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STUC 2013 Perth

Unions only hope for workers as government tears up employment rights

Mike Kirby
Mike Kirby
Dave SWatson
Dave Watson

The one place of hope for working people is trade unions, banding together as we’ve done for generations to fight for the Better Way. That was the message from UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby as he slammed government attacks on basic employment rights at the STUC today.

The STUC pledged to work with the TU congresses across the UK to build a wide ranging campaign to protect workers’ rights and for a repeal of all anti-trade union legislation.

Speaking for the General Council, Mike accused opponents of workplace rights, like venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, of “using the economic crisis as an excuse to hack up workers rights.”

“Half a million jobs have been lost in the public services. 30,000 in Scotland according to our estimates. 51,700 by government’s own figures since the economic crisis began”, said Mike. “And another 250,000 more will go across Scotland as we’re only quarter way through government’s measures.

“To make it cheaper for the government to dismiss so many workers, it has instituted new laws.”

Those include:-

  • Plans to reduce consultation on redundancies from 90 to 45 days
  • Reduce unfair dismissal payouts
  • Changes to TUPE regulations
  • Shareholder contracts that mean the loss of unfair dismissal and redundancy rights
  • Increased tribunal fees
  • Reduction in liability for health and safety at work
  • Attacks on the 2010 Equality Act.

Mike rounded on ‘Zero hours’ contracts that give workers no security and no way of planning what they will earn, if anything at all.

And he slammed Tory Chancellor George Osborne's proposal that workers exchange their rights of unfair dismissal and redundancy for tax free company shares. A move which “marks a new low in the debasement of employment rights in the UK”, said Mike.

“This proposal for a modern form of indentured servitude should be roundly condemned and resisted by the labour movement.” See the full text of Mike's speech here

Speaking on government plans to change the TUPE regulations that protect workers when they are outsourced, Dave Watson, UNISON Scottish Organiser, warned that the government’s own assessment showed the worst off would be worst affected.

Even employers and lawyers were against the changes, with the Law Society response warning: “The government has mistakenly labelled clarity as "gold plating". Repealing the 2006 amendments would only increase uncertainty, and thus the number of disputes. Businesses and employees both want certainty.”

“So where did this daft plan come from?” Dave asked. “I suspect this was one of those cowboy employers who bent the Prime Minister’s ear at the dinner table. You know the ones – dining with the PM at the most expensive restaurant in London. No not Claridges – No.10 Downing Street. Dinner at £50,000 a go in donations to the Tories and you can trump the common sense of the sensible business and legal voice in the country.”

And it’s not just the UK Government that can get a bit muddled when it comes to staff transfer. Scottish Parliament Bills delivering public service reform often have very poor staff transfer provisions.

“In reorganisation after reorganisation we are constantly reinventing the wheel because officials struggle to understand what is required” added Dave. “This could be dealt with in Scotland with a workforce framework, as UNISON has proposed, for organisational change that includes common staff transfer provisions.”

“No one will be surprised that not one provision in these changes strengthen workers rights”, said Dave as he put UNISON’s position that TUPE needs to be improved, particularly over pensions and public administrative transfers.

16 April 2013

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