maintenance Ltd, who were in turn paid to maintain the line
for Railtrack - an illustration of the long chain of command now
operating on the railways. As for the devastated family, they said
in a statement that privatisation of the railways had led to a low
regard for human life.
MAKING A KILLING
The Transport Select Committee attacked Railtracks recruitment
practices because it doesnt actually employ the gangs of engineers
who keep the railways running, nor does it train them. No, thats
left to companies like Balfour Beatty and Jarvis who at the weekend
blamed saboteurs for the recent Potters Bar rail crash where seven
Just six days before Potters Bar, Jarvis were successfully prosecuted
by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for unsafe practice
during railway maintenance work. They were fined £7,000
for nearly running over several track workers, with the HSE railway
inspector commenting, The companys failure
to people who were not competent being expected to do jobs they
were not able to properly discharge. Not that this is the
first time Jarvis has been in the dock.
In July 1999 they were fined £7,000 after a worker lost an
eye because they had failed to carry out a proper risk assessment
and had too few staff working on the track. A year later they were
fined £500,000 after two separate train derailments because
it failed to check the track before trains were allowed to
run, exposing employees and passengers to risk of injury.
In October 2000, 41 year old Mark Meadowcroft was killed by a train
while working for Jarvis. Still, forgetting about all that, Railtracks
replacement, Network Rail, has appointed Jarvis as a technical
adviser on safety issues!
As for Balfour Beatty, not only have they been found guilty by
the HSE on numerous occasions for causing the death and serious
injury of its workers, but they are also the proud winners of a
record £1.2 million fine after part of the tunnel they were
building on the rail link to Heathrow airport collapsed.
And were sure readers will be pleased to know that both Jarvis
and Balfour Beatty are part of the consortiums wanting to take over
the London Underground.
So what will happen now? Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service
announced a new investigation into the Paddington rail crash with
a view to bringing corporate manslaughter charges. And hours before
Mondays verdict, Transport Secretary Stephen Byers promised
to examine the role of contractors and sub-contractors who work
on railway maintenance. A new relationship is needed
based on best value, not lowest cost, providing a quality maintenance
and renewal programme for railway track that puts the interests
of the travelling public first. Nice words - but surely private
companies are always going to be in it for the money and cut costs
to make a few extra bucks. As Colin Chalmers from the Simon Jones
campaign told SchNEWS Profits are all these companies and
their directors think about. If getting untrained students to do
dangerous jobs makes more money than employing skilled workers,
theyll do it. Casualisation kills but its good
for dodgy companies profits. These companies will only stop
when we kick up enough fuss and make sure that directors start going
* Not this time the Story of the Simon Jones Memorial
Campaign (2002 update) is out now. They are hoping to organise
showings of this 25-minute film, with speakers, across the country
in July. If youre interested in arranging a showing, email:
For copies of the film send a cheque for £5 to Simon Jones
Memorial Campaign, PO Box 2600, Brighton BN2 0EF. www.simonjones.org.uk
ARREST OF THE WEEK
For having the wrong views
New York animal rights activist Andrew Stepanian was recently sentenced
to 6 months in prison after he asked one too many questions on a
routine traffic stop. Watching a friend being beaten and arrested,
he dared to speak up, an act which, unsurprisingly, ended with his
arrest and beating. For his trouble, Andy received prison time for
resisting arrest and obstructing government authority, obstructing
being defined as getting in the way of a police officers fist,
apparently. This type of harassment is not new to Andy, a dedicated
and well-known local activist in the fight against Huntington Life
Sciences. Andy has lived with a video surveillance camera pointed
at his driveway since January 2000 and was told by a judge during
his sentencing that he participates in a level of activism
not welcome in our society. ! Maybe that explains why another
six months has been tacked onto his sentence for speaking at a demo
back in March. Write to Andy at: Andrew Stepanian, NCC 0200 1777,
c/o Nassau County Corrections, 100 Carman Avenue, East Meadow, NY
Protest against threat to destroy ancient woodland this Sunday
(26) 2pm Titnore Lane entrance to Northbrook College, Durrington,
Worthing (just north of Goring-by-Sea railway station). Bring banners,
music and food. Train from Brighton Station at 12.20pm. www.worthinga27.freeserve.co.uk
Welsh schools in Newport and Llandudno are being sold off for a
profit and the schools are then being rebuilt on toxic landfill
Ysgol John Bright School in Llandudno is being rebuilt on a former
gasworks, which, among other things, is contaminated with arsenic,
cadmium, lead, mercury and asbestos. And then theres the gas
itselfapparently there are explosive levels of
methane still on the site, which have not yet been removed. And
just to brighten things up a bit, the site is also on a floodplain,
which adds to the danger of chemicals escaping. And what, you may
ask, will become of the original school buildings? Why theyll
be replaced by a shiny new Asda superstore, of course.
Durham Rd School and Nursery in Newport will be rebuilt on the
site of an old municipal dump once used by GM giant Monsanto. Its
a load of rubbish, but not just any old rubbish - this is rubbish
with added ingredient X - a mystery gift from Monsanto.
Nobody seems to know exactly what was dumped there, and there is
no official record of it, but when soil samples were taken there
were some small explosions. Locals have been assured
everything will be peachy once a protective membrane
is put over the site, sealing in the toxins, but as John Martin
of Glebelands Action Group says, these membranes are notoriously
ineffective. This is just window dressing, says Martin.
I dont think they can make it safe. An alternative,
relatively uncontaminated site had been proposed for the new school,
but after soil testing, Newport council decided to sell the clean
site to housing developers and put the school and accompanying nursery
on the toxic waste dump.
Both Newport and Llandudno councils have avoided debate, fudged
information and ignored local opinion. In the words of the Corporatewatch
website, they are As transparent as mud and as accountable
So why have schools been shoved onto land considered unfit for
housing? Who gains from this cavalier treatment of childrens
futures? Local campaigner Lesley McCarthy has claimed there are
Three levels of Exploitation- first, the companies that
made the mess (Monsanto), second, the companies profiting from building
the new schools (McAlpine), and third, the companies that buy up
the old school sites (Newport housing developers and Asda) for more
information, go to: www.corporatewatch.org/news/private_sector_may_15.htm
More than a thousand Ecuadorian banana workers have been on strike
at the plantation complex Los Alamos since May 6. On May 16, armed
men broke through the picket line of non-violent, unarmed workers,
taking 25 hostage. The hostages were eventually freed by their colleagues,
though two workers were wounded by shotgun fire. The gun-toting
thugs were apparently employed by presidential candidate Alvaro
Noboa, whose company exports Bonita brand bananas and is violently
opposed to the fledgling union organizing. FENACLE, the national
union federation seeking to organise the workers, is saying that
solidarity action from trade union and human rights organisations
is urgently needed.
Sustainability Works is a new website for anybody interested in
sustainable housing. Its packed full of references and ideas
on what sustainable housing is all about, and provides support for
organisations wanting to develop their own sustainable housing policy.
- The Harvest Forestry squat oppossing the Sainsburys development
in Brighton are still waiting for the baliffs to show-up. Support
needed call 01273-680499
- Next Monday (27th) the Bhopal Medical Appeal hold a talk on
how to make corporations liable for the environmental and social
disasters they cause. In particular Dow Chemicals, the company
that caused the chemical disaster at Bhopal. Function room, Queens
Head (near Brighton station). 07762265427
- Rescheduled meeting - Brighton
ABC appologises for the late cancellation of the meeting that
was advertised for last Tuesday. Robert King Wilkerson will speak
about the case of the Angola 3 who were framed for organising
the local chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self Defence
in Angola (Louisiana state penitentiary). Robert talks about 29
years behind bars, and the two men still imprisoned for a crime
they did not commit! Althea Francois, an activist in the New Orleans
chapter of the Black Panther Party, told us about the Party's
activities raising funds for the breakfast programmes for school
kids. The Queens Head pub (opposite Brighton train station), Sunday
26th May, 7pm
- Hereford now has its very own anarchist group - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Training weekend for people going on International Solidarity
Movement Direct Action programmes in Palestine 1-2 June in Manchester,
- Womanzone - discussions, self defence films, socialising and
creche. Sat 25th noon-10pm, The London Action Resource Centre,
62 Fieldgate Street, E1. 020 7377 9088, email@example.com
- May 29th is International Day of Action Against Depleted Uranium.
Action planned in the Manchester area. 0161-273-8293 www.cadu.org.uk
- Biotech giants Monsanto are taking action to shut down the spoof
check it out now to get the low down on their dirty dealings.
- The field in Dorset that is being squatted by the Pink Castle
has now unfortunately been two thirds planted with Aventis GM
maize. But, the castle remains and actions are taking place to
dig up the seeds. Brave knights are still urgently needed to help
defend the castle. 07733 640159 www.sayhi.to/thecastle
- A group has recently formed to support asylum seekers arriving
at the planned Bicester Accommodation Centre. They have their
first meeting at the Rainbow Room, Bicester Methodist Church Sheep
Street, Sunday 26 May, 4pm - 6pm. BicesterRefugeeSupport@btopenworld.com
- 1 June Jambouree against the Jubilee Bristol Centre (Fountains/St
Augustines Parade) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Also on the 1st Never Mind the Jubilee The Zion Housing Co-op
in association with Hebden Bridge Cricket Club. Third Annual Cricket
Festival with live music, fun, frolics, stalls, food and drink.
Salem Fields, Hebden Bridge. £2 Tel: 07960 055846
- And the Anti-Jubilee Street Festival. At the Radical Dairy 47
Kynaston Rd., Stoke Newington, London. 020 7249 6996 1pm onwards
- 2-4 June Up the republic! Stuff the Monarchy! A long weekend
of music, debate, videos, talks, practical sessions and direct
action at Clwb y Bont, Pontypridd, Wales. For more details of
events, accommodation, crêche and tickets, contact PO Box
661, Wrecsam, LL11 1QU Tel 02920 830 029 email@example.com
The US embargo on Cuba, which has been in effect for more than
40 years, is set to continue after a speech made by George Dumbya
Bush just before he jetted off for a fund raising tour of Florida.
Incidentally, Miami has a large population of anti-Castro Cuban-Americans
who are big supporters of the Republican Party. Bush said that theres
no way the embargo would be lifted until elections are held there,
which is pretty ironic on two counts. Firstly, the U.S. treats Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, China and Pakistan as their good buddies but in
all of these countries elections are as rare as Accrington Stanley
FC winning the Champions League. Secondly, cast your mind back to
the US elections in 2000, where in Florida, 26,000 votes for the
Democrats were not counted leading to Bush becoming president. Double
helpings of hypocrisy anybody?
Its hard to believe that last month 20,000 people took to
the streets of Penzance and theres not even been a whisper
of news about it beyond Plymouth. The protest, the largest in Cornish
history, was in opposition to the proposed closure of the Accident
and Emergency department of West Cornwall Hospital, which according
to officials is no longer economic. Closure of the A+E would mean
patients would have to travel 35 plus miles to Truro for emergency
treatment. A week after the march, a dozen protesters stripped down
and blocked the front of the hospital in another attempt to get
their message out, but were again ignored apparently because there
werent enough fit birds. A decision has yet to
be made on the future of the hospital, but campaigners have vowed
they will do whatever it takes to make sure they keep their A+E
*SchNEWS VocabWatch Kernow=Cornwall
After an independence struggle that lasted for 24 years and claimed
200,000 lives, East Timor became an independent state on Monday.
Just how independent it is though is pretty hard to figure out,
considering that their currency is the US dollar, and that most
donor countries wont fund the new state unless the money goes
through the World Bank. Theyve also been forced to sign away
their oil and gas reserves, the most valuable national resource,
to Australia. Australia negotiated a deal with Timor over the oil
in which Timor stands to get 90% of the profits on resources taken
from a joint Australian/Timor area. Sound good? Take a closer look
at the fine print and you find that the richest oil and gas reserves
are outside this area and so will be taken over by Australia. So
Timor is getting 90% profits of bugger all while Australia gets
to take resources from within what should be Timors maritime
boundaries. This may have had something to do with the fact that
it was the UN and not the East Timorese Government negotiated the
deal. All that Mari Alkatiri, the Timorese prime minister, got to
do was sign. Most Timorese dont even know their new nations
resources have already been signed away. More info visit www.etan.org
SchNEWS has heard some corkers in its time, but Councillor Woolsey
Smith of the Democratic Unionist Party (Ian Paisleys party)
in N. Ireland has got to win a prize for the biggest dumb arse of
the year. In the six counties, cycle paths are outlined in green,
the road junctions, as ever, are painted white, while the double
yellow lines are unsurprisingly painted yellow which all
together make the colours of the Irish flag, green white and gold.
According to Councillor Smith, this stunning fact shows bias to
the Nationalist community. When the Department of the Environment
heard of this complaint, they thought it was a belated
April Fools prank until they were assured that Woolsey was
being quite serious. Now, some members of SchNEWS have at least
one time after a mash up party/festival been a tad worse for the
wear, but never have they been paranoid about road markings. So
Woolsey Smith, if youre reading this, for your own sake start
taking some chill pills before the men in white coats come to take
you away and lock you up in a padded cell with the leprechauns.
SchNEWS warns all old buffers with one track minds if ya get
side-tracked on the wrong side of the tracks start making tracks
before you lose track then youll be right on track. Honest.
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