Unions say government plans will do nothing to boost the economy

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Trade unions have launched a united attack on Vince Cable’s plans to take away workers’ rights.

Speaking on Friday, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said the government would cut the compensation limit for unfair dismissals, streamline employment tribunals, ‘simplify’ TUPE arrangements and introduce ‘settlement agreements’ which would allow employers to ‘persuade’ staff to leave voluntarily.

The proposals were immediately dismissed by the TUC as “another slap in the face for workers”  and Thompsons’ Solicitors warned they would “allow employers to ambush and bully workers”.

Over the weekend, seven other unions raised their voices in protest at the plans.

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “These proposals will do nothing to encourage growth or reduce unemployment. They are simply an act of vengeance by the government against workers making it easier for bad bosses to sack their staff.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “These proposals represent an unprecedented and unacceptable attack on the employment rights of teachers and other ordinary working people. The Liberal Democrats should be ashamed to be associated with the introduction of measures which give employers licence to exploit, bully and discriminate against their workforce.

“However the coalition seeks to spin this announcement, this emphasises the contempt for working people which pervades the coalition policies.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “This is unlikely to create jobs as the overwhelming majority of employers do not think about the rights of employees when making decisions about employing more staff. Such decisions are influenced by factors like their confidence about future demand for their goods or services.

“Employers’ confidence has been knocked sideways by this government stalling the recovery they inherited and the double dip recession. In fact the steps being taken here by government, and the ‘noises off’ about it being easier to sack people, will have a much more profound effect on workers than employers. It will increase feelings of job insecurity and reduce the confidence of workers as consumers to commit to spending.

“Therefore it will have a dampening effect on consumer demand which will in turn further weaken the confidence of businesses who consequently will not take on workers. The policy will have precisely the opposite effect on jobs than the stated intention of the government. So as well as being wrong in principle to weaken employment rights it also makes no sense in a weak economy to create uncertainty among workers as consumers that will stop them spending.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: ““These ‘Beecroft lite’ proposals are still a blatant attack on workers’ rights. The UK already has some of the weakest labour laws in Europe. Weighing the scales heavily in favour of bosses – who can hire and fire at will – will only fuel insecurity, lengthening the dole queues and making the UK’s damaging recession worse.

“UNISON will also be campaigning hard against plans to amend the TUPE rules that protect workers’ rights when they are transferred from one employer to another. We suspect that in the name of simplification the coalition really want to make it easier transfer public services to the private sector, and spark a race to the bottom on pay, terms and conditions.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Vince Cable has thrown Conservative MPs and ministers a very large bone.  He admits that there is no benefit in `sacking at will’  but his capitulation on workers’ tribunal protections is wish fulfilment for the large anti-worker wing of this government.

“This is a government that has not one clue about how to create jobs, but is certainly skilled at spreading insecurity and fear in the workplace.

“We are extremely concerned about their plans to look at the TUPE legislation.  Given their inherent anti-worker bias, we fear that this vital measure, often the only thing protecting vulnerable workers during takeovers, will be axed too.

“UK workers already have the worst protections in Europe.  This government is utterly misguided in its belief that making workers more vulnerable will power our economy to recovery.  Look at Germany – workers there are treated with dignity and that nation is repaid by thriving as the strongest economy in Europe.

“Vince Cable knows this – he should be ashamed for his part in this assault on the rights of the millions of decent working people of this country.”

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: “The government has been desperate to further weaken the UK’s already poor employment rights. It won’t help the economy, it won’t help employers, but it will make the lives of ordinary working people a little worse.

“The UK already has some of the worst employment safeguards in the Western world – with virtually no rights for employees with less than two years’ service, and plenty of hurdles both legal and financial making it hard for people to bring cases against employers.

“This isn’t about red tape, it’s about pleasing Tory-funders in business and ignoring the effect it will have on workers. If anyone still thought this government cares about working people they should be left in no doubt after this announcement.”

And Prospect general secretary Paul Noon said: “The government has already raised the qualifying period for taking out an ET claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years’ service. Far from stimulating the jobs market, making it easier to sack people will increase unemployment.

“In an abusive relationship the law should be protecting victims, not pushing the problem under the carpet. Capping the amount of compensation will make it even easier for bad employers to treat their staff unfairly. This measure is particularly unfair on middle-income earners and skilled professionals, who will lose out disproportionately if compensation payouts are capped to one year’s median pay of £26,000.

“Procedures already exist to enable employers to deal effectively with those who under-perform or who commit serious acts of misconduct. These new measures will simply give bad employers yet more ammunition to pick on and discriminate against people they don’t like while stripping employees of their ability to protect themselves. And there is worse to come.

“Most depressing of all, these measures will do nothing to stimulate economic recovery. They are simply irrelevant to the real issues facing the British economy.”


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