LETTER: Nuclear safety: commitment and credibility

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From Mr Phil Carpenter

Sir: The article "Nuclear sell-off 'a threat to safety' "(18 October) quoted Scottish Nuclear as noting that safety in the nuclear industry "is regulated by the independent Nuclear Installations Inspectorate". As the trade union which represents all of the Health and Safety Executive's Inspectors and other specialist staff, the Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists (IPMS) is ideally placed to comment on the resources for regulation and the morale of the staff who undertake the regulation. Over the course of the last few years the Government's attitude to the funding of the Health and Safety Executive has changed markedly.

A couple of years ago, there was a consensus between the Government and the Health and Safety Commission to the extent that the HSC's very reasonable and modest bids for financial resources to run the organisation were always met in full. The past three years have seen the HSE's budget cut by more than 10 per cent, and even more substantial cuts are anticipated for 1996- 97. The results have been cuts in staffing levels which have, up until now, been covered by the dedication of HSE's staff, who have attempted to ensure that vital work has not been left undone.

Over the past two years, however, the pace of change in HSE (forced by government-driven cuts and initiatives) has dramatically increased. This year, staff morale in HSE has reached as low a point as people can remember.

The "independence" of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has, up until now, been guaranteed by ensuring that their pay levels have been analogous to the pay levels in the nuclear industry, enabling NII to draw from the "cream" of the nuclear industry's experienced and qualified staff. The Government has seen fit to ensure that the pay levels for HSE staff, including NII, can be maintained only at the price of job cuts. The pay determination mechanism has until now enabled NII to maintain its professionalism and credibility with the nuclear industry: that is now at risk.

Along with all other HSE staff, the NII are being given stark choice pay increases and job cuts (which mean that workloads increase and morale and safety suffer) or no pay increases and smaller job cuts (which has exactly the same result). The Government's fixed view that "efficiency" only results when fewer staff are employed is clearly flawed.

Yours faithfully,

Phil Carpenter

Negotiations Officer

IPMS: Institution of

Professionals, Managers

and Specialists


18 October