ConDem cuts not enough for big business!

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Labour Fight

ConDem cuts not enough for big business!

Labour Fight- Len Matthews

As if the cuts to public services, job cuts and general worsening of terms and conditions were not enough, big business is now howling for more as the government seeks to ‘reform’ the Employment Tribunals system.For many, without a Trade Union to defend them the ET is the weapon of last resort and even then often simply a route by which one gets a pay out to ameliorate the impact of job loss – as tribunals cannot order reinstatement. The government proposals are bad enough and the intent is clear – to whittle away the system and undermine employment law to the point where it becomes meaningless.

The TUC are right to point out that it will be the low paid who will suffer from any fees imposed on claimants – anything up to £500 – and that this disproportionately affect women, the disabled and minority groups who tend to be also amongst the lowest paid and discriminated against. The proposal to involve ACAS before taking cases to Tribunal would be all well and good were it independent – it isn’t- or properly resourced – it won’t be excepted in the ConDem cuts programme.

It is likely that the government will extend the right to appeal from one year’s employment to two as proposed in the government ‘consultation’. Big business wants more. In their submissions to the consultation the Institute of Directors and CBI are calling for tougher measures to discourage claims. Including extended powers to ‘strike out’ claims considered to be ‘vexatious’ or ‘weak’, jacking up the deposits required and formal process for ‘out of court’ settlements. Not surprisingly, they are against the imposition of financial penalties – proposed at £ 5000 – on top of any compensation payments.

First of all, the right to appeal to an ET should apply from day one of employment – a demand that the unions should fight for. Secondly, out of court settlements are all well and good when the involve life changing sums of money in high profile cases involving city high flyers. Most working people will be offered what in the grand scheme of things will be pocket change for the boardroom bosses and government mandarins to shut up and go away.

If you believe what you read in the gutter press, the economy is in a mess due to the red tape and excessive cost burdens. The Employment Tribunals system is one of these ‘unnecessary’ burdens for big business. As if it isn’t easy enough to sack employees, Britain has the most flexible labour regulations of all major European economies, according to UKTI, the government business body. For flexible, read ‘weak on workers’ rights’.  The attack on ET system is another plank in the ruling class programme along with the sabre rattling on Trade Union Rights. Workers in Britain are shackled by laws restricting their ability to take action collectively and now their ability to defend themselves individually is under attack. Added to this are the plans to undermine Health and Safety legislation fought for by the unions.

One of the reasons terms and conditions are generally better in the public sector is that there the unions are still largely intact. Union members have access to representatives with a wealth of knowledge of employment law and to legal counsel via their unions.  Despite this, most claims to ET do not succeed but that is not because they are ‘weak’ or ‘vexatious’, it is because the odds are always stacked in the favour of the employer.

The economy is not in a ‘mess’ due to excessive bureaucracy, or too many tribunals or compensation pay outs. The problems that face us all were not caused by working people, who are in fact the real generators of society’s wealth, without whom it is not possible to produce and manufacture all the goods that we need to live and be fulfilled. The recession was triggered by a banking crisis, which was but a symptom of a diseased system that is inherently unstable and chaotic. That system is Capitalism.

For a start we must defend the gains of the past, such as the right to appeal to an Employment Tribunal and to oppose any changes that undermine the ability to do so. This must be combined with the fight for the right to extend this to everyone whatever their employment status.  This is not just a fight to protect and extend reforms but against capitalism itself which is demanding their destruction. The TUC should immediately begin organizing the general strike now to strike a blow to the ConDems and the system they defend. The Trade Unions and working people should demand:

  • Full employment rights from day one of employment!
  • No to charging on claimants!
  • Tax big business to pay for the service!
  • Full public funding of legal counsel for claimants!

Len Matthews


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