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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

The King’s Speech

by New Worker correspondent

AT LUNCHTIME on Tuesday His Royal Highness, The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Chester, Earl of Carrick, Earl of Merioneth, Baron of Renfrew, Baron Greenwich, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, stood in for his mother and delivered his very first King’s Speech from the throne in the House of Lords at the State Opening of Parliament.

The contents of the speech do not necessarily reflect the views of HRH because it was written for him by the Tory Government. It has little to offer the working class, except perhaps a wallop from a policeman’s baton which could be administered under the Public Order Bill that will reintroduce new police powers over allegedly disruptive protests, which the noble Lords blocked earlier this year.

Whilst workers will still be at liberty to wear fur coats and eat paté de fois gras, there was no mention of long-promised plans to outlaw fire-and-rehire nor any other employment measure. The nearest thing is the plan to introduce a Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill that will give British ports powers to refuse ferry services that do not pay their crews the national minimum wage. This measure comes in the wake of P&O Ferries sacking their workforce. It is likely to be a Bill to pretend to be doing something. Why should port authorities decide on such matters, when the national government has powers to impose binding legislation?

The general response from the Trades Union Congress was the predictable one of saying that the government was “‘turning its back’ on working people after ministers failed to include an employment bill in the Queen’s Speech”, and that that the government’s broken promise to boost workers’ rights will see “bad bosses celebrating”.

In particular, it denounced the fact that no new Employment Bill is in the pipeline. Retiring General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No employment bill means vital rights that ministers had promised – like default flexible working, fair tips and protection from pregnancy discrimination – risk being ditched for good. “But by shelving the employment bill, ministers have sent a signal that they are happy for rogue employers to ride roughshod over workers’ rights.”

at risk

The TUC listed a number of promised policies that are now at risk: ensuring that tips go to workers in full, new rights to request a more predictable contract, create a single enforcement body for workers protections, extend redundancy protections to prevent maternity discrimination, making flexible working the default, more paid leave for neonatal care, and legal entitlement to a week’s leave for unpaid carers.

What a surprise, who would ever have thought that a nice Tory Government would abandon its election promises to do make some minor reforms to benefit low paid workers?! Unsurprisingly, other union leaders were not very impressed. Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea said: “This is a government that’s run out of ideas. Thirty-eight laws proposed but there are no answers to the biggest cost-of-living crisis in recent times.

“Unscrupulous bosses will cheer the demise of the promised employment bill. But its absence will dismay workers in perilous jobs. For many, fire-and-rehire on less pay has become the grim reality.” No action beyond attending the London demonstration scheduled for the 18th of June was suggested.

In response to plans to establish a new state holding company, Great British Railways, for the UK’s rail infrastructure, RMT general secretary Michael Lynch was not impressed, saying that: “The government is attempting to revive the corpse of rail privatisation with its Railway’s Bill which will reward private train operators for failure with new contracts without any financial risk to their shareholders.” It will be happier with the High Speed Rail (Crewe–Manchester) Bill even if that measure has the Greens chocking on their lentil burgers.

He also marked the occasion to warn that: “They are also undertaking the biggest attack on rail workers’ jobs, pay and pensions in decades” but “in response RMT is balloting tens of thousands of rail workers to send a clear message to the Government that we will not stand by as shareholders get richer and rail workers get poorer.”

Instead of an employment Bill the Tories have promised to introduce a Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Bill, which is a backhanded compliment to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’s work that has become so effective that steps have to be taken to prevent public bodies imposing boycotts. This retrograde step is sure to be decisively supported by the ‘great quivering jellies of indecision’ on the Labour front bench.

His Royal Highness, who is very keen on organic food (from which he has made a mint) and talking to plants, must have read out the bit about the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill through gritted teeth because it will relax the regulation of gene-edited crops.