Britain the ‘dumping ground of employment rights’ says CWU
23rd November 2011
CWU warns that Britain is becoming "the employment rights dumping ground of Europe" as workers are once again left to shoulder the burden of Britain's economic gloom following Business Secretary Vince Cable's announcement of new employment reforms today (Wednesday).
The plans will overhaul employment tribunals by increasing the qualification period from one year's service to two with claims against dismissal being referred to arbitration service ACAS for "pre-claim conciliation" before reaching tribunal. In a bid to provide businesses with more flexibility with their business plans but in essence giving them more flexibility to cuts jobs, the Business Department plans to reduce the consultation period on redundancies from 90 days to as little as 30 days.
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes commented: "This government has brought non-stop attacks on working people despite the UK already having the weakest employment laws in Europe. These new regulations further corrode rights by stripping away job security and paving the way for unreasonable, profit driven bosses to play with the livelihoods of hard working people.
"Once again we see the ConDem government shaking things up from their ivory tower at the expense of workers whilst the bankers and tax-dodging corporations sit alongside them dictating changes which put workers at risk."
Tony Rupa, Head of CWU Legal Services, warned: "We're becoming the employment rights dumping ground of Europe. These changes are a complete weakening of workers rights - it's not geared towards helping employees at all.
"This has nothing to do with boosting the economy. In fact, these changes could cause problems for ordinary people trying to get mortgages or bank loans as banks may be less inclined to lend to employees until they have two year's experience in a role."
Explaining why some of the changes are unnecessary, Tony highlighted the current tribunal set up. "There's already a sifting process for frivolous claims and enough checks and balances in the system to stop businesses being taken to tribunal where there isn't a case to answer. I'm also concerned that compulsory mediation could be an expensive and unproductive step. While I have great respect for ACAS, I'm unconvinced by forcing all claims to ACAS. Mediation only works if both sides are prepared to compromise."
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, has condemned the changes, saying: "Reducing protection for people at work will not save or create a single job. It's not employment law that is holding firms back; it's the tough economic climate and the problems companies are having getting the banks to lend to them that are to blame.
Even Liberal Democrats opposing the reforms have warned that consumer spending could suffer if employees fear losing their jobs at a whim without any safeguards in place to protect them. Dismissing existing measures to promote hard-fought-for job security as "burdensome", the Business Department argues that the new employment reforms are designed to boost business confidence, opening up the labour market even further and making it easier for businesses to recruit, manage and let go staff.
Commenting on the cost-saving aspect of the changes, Billy Hayes said: "The government is set to make £10 million in savings through these changes to employment law whilst employers will save £40m which clearly shows who the big winners are here. My concern is the cost that ordinary working people will have to pay."
For more on how the changes could affect you read this article in The Guardian: Employment law: what the changes could mean in the workplace
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