Trade unionists will today vote on whether to throw their weight behind an amendment to the Corporate Manslaughter Bill, which would see directors personally liable for death in the workplace if they were found to be negligent.
The Bill was introduced into Parliament before the summer recess and aims to make it easier to prosecute companies and public sector organisations where gross negligence leads to death.
It will replace the need to find a ‘directing mind’ – a key difficulty in past prosecutions – with the focus shifted to the overall management of activities.
So far the government has rejected union calls to hold individuals liable.
However, the resolution tabled at the Labour Conference by the Transport & General Workers’ Union (T&G) calls for the Bill or existing legislation to be amended to include statutory health and safety duties for company directors, which would have a maximum prison sentence of 14 years – the same penalty for causing death by dangerous driving.
Tony Woodley, T&G general secretary, said organisations don’t kill people, “incompetent, negligent and greedy bosses do”.
“If death by dangerous driving deserves 14 years in jail, then the loss of a worker’s life through a boss’s mismanagement deserves the same,” he said. “The current Bill completely and deliberately excludes from its scope the prosecution of negligent directors, handing guilty directors a get-out-of-jail free card.”
Woodley accused the government of pandering to pressure from the CBI.