Osborne wants a future where bosses can hire and fire at will

George Osborne’s announcement yesterday of a review of employment law forms part of the biggest assault on workers’ rights in a generation, writes Dave Prentis.

Dave Prentis is the General Secretary of UNISON, Britain’s biggest public sector trade union with more than 1.3 million members

And the attacks on hardworking people under the Tories continue. George Osborne’s announcement yesterday of a review of employment law forms part of the biggest assault on workers’ rights in a generation. They want a future where bosses can hire and fire at will, and where it’s much harder for workers to challenge unfair treatment. For flexible – read exploitative.

The Tories have not wasted any time in heavily skewing the jobs market in favour of bosses. Earlier this year, they made plans to tear the Employment Appeals Tribunal System to shreds, arguing that businesses are subject to too many claims. This is a myth.

Employees do not take cases lightly, It’s a time consuming and hugely stressful process. And as many of the cases taken to tribunal are joint equal pay cases, this is a hit on women. Surely an easier way for companies to avoid their day in court would be to treat their staff according to the rules?

Shredding the two-tier agreement means that new starters in private companies providing public services will not get the same pay and terms. This deregulation fires the starting gun for a race to the bottom – private companies eager for profit will be able to make it on the back of their staff costs.

And following yesterday’s announcement, workers claiming discrimination compensation on grounds of race or gender stand to have their compensation capped. Plans to slash the redundancy consultation period will mean bosses can rip up employment contracts and fire large numbers of staff in as little as one month. Short-circuiting this process will not allow enough time for unions and management to discuss alternative plans to job losses and avoid compulsory redundancies.

TUPE rights are also coming under the hammer. These regulations give workers protection on terms and conditions if their job is transferred to another company. Given the Tories’ pledge to sell off large swathes of public services, this will put hundreds of thousands of workers at the mercy of profit-driven companies – and, here we go again, with the race to the bottom.

True to form, the Tories have not even tried to disguise this review as fair. It is unashamedly pro-business, and it will make the working lives of many people harder. As representatives of 1.4 million people who stand to be affected, and on behalf or hardworking people everywhere, UNISON will be stepping up its campaign to ensure fairness and justice at work.

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