The Writing on the Wall

Submitted by Daniel_Randall on 10 November, 2004 - 8:49

Call centres, guns, railway workers and some interesting quotes...

FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE CALL CENTRES...

“We are trying to move 30% of our clinical trials to low-cost countries”, announced GlaxoSmithKline’s chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier recently. He promised that health and safety would not be compromised.

An income stream for the UK’s impoverished students thus dries up. There can’t be many students, apart from the very richest, who haven’t at some time contemplated donating part of their psyche or physique — if only on loan for a day — to medical science, or, rather, to boost the bottom line of pharmaceutical companies like Glaxo.

The writer once spent an uncomfortable afternoon looking at herself sideways in distorting mirrors and saying whether she thought she was fat. This was years before the phrase “does my bum look big in this?” was coined. For this she got £5. To think that people pay to do that sort of thing on Brighton pier!

I was only dabbling though. People I know have, for a few thousand, entered into months’ long trials of drugs which might do them real harm. The countries Glaxo might relocate to include Poland and India.

UK students it seems, then, have priced themselves out of the clinical trials market, and they didn’t even have a union making unreasonable demands to get them to this point!

Perhaps it was the cost of that glass of orange squash and a biscuit they got for their pains that did it.

GUNS FOR SNIPS

“This is a healthy incentive scheme no different to when we offer bags of sugar or cash to people to have operations.” A medical official thus excused the “have a vasectomy, get a shotgun licence” birth control scheme in Uttar Pradesh state, India.

The state has come up with a scheme whereby to get a licence to keep a single-barrel shotgun, two people in the family would need to be sterilised; for a licence for a revolver, five people.

Robbery is rife in Uttar Pradesh, families worry about defending themselves, and the state is desperately trying to meet targets for reducing the birthrate. So the scheme seems to make sense all round!

It should not come as a surprise to learn that abuses of this system are taking place.

There has been a case of an unscrupulous employer forcing five employees to be sterilised, in order for him to have a gun.

Uttar Pradesh in the north is India’s most populous state, with 170 million people.

Backed by $360m of aid money from USAid, the US government’s donor charity, the state has a plan to sterilise 930,000 people this year.

Onto such a terrain walk companies like GlaxoSmithKline, offering incentives for participation in clinical trials…

RAIL SAFETY VICTORY

Rail trade unionists are celebrating a victory in the fight for safety on the railways.

After meeting opposition, the government has dropped plans to scrap sub-surface station fire-safety regulations brought in in 1989 as a result of lessons learned from the 1987 King’s Cross fire.

The government had threatened to scrap minimum fire safety standards, and to allow management to conduct their own risk assessments. Cutting corners on health and safety, as managers tried to cut costs, would certainly have been the result.

The rail union RMT was vital in getting the government to make their u-turn. John McDonnell MP, who convenes the RMT parliamentary group of MPs, put the union’s concerns before the all-party Parliamentary Regulatory Reform Committee, who finally recommended that the 1989 regulations be kept.

The RMT was also behind Early Day Motion 1721 to defend the regulations.

Vigilance will still be required, however. In a press statement, the RMT says: “The government says it will draft new guidance on fire precautions in sub-surface stations, and RMT will continue forcefully to make the case for those precautions to be statutory.”

Thirty-one people died in the King’s Cross fire.

I SAY, I SAY, I SAY

“In London, if you have got enough money, you either buy your child out of the education system, or you move home in order to locate to a decent school. That is what happens. The way through that is raise standards through city academies and specialist schools. It takes time, effort and resources, but that is what we intend to have.” Alan Milburn’s admission of New Labour’s failure and counsel of despair on education

“I was never in a petri dish, but at one stage I was that little cluster of cells myself, as were you, as was the doctor, as is everybody.” Actor and director Mel Gibson outlined his objections to stem cell research

“The attraction of affluence makes Tony Blair Britain’s principal proponent of the Protestant fallacy. He believes that wealth and virtue are indivisible,” said Roy Hattersley

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