New Tory attacks on workers

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR George Osborne last week announced new measures against the working class of this country that will deny them justice at work.

He timed his announcement for the Conservative Party conference this week in Manchester. He plans to withdraw protection from workers against unfair dismissal until they have been with the same employer for at least two years; the current threshold is one year. Osborne claims this will somehow help to create jobs.

And Osborne intends to make all workers who seek justice through the industrial tribunal system to pay for access to their rights. The fee to be charged from April 2013, which is expected to be around £150-£250 to launch a case and upwards of £1,000 if it goes to a hearing.

This will bar many low-paid workers without savings from access to their rights — unless they join a trade union. But it will give such workers a powerful motive to join unions.

British employers have for long claimed that the industrial tribunal system costs them dearly — but it only costs those employers who flout workers’ rights.

And they forget that the tribunal system has, over the years, prevented thousands of strikes and that blocking access to tribunals will leave workers and their unions with no way of resolving grievances except through strikes.

Victoria Phillips, head of employment rights at trade union law firm Thompsons, said: “This is a complete sop to the business lobby and gives employers the green light to employ staff for one year and 11 months before getting rid of them, and all to save less than £6 million.

no justification

“The Government has conceded that it will only reduce claims by 2,000 a year, so there is absolutely no justification for it. It isn’t about cutting red tape; it’s about making it easier to sack people.

“Coupled with the introduction of employment tribunal fees — a chilling proposal which means a large number of people won’t be able to enforce their rights — this is another vindictive attack on vulnerable people which has nothing to do with flexibility but about pandering to the vested interests of employer bodies.”

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “The very notion that reducing the rights of workers of between 12 months and two years service to bring unfair dismissal claims will create a single new job is quire frankly absurd.

“Job creation is not the real reason the Tory party want to take away these rights.

“The real reason is that the Tory party is increasingly being funded by asset strippers and predators who resent workers having any rights to challenge their exploitative ways.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Making it easier to sack people without any reason is simply a charter for bad bosses. This will do nothing to boost growth and will not create a single extra job.

rising again

“It will also deny the majority of young people in work any redress from unfair dismissal, at a time when youth unemployment is rising again.

“Introducing fees for employment tribunals will particularly penalise low-paid workers who have not been paid or not received the minimum wage.”

Meanwhile there have been plenty of red faces at the blue party conference. Home Secretary Theresa May ranted like a Daily Mail columnist against immigrants, asylum seekers and the Human Rights Act, telling a tale of a Bolivian immigrant who could not be deported because he had a cat. Her own colleague, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke was the first to laugh it off as ridiculous and criticised her for not consulting him first. It was, of course, soon proved to be nonsense.

And Prime Minister David Cameron has had to rewrite his keynote speech, which originally called on the public to pay off all their credit card bills and get out of debt.

Delegates were indignant to find their leader telling them how to manage their household budgets.

But even more, the bankers who are making millions in interest on credit card debt and the high street companies that are failing as the economy grinds slowly to a dead halt were furious.

If the nation took any notice of Cameron the bankers would be heavily out of pocket while high street shops would be crashing into bankruptcy at a faster rate than they already are.

Clearly they don’t teach even the most basic economics at Eton.