‘Killing no Murder’

Humphrey McQueen at Leightons in Eagle Street Brisbane 21 Sept 09

Humphrey McQueen speaking about 'Framework of Flesh' with building workers at Leightons in Eagle Street Brisbane. 21 September 2009. Photo: Ian Curr

The factory-owners of the time formed a “trade union” to resist the factory legislation, the so-called “National Association for the Amendment of the Factory Laws”, based in Manchester, which collected a sum of more than £50,000 in March 1855 from contributions on the basis of 2 shillings per horse-power, to meet the legal costs of members prosecuted by the factory inspectors and conduct their cases on behalf of the Association. The object was to prove “killing no murder” if done for the sake of profit.

Karl Marx, Capital, III.[1]

Why OHS injuries are not real crimes

More than buildings rise on “a framework of human flesh”.

So, too, do the profits of Messrs Construction Capital.

The opening 80,000 words of Framework of Flesh carry our understanding of that reciprocity past the level of generalisation. The next step is to foreground the concepts embedded in that analysis by asking how the il-logic that compels capital to expand also

”]# McQuillan, Ern, 1926- # Member of the Builders Labourers Union carrying a banner on the 6 Hour March, Sydney, 6 October 1964makes it injure human capacities.

Investigating this relationship between the needs of capital and the frequency of harms will proceed through four phases.

The first is a reminder that the assaults suffered by builders’ labourers are but a microcosm of the gore that has accompanied  capital accumulation around the globe. BLF logo on book cover

The second section integrates the prevalence of on-site injuries with the mechanisms that capital relies on to expand, primarily, its disciplining of labour-time.

A third section documents the class bias in the operation of OHS laws where prosecutions remain infrequent, convictions rare and penalties minimal.

The discussion culminates by showing why “legal reasoning” premised on the four pillars of “equality before the law”, “evil intent”, contracts, and individualism as autonomy prevents OHS violations from being treated as real crimes.

Humphrey McQueen

See www.framework-of-flesh.com.au

Available from Avid Reader, BLF, SLQ Bookstore, Folios, American Bookstore.

5 responses to “‘Killing no Murder’

  1. Thanks to the BLF Queensland for this video.

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  2. Pingback: Chris White Online

  3. Thanks is due to the Builders Labourers Federation for all the organisation they put behind this week’s activities to promote this important book on Health & Safety in the building trade.

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  4. BLF and Avid Reader launches of "Framework of Flesh"

    Click here for a sound recording of the launch of Framework of Flesh and while it is loading read the summary I have written below.

    About 50 delegates of the Builders Labourers Federation Qld turned up this morning [Tuesday 22nd of September 2009] at Queensland Council of Unions to hear Humphrey McQueen speak on his new book.

    Humphrey was introduced by Greg Simcoe, the state secretary of the union. Also in attendance were the assistant secretary, David Hannah, and CBD organiser Kane Pearson and one of the past state secretaries, Pat Purcell, recently retired from the parliament.

    For about 45 minutes the QCU room became a classroom for BLF delegates. We listened to what Humphrey McQueen had learnt from studying the struggle of building workers over the the past 100 years in Australia.

    One of the delegates asked Humphrey McQueen whether he knew much of this history before he started the book. Humphrey McQueen said “No”. His research became a history lesson that he summarised at the launch. He exposed company directors like Wal King and Dick Pratt for price fixing and collusion — thereby stealing from Australians.

    “Framework of Flesh” is about health & safety and about amenities provided to workers on site, the food and water that they get to sustain them through the hard physical working day. It is also a story about the history of Australian capitalism in the broad sense. It about the battle to develope workers compensation.

    It is about the right of workers to turn up on the job and expect to be able to leave at the end of the day healthy and safe.

    Humphrey Mc Queen tries to make some sense of this struggle that has gone on in Australia over the past 100 years history of organised building workers.

    “Only 1 in 100 workplace accidents result in legal penalties against the employer, employers are regularly getting away with criminally unsafe workplaces.” BLF State Secretary Greg Simcoe said last week. “

    Much about the book is @ Framework of Flesh.

    Humphrey tries to explain why, under the Occupational Health & Safety laws, killing is not murder when done to increase profits. He asks why don’t we apply the same law to the directors of major construction companies as we do to bikie gangs? ”

    The Federal Government is under pressure from business lobby groups pushing for changes that would reduce the health and safety rights of all workers including building workers.

    The ACTU is currently waging an advertising campaign against these changes. See Workplace safety will be put at risk if business gets its way on OHS changes: unions launch new ads. But everyone knows this is not enough. The ads against WorkChoice proved that. All they did was appeal on the lowest common denominator to surburban Australia.

    Many OHS injuries are crimes that come from the neglect of the employers both big and small. Proposed national Workplace Health and Safety laws put workers at risk of injury or illness because employers wish to cut corners and make bigger profits.

    After countless inquires and commissions the boss still have the upper hand with control of the workplace and workers time & labour. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard claims that there are high levels of illegality by workers. Yet there are no convictions. Where is the proof in her claims? The campaign for One Law for All can’t happen while the bosses are in control, they won’t let it happen. More fundamental change must occur.

    The Avid Reader bookshop also held a public launch of Mr McQueen’s book. The Avid Reader is at 193 Boundary St West End. The launch was on Wednesday the 24th of September. About 30 people from the coomunity turned up to hear an interesting talk from Humphrey McQueen and David Peetz, a professor at Griffith University.

    Distribution of the book in Queensland is by LeftPress Printing Society, PO Box 5093, West End 4101.

    Ian Curr
    September 09

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  5. ACTU Ads on Work Safety

    The Federal Government claim that penalties for OHS crimes are going up but the simple answer is that: “So what if prosecutions and convictions remain below 1% of all injuries?”

    Also as penalties increase, the courts tend to lower the penalty they impose.

    Hence what we need are minimum penalties that are high.

    But above all we need to make OHS assaults into real crimes – not put industrial manslughter into the criminal code but but the crimes act into the OHS laws.

    See ACTU response at “Workplace safety will be put at risk if business gets its way on OHS changes: unions launch new ads

    Click to listen to Radio ad

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