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Bosses try to kill off workers’ rights

Tony Potts | 11.02.2011 11:25 | Repression | Workers' Movements

Business leaders are risking workers’ lives and eroding employment rights by pushing the government to slash workplace regulations.

Bosses’ organisation the Institute of Directors (IOD) has renewed its call for the government to lift the “burden” of employment regulations “red tape”. The IoD claimed that the cost to employers of dealing with the regulatory “burden” was £36.8 billion in 2010.

The institute’s director-general Miles Templeman said: “Instead of building up their businesses and creating new jobs, the UK’s entrepreneurs are spending over a month each year handling government red tape. “Significant deregulation of employment law must be on the agenda. We know this is contentious, but we’ve reached a point where excessive red tape is stopping many micro-businesses from taking on their first employee. This doesn’t benefit anyone”.

The government has made no secret of its business-friendly attitude to deregulating employment law and health and safety.

Business Minister Mark Prisk said: “No-one goes into business to spend hours and hours filling out forms”. “That’s why the government is taking a comprehensive approach to reduce the volume of regulation and the number of regulatory organisations”. But unions and health and safety campaigners said that it was flagrant abuses by employers which made such regulation necessary.

Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie said: “The IoD and the government are once again using the pretence of red tape to attack workers’ rights. “The truth of the matter is that in industries such as construction tens of thousands of workers do not even have a written contract and many employers believe that they can hire and fire workers at will. The government should be ensuring that such flagrant abuses don’t occur rather than looking to cut the few workplace rights workers currently have”.

Workplace safety campaign Hazards spokeswoman Hilda Palmer said: “The IoD demands for less regulation are part of a huge con trick which we must oppose or we won’t know what we had ‘til it’s gone. “We are in an economic mess due to deregulation and lack of enforcement yet these same con men are going door to door selling the same snake oil as the answer”.

“Their ‘over-regulation’ and ‘over-enforcement’ are simple laws which stop workers being killed, injured and made ill in incidents and as these incidents are almost always due to employers failing to comply, they are far from overburdened at the moment. “Employers’ poor health and safety cost a minimum of £30bn a year and, according to HSE, employers pay less than 25 per cent of this massive bill. The Hazards campaign reminds this government that we didn’t vote to die at work so don’t peddle the business lobby lies”.

It is perhaps worth noting that Prisk was once a prominent member of the Federation of Conservative Students which, at the time, was seen as an embarrassment to the Tory party because its policies were regarded as too right wing. Sadly, 30 years on, these same policies, such as student loans instead of grants but NOT tuition fees and privatisation of British Rail, would be regarded as moderate even by New Labour standards.

Tony Potts