Since 1968 in this country, employees have had certain rights relating to their employment and protections from being unfairly dismissed, enshrined in law. Now, a very unpleasant man called Adrian Beecroft has proposed that the Government should remove those laws.
The Beecroft report, is a controversial set of recommendations on reforming Britain’s employment laws and regulations which are stated to be “impeding” business and “exacerbating the national problem of high unemployment”. The proposals are likely to be warmly welcomed by those Tories who believe employment law brought in under the Labour government is stifling business and investment.
Business minister Mark Prisk told the House of Commons that 17 of the 23 recommendations in Mr Beecroft's report were already being put into action, while the rest were subject to consultation until June 8. Announcing the decision to publish the report, Mr Prisk told MPs: "This Government is taking positive action to reform the labour market to make sure we can get more people back to work as soon as possible."
Whether what gets enacted contains some of the earlier proposals as a moot point.
Any proposal to allow dismissal without cause is not intended to help people back to work and for Prisk to couch it in this kind of the worst language of spin, is to dissemble to the point of lying. Of course, the suggestion has been written using the language of permitting employers to get rid of lazy workers.
But that is not what will happen at all. The rule will be applied by firms who want to get rid of men and women in later middle age, when they are at the top of their incremental pay scales, and earning decent salaries, and whom the firms would love to be rid, because they could otherwise get other people to do those jobs for less money. This regulation will be used to get rid of perfectly good workers, whose face doesn't fit, or because an incoming manager wants to promote his own favourites into post.
I know what this is like because it happened to me, and being made redundant in your later fifties merely because your new manager wants to give the job you have worked for and have filled efficiently, to one of his supporters, and who wants to get rid of you as quickly and cheaply as possible, despite all the so-called HR rules and regulations, is a daunting prospect. Thankfully in my case, I was able to make use of the legislation which exists to protect workers and to sue the company for a decent settlement, but without these laws, I would have been without any recompense at all.
The original Beecroft Report urged a relaxation of British laws to allow small firms to opt out of seven different employment laws including providing pensions for their workers. A wider move to allow flexible working for all employees from next year should also be scrapped, it recommended. It is claimed that the measures would save business billions of pounds and allow them to “grow and employ more people”. This latter statement is a huge red herring. If companies are making money by cutting labour forces, why would they bother to employ more workers. It doesn't make any economic sense, and it is not intended to, it is just a piece of dishonest blather designed to make it look like they are promoting the growth agenda.
This provision would take workers in this country back to the worst excesses of the 19th century, where workers could be fired at will, and men fought with bare knuckles at the factory gate to get a day's labour.
Of course, it might just be a mere coincidence that Beecroft realises the value locked up in a bigger group of unemployed workers who are feeling the pinch of having no money, because they represent an irresistible focus for the 'quick money lending' solution offered by Wonga.com, a loan facility in which one of Beecroft's companies holds a big stake. Company reports show that venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, a major donor to the Tory party, having handed over £593,000 since David Cameron became leader, is chairman of Dawn Capital, which has a large stock in Wonga Group. Latest accounts show the company, which is now worth £384m, was worth a mere £17m in December 2010. Perhaps not surprising when you realise that Wonga.com charges an APR rate of over 4,000% for its loans!
Returning to the Beecroft Report, what is worse, it proposes that employers should not be responsible for the provision of pensions, so that after a lifetime's work, a worker could be kicked out of the gate without a single penny to retire on. We already know how much the private pension sector steals from private pension plans, and in any event, an occupational pension is something that the government have been encouraging all workers to invest for.
So the report recommends:
• Delaying laws which will force companies to provide pensions for their workers from this autumn. The report states: “It is unclear why introducing from 2012 a measure that will costs employers £6 billion per year, individuals £7 billion per year and government £2 billion per year is sensible in the current economic climate”.
It does not occur to this consultant bean-counter that the investment is sensible because it will assist in defraying a worker's living costs at a later stage, and what is more, the provision of a pension is a huge incentive to stay in work and continue to contribute by paying tax.
• Stopping the planned spread of flexible working to allow all employees to request changes to their standard working week. It recommends a new voluntary code of conduct rather than laws.
This is because he knows that voluntary codes are always flouted and never complied with, and that without central policies, flexible working (which has been found to be very effective in other countries) will never get off the ground.
• A watering down of the so-called “Tupe” rules that mean that a supplier taking over another’s firm’s contract and workers must respect the existing terms of employment for workers. This is a particular issue when private firms take over roles previously conducted by the public sector.
You bet, particularly at a time when the Government is about to hand the entire National Health Service over to the private sector, no new employer wants to have to respect existing employment terms for former NHS employees. Much easier to get rid of them and churn out the profits rather than respect their legal rights.
Of course it may be just a total coincidence that Beecroft is a Director of Healthcare At Home Ltd, which provides home healthcare services to patients in the United Kingdom. It offers a range of services, such as medication support, medication home treatment, supported hospital discharge, preventing hospital admission (sic?), end of life care, cancer services, and pharmaceutical and clinical services.
• Scrapping plans for firms to introduce equal pay audits.
Can't encourage women to aspire to equality of employment rights, can we? Good God, they might want to be directors next!
• Allowing larger firms to make so-called “collective redundancies where more than 100 workers are dismissed with only 30 days notice. This notice period is currently only available for smaller firms, which means that larger firms have to pay people an extra 60 days worth of wages.
Of course, why make it harder for employers to throw whole communities out of work and on the scrap-heap, destroying a source of work which in many cases is the biggest employer in the community?
This report is truly one of the most scandalous pieces of neo-con-inspired poison that has seen the light of day in many years. I can just imagine the fun that Beecroft and his satraps must have had sitting around over the chilled Chablis and smoked salmon sandwiches, deciding what regulations to scrap. This document has all the hallmarks of some typical shiny-faced, juvenile Tory special adviser's wank fantasy, but it completely fails to understand the nature of the proper relationship between the modern employer and their workforce.
But what would you expect from a man who has spent his entire life advising other people how to be more 'efficient', either as a Harvard Fellow or later as a consultant with Boston Consulting Group? This is a man who once worked for one of Britain's more inefficient computer companies, ICL, (It'll Come Later)! Since then he has specialised in the arduous task of Venture Capital, a job where you don't exactly have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, (in a physical work sense I mean), but the kind which many in this role in the City specialise in all too often.
This is a man who probably knows everything there is to know about cutting jobs and putting people out of work, all in the name of economic efficiency. If Cameron and his cabinet of millionaires carry on adopting this piece of obscenity, then they will only have themselves to blame when the unemployed take to the streets, because they have nothing else left to lose. They won't be able to blame 'sheer criminality' this time, when the flames rise and the shops are looted, and the unemployed fight pitched battles with the police in the streets, this time the fault will lie squarely at their door for decisions such as these contained in the Beecroft Report.
Even Cameron can't be this stupid!