Government Wants Workers To Give Up Their Rights

13 Oct 2012

Unions have angrily attacked government plans to use employee ownership schemes to encourage workers to give up hard won employment rights. Chancellor George Osborne told this week’s Conservative Party conference businesses will be allowed to remove ‘gold-plated employment rights’ in exchange for handing out shares to employees.

The £100m ‘employee-owner’ scheme will allow employees to received tax-exempt shares worth £2,000 to £50,000 if they give up their rights to claim unfair dismissal and redundancy. They would also have to sacrifice the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and would be required to provide 16 weeks’ notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual eight. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the measure ‘looks more to be said for effect, than because it will make much difference’, but added: ‘We deplore any attack on maternity provision or protection against unfair dismissal, but these complex proposals do not look as if they will have very much impact as few small businesses will want to tie themselves up in the tangle of red tape necessary to trigger these exemptions.’

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: ‘Slashing people’s employment rights under the guise of ownership schemes won’t create jobs and it won’t create growth,’ adding: ‘George Osborne has as much knowledge about economics as a stick of rhubarb.’ In conference and fringe meeting speeches, ministers including Eric Pickles and Francis Maude also said they would cut dramatically the facilities time available to civil servants. Unions said the move ‘makes no sense’, as unions have been shown to deliver a massive cost saving by providing a well-organised negotiating structure for employers, reducing costly legal proceedings and by dramatically reducing lost time related to work-related injuries and illnesses by delivering safer workplaces. The prime minister, in a throw away sound bite in his conference speech, said he wanted he wanted ‘less nonsense about health and safety.’

Bereaved relatives group FACK responded: ‘As the families of people who went to work hard to provide for their families, but never came home, we know that treating health and safety as ‘nonsense’ is deadly.’