The coalition government has unveiled further plans to undermine the pay, conditions and future horizons of the young and average workers. David Cameron has unveiled an ‘employer’s charter’ which would allow companies to sack workers during their first two years of employment without the threat of being taken to tribunal for unfair dismissal.
“To reduce the number of vexatious allegations, workers will face a fee when lodging an employment tribunal claim.
The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the Government is also launching a review that is likely to see small companies excluded from some stringent employment laws. The length of time that firms have to pay workers statutory sick pay is set to be reduced as part of the shake-up.
David Cameron hopes that relaxed employment laws will help to boost the private sector and encourage firms to take on thousands of new workers.”
This is of course a direct attack on the meagre protections workers currently receive (especially those in largely non-unionised sectors) and increases the level of exploitation they face. This comes not only as an ideological assault, but through a realisation that with vast numbers of unemployed people (especially amongst the young), people will accept any job they are offered, no matter how lacking they are in benefits and protections. This is also emphasised by the high number of people currently entering part-time and temporary employment.
The government claim such an approach is a means of boosting economic growth as businesses are more likely to take new workers on if they are less likely to face burdensome regulations. The coalition is in no way seriously interested in creating quality jobs as the Telegraph article goes on;
“Downing Street will host a jobs summit on Monday at which some of the biggest employers – including Tesco, McDonalds, Microsoft and Shell — will promise to take on thousands of recruits and create apprenticeships for school leavers.”
So more informal jobs in the mostly non-unionised service sector where employees can be controlled, hired and fired at will. If they don’t want to be flipping burgers or stacking shelves for the majority of their waking lives, they can go and work for a company involved in monumental environmental degradation like Shell, or Microsoft, in the past charged under anti-competition laws by the EU.
I’m sure such jobs created (especially those in the service sector) will be low pay, long hours, heavily routinised with employees under constant management pressure to increase productivity through ‘lean production’ techniques, without increased pay. Although the previous New Labour administration did little to reverse previous Tory anti-union laws, it had implemented some increased health and safety protection as well as employee rights to challenge unfair dismissal. It seems the current government is keen to reverse these measures and degrade working life even further to ensure multinational corporations can squeeze even higher profits (already at record levels in the US), out of their workers.
Cameron also began the combative mood music, gearing up for spring protests by trade unions;
“Striking is not going to achieve anything,” he said. “The trade unions need to know they’re not going to be able to push anyone around by holding this strike, or that strike or even a whole lot of strikes together.
“This Government is a very strong government. It’s got a strong majority. I believe the public is right behind the approach that we are taking and people need to know we will not change course because one union or another union wants to kick off.”
The government may have a strong majority in parliament, but as we are all aware, it has no legitimacy because no party won the May election outright and more people voted for parties opposing the depth of cuts the Tories are now administering. In the wake of the student and anti-cuts protests, the firm grip of neoliberal hegemony that has held the past two or three decades has been shaken, but remains fairly coherent. Progressives of all stripes must continue to build a wide coalition of social forces which includes socialists, anarchists, the centre-left, greens and the trade unions to challenge the intellectual basis of the government’s policies. The hard data clearly outlines that the mass of the population is being hit worst by cuts, whilst the creators of the current deficit and economic instability in the finance sector are back to making huge profits and paying themselves multi-million pound bonuses (including state tax-payer owned banks);