Monday, 21 May 2012

Workers' rights under attack again

John Millington

Ministers looked set to unleash yet another assault on workers' rights on Sunday after an influential venture capitalist released a report calling for changes to employment law.

In his "bonfire of regulations" multi-millionaire Adrian Beecroft calls for firms to be given more flexibility to make redundancies, and for the government to rip up equality legislation to supposedly promote "job creation."

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the reforms urged by the Conservative Party donor include:

- An end to a mandatory 90-day consultation period when a company is considering redundancy programmes. Instead he will suggest a 30-day period and an emergency five-day period if a company is in severe distress.
- A cap on loss of earnings compensation for employees who make successful unfair dismissal claims. Payments can often total hundreds of thousands of pounds.
- Major reform of the rights that workers are allowed to "carry" over to new employers when they are the subject of a takeover. The transfer of undertakings rights can currently create major disparities between workers within companies.
- Scrapping provisions in the Equality Act which make employers liable for claims from employees for "third party harassment," sexist comments to staff in a restaurant.
- Shifting responsibility for checking foreign workers' eligibility to work in Britain from employers to the Border Agency or the Home Office.

But the controversial report will meet strong opposition from trade unions and has already prompted criticism from the Tories' coalition partners.

A senior Lib Dem who did not want to be named dismissed the 15-page document as "not methodologically rigorous" and merely the view of "one man."

And Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher told the Star: "It is becoming increasingly apparent to more and more people that the coalition government is using the economic crisis as a smokescreen to dismantle and privatise public services, and unpick workers' rights.

"With unemployment at over 2.6million and underemployment at 6 million, it is a heartless government with a failed ideology that believes making it easier to sack people is the priority."

This article first appeared in the Morning Star

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