On Monday this Tory-led government had a second reading of their latest bill to strip working people of their employment rights. The Growth and Infrastructure bill was put to the House of Commons, a bill that will allow businesses the opportunity to offer employees shares in the company in exchange for some of their rights.
The rights on ‘offer’ would include the right not to be unfairly dismissed, to request flexible working time and will affect maternity rights.
The price tag on these rights would be between the value of £2000 - £50,000. With no guarantee that when the shares are cashed in they would have any value at all.
The Labour Party voted against this bill on Monday. You can read the debate here.
‘If someone wants to take a job but finds that it is offered only on the basis that they give up their employment rights, that is not a choice. If that is all an employer offers to someone who is unemployed and wants to do the right thing and contribute to the economy, that is no choice whatsoever. As for shares, what if the company is not listed on the stock exchange? Who will assess the value of those shares—they could be worthless? Who will buy them? Will they carry voting rights? The Secretary of State said nothing about any those points this afternoon, and the House must ask why holding shares should mean that someone loses the right to protection against unfair dismissal.’
Unions together began a letter to David Cameron and George Osborne last week to let them know how outrageous we thought this bill was. Below we have listed some of the comments that were written on the letter that is signed by over 6,000 people.
If you haven’t had a chance to sign this letter yet then please click here to join the campaign to protect our rights at work.
Joshua : Basic workplace rights should be for everyone. As soon as you start trading them away, there'll be a race to the bottom, as there has been with final salary pension schemes.
Sean: All workers in Britain should refrain from selling hard fought for rights at work. We owe it to ourselves, those who bravely fought for them previously and for future generations of workers.
Rob: The rights of working people don't belong to individuals, they belong to all workers collectively.
Patience: As a mother with 3 children to take care of and a mortgage to pay, I need assurance that my job is secured and that I will not be dismissed unfairly.
Abigail: This proposal speaks of nothing quite so clearly as this Government's contempt for the working people of this country.
Jason: This is just a trap that will target those worse off in need of some monetary relief. What they may not realise is exactly what they will be giving up until they need to use the rights that they will have sold.
Barbara: This is a race to the bottom, an attempt to turn the clock back to the days when the 'master' could hire and fire at will.
John: "rights" are exactly what they say...they are our RIGHT, so how can they be for sale??View Comments
I started working for Unions Together about six months ago and it seems like every single day this Government has come out with a new attack on protections for working people.
But soon the Government are putting forward one of the most offensive, made-up-on-the-back-of-an-envelope attacks on our rights at work that you can imagine. Today is the Second Reading of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill - a Bill that will literally put our rights at work up for sale.
Their plan, which has been called ‘shares for rights’, will allow businesses to offer employees tax-free shares in exchange for them giving up their rights.
Osborne and Cameron don’t have a plan for creating jobs and growing the economy. That’s why they keep coming up with ever more extreme ways of attacking employee protections.
The ‘shares for rights’ plan will allow small and medium-sized businesses to ask new employees to give up some of their key rights at work, in exchange for shares in the business. For as little as £2000 in shares, employees may have to give up the right not to be sacked unfairly, redundancy rights, as well as flexible working and maternity rights.
This plan is not only offensive, it’s also absurdly complicated. It will actually create more red tape for employers rather than reduce it.
The Government should be concentrating on fixing our economy, and getting people back into work, not on inventing hare-brained schemes to make it easier to fire people.
That’s why we’re going to send Cameron and Osborne a massive letter, from thousands of us, telling them that our rights at work are not for sale.
The attack on our rights at work is growing.
Just yesterday, new Tory Business Minister Michael Fallon went on the Today programme and pledged the government would be “going further” to remove the protections working people rely on.
He made clear that this week they will announce new proposals to “deregulate further” in this area: it is quite possible we will see a proposal along the lines of Tory Donor Adrian Beecroft’s call to make it much easier to fire people.
That is on top of the radical changes this Government is already making to our rights at work.
In a few weeks time, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will come back to the House of Commons. That Bill has been described as ‘Beecroft by the back door’.
Will you email your MP now and ask them to vote against the Enterprise Bill when it comes back to Parliament?
The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill waters down many of our rights at work.
It throws up barriers that make it harder for people to access justice if they have been treated unfairly at work, lowers the amount of compensation working people can receive, and introduces “settlement agreements” – making it easier for employers to offer employees money to leave. If employees reject a settlement agreement, they won’t be able to use the discussion about it as evidence in an employment tribunal.
The product of these complex clauses in the Bill, combined with the fact the Government are also going to start charging fees for employment tribunals, has been termed ‘Beecroft Lite’. Many people will agree to a poorly-compensated ‘settlement agreement’, as for many accessing justice will seem too complicated and expensive.
When Beecroft appeared as a witness to the Bill Committee, Tory MP Julian Smith let the cat out of the bag, saying that settlement agreements “are a good halfway house regarding some of the proposals you made”.
We don’t know what the new Business Minister is going to come out with later this week, but we do already know that the Enterprise Bill is going to radically reduce our rights at work, and reduce job security even further.
Email your MP now and tell them that they need to vote ‘no’ to the Enterprise Bill when it comes back to the Commons in a few weeks.
Our rights at work are deliberately being hacked away at bit by bit, led by Ministers across lots of Departments. It’s intentionally complicated, making it hard to see what the combined attacks will mean for our rights. But our response is not complicated – it is simple: working people will not stand for these attacks on our rights at work.
Join our campaign now.
This Tory-led Government want to change the rules, so that nurses, care workers, teachers and all the others who work for the good of society will be paid differently depending on where they live - even though they’re doing exactly the same job.
If the Government gets its way, public sector workers in some parts of the country could see their pay frozen, or even cut. Those hardest hit would be the people working in the regions of our country worst affected by the recession.
Will you email your MP now and ask them to vote to say no to regional pay this afternoon?
The Tories’ proposal will make regional inequalities even worse than they already are. Public services in the most deprived parts of the country will be hit hardest, struggling to attract skilled workers because they can't match the wages offered in wealthier regions.
The Government even has the cheek to claim that regional pay will help us out of the recession - when the reality is that they are making public sector workers suffer a long and painful pay freeze. If we force our public sector workers to work for less money, they will have cut back even further on household spending. How can we expect local businesses to grow if their customers aren’t spending?
If the Government do press ahead with regional pay, it could even end up costing taxpayers more. Schools, hospitals and other public bodies will have to spend time and money setting up complex and bureaucratic processes for setting pay.
Today, Labour have called a debate to ask the Government to back down on regional pay before it’s too late. Will you email your MP now?
Our public servants - the people who educate our children, care for us when we are ill and who look after our elderly relatives - have already had their pay frozen for two years, despite the cost of living going up. They are already being asked to accept big changes to their pensions.
We owe it to them to stand up for fair, decent pay for the work they do for us all - wherever they live in the UK!
Yet again, I switched on the radio this morning to hear about another attack on our rights at work. I think this is the third in as many days…
This morning, it was the turn of the Free Enterprise Group – a collection of 40 backbench Tory MPs who have decided the Greek crisis is a good opportunity to have another pop at the rights that millions of ordinary people rely on. Have a look and see if your MP is a supporter.
They want to see the Government pull together a crisis plan to roll out in the event of “Eurogeddon” (presumably by this they mean “if Greece leaves the Euro”). Benefits will be frozen and workplace rights will be abolished for anyone working for a small business. The BBC are also reporting they want to see what sounds like a new category of employment - the Low-paid flexi-job, which would be “exempt from tax and many employment regulations.” Is it possible one of those employment regulations they’re exempt from would be the minimum wage?
Last week, we saw the Queen’s Speech outlining that the “Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill” would make changes to employment tribunals that will surely make it harder for working people to get justice in the event they are treated unfairly at work. Many people will have to pay fees of hundreds of pounds to get access to justice. This is on top of the Government’s recent changes which mean working people have no protection from being unfairly sacked until they’ve been with an employer for two whole years.
Two years of no job security every time you start a new job – how is that going to get people spending and growing the economy? It’s not. These changes will harm the economy, not help it.
And then on Monday Labour forced the Government to finally release the Beecroft Report, after months of delays. The published report was explosive enough, with its call for hire and fire at will. But it’s what was missing from the report that really tells a tale (a draft was leaked in full to the Telegraph at the weekend).
Adrian Beecroft, Tory Donor, Venture Capitalist, made his intentions crystal clear:
“the downside of the proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer doesn’t like them. While that is sad I believe it is a price worth paying…..”
It’s no surprise those words had disappeared by the time it was published – alongside the chapter on liberalising the laws on child labour!
Beecroft offers not a shred of evidence in his report. In fact, the words “research”, “evidence”, “study” or “statistics” do not appear a single time.
The Government’s own figures give the lie to the myth that employers are desperately calling for these changes. In a survey of Small Businesses conducted by the Government last year, 45% said that the state of the economy was their biggest barrier to growth. 12% said the barrier was access to credit. 10% cited taxation, 8% cashflow and another 8% competition. Just 6% of businesses said that the biggest obstacle was regulation.
This attack isn’t going to go away. We need to work hard to make people understand that the rights they rely on are at risk – before it’s too late.
We’re starting by asking people to tell their MP to say a resounding NO to the Beecroft Report, but this can only be a first step. If you have ideas for how we can build this campaign from here, please post them below – we have to be ready for what really is the biggest attack on our rights at work for a generation.View Comments
Last year, David Cameron asked a venture capitalist called Adrian Beecroft, who has donated more than £500,000 to the Conservative Party, to write a report outlining his suggested changes to our rights at work.
After months of delay, Labour MPs forced the Government to finally publish his report on Monday night. That report fulfilled all our worst fears – if Beecroft gets his way, nobody will be safe in their job, as employers will be able to fire at will.
This is an attack on every single one of us. Will you email your MP now?
Mr Beecroft made his intentions crystal clear in the draft of the report that was leaked at the weekend. He wrote:
“the downside of the proposal is that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer doesn’t like them. While that is sad I believe it is a price worth paying…..”
Unsurprisingly, these words didn’t make it into the published version of the report!
But the proposal to take away job security from every single working person in Britain by introducing “no fault dismissal” is only the beginning. Without offering a shred of evidence, the Beecroft Report claims that ripping up rights at work across the board will create jobs and help end the recession.
There is a real risk that the Government will action Beecroft’s plans to scrap our rights. Their austerity programme is making the economy worse, not better, and has pushed us into a double dip recession.
Up until now, Vince Cable’s Business Department has led the way on watering down rights at work, claiming that doing so will create growth - his department is still consulting on whether or not to implement no fault dismissal. There is a real risk that substantial parts of the Beecroft report could become law.
Email your MP now to ask them to oppose this attack on our rights at work.
Ordinary people did not cause this recession – we should not be paying the price by having our rights at work ripped up.
But instead, in today’s Queen’s Speech, the Tories and Lib Dems have put forward a collection of policies to make it easier for employers to sack people.
Will you sign our letter to David Cameron and Vince Cable telling them they’ve got it wrong?
Yesterday, Cameron said he was listening. But today’s announcement shows he’s not listening to the concerns of ordinary people.
They’ve already sneaked changes through a Parliamentary Committee which mean people have no legal protection against unfair dismissal until they’ve been with an employer for two whole years. That’s millions of people at risk of being put out of work out of the blue – they can be sacked on dodgy grounds with no redundancy pay, no compensation, nothing.
And now they’re announcing plans to make it even harder for employees to go to an Employment Tribunal if they think they’ve been treated unfairly at work – with threats of more hoops to jump through, higher fees to pay, and the removal of lay representatives on tribunal panels.
Making jobs less secure is not a path out of the recession. We need people in good, secure jobs, spending in the local economy - not more people on the dole, and millions more saving instead of spending, as they are worried about whether their job is safe.
Sign our letter to Cameron and Cable and let them know we need a plan to create jobs, not more ways to put people out of work.
Our rights at work matter – let’s take a stand together.
Mr Deputy Speaker.
The Chancellor spoke for an hour.
But there was one phrase that did not pass his lips.
One claim he has abandoned.
We’re all in this together.
And it’s no wonder.
Because after today’s Budget:
Millions will be paying more so that millionaires can pay less.
A year ago the Chancellor said in his Budget speech:
“Now would not be the right time to remove [the 50p tax rate] when we are asking others in our society on much lower incomes to make sacrifices...”
Well that is exactly what he has done today.
Tax credits cut
Child Benefit taken away.
And fuel duty up
And what has he chosen to make a priority today?
For Britain’s millionaires, a massive income tax cut each and every year.
The fairness test for this Budget was whether the Chancellor used every penny he could to help middle income families that are squeezed.
He has failed that test.
Anyone who listened to the Chancellor will be asking the same question:
What planet are he and the Prime Minister living on?
Doesn’t he know:
1 million young people out of work.
50 businesses going bust every day
A cost of living crisis for families.
They promised change, but things have got worse not better.
What did he promise us in last year’s Budget?
He said he would, and I quote:
“put fuel in the tank of the British economy”.
He promised growth of 2.5% in 2012.
But today tells us it will be just 0.8%.
Growth down last year.
Growth down this year.
Growth down next year.
Every time he comes to the House he offers a different excuse but the reality is:
His plan has failed.
Last year he told us unemployment would peak in 2011 and what has he delivered?
We’re into 2012, and unemployment is rising month upon month upon month.
His plan has failed.
He promised us last year the deficit would be gone by the end of this parliament.
But he is borrowing £150 billion more than he said he would.
He has failed.
And in the face of failure, what does he offer?
Not a change in economic strategy.
Not a guarantee of jobs for the young unemployed.
Not targeting every penny he could at working families.
The driving ambition of this Budget, and this Chancellor, is to deliver a tax cut for people earning over £150,000 a year.
There are 30 million taxpayers in this country.
This policy will do absolutely nothing for 29 million, 700,000 of them.
How can the priority for our country be an income tax cut for the richest 1%, at a time when the squeezed middle are facing rising petrol prices, higher energy bills, tax credits and child benefit being cut?
Instead, he could have reversed his cuts to tax credits
He could have done something for pensioners.
He could have done more to undo the damage from his reckless child benefit change.
But he claims he can’t afford it.
Let me tell him, every time in the future he tries to justify an unfair decision by saying times are tough, we’ll remind him:
He’s the man who chose to spend millions of pounds on those who need it least.
Out of touch.
Same old Tories.
And let’s come to his claims on stamp duty.
There are 300,000 people benefiting each and every year from his top rate tax cut.
But there are just 4,000 houses sold each year for more than £2 million.
So 99% of those who gain from his millionaires tax cut will be totally unaffected by his rise in stamp duty, and get a massive windfall from this Chancellor.
The Chancellor didn’t tell us what this meant in pounds and pence, so let me read out the figures just so there is no doubt.
There are 14,000 people earning over a million pounds in Britain.
The Chancellor’s decision today means that each of them will get a tax cut.
Not of a thousand pounds.
Not of five thousand pounds.
Not of ten thousand pounds.
A pay rise of over £40,000.
Not just for this year.
But every year.
That is this Chancellor’s priority – giving 14,000 millionaires over £40,000 each.
And what happens to families who earn in one year half what the Chancellor has so casually given away to the richest in the last hour?
Families on £20,000 a year – the nurse, the lorry driver.
Even after the personal allowance change, they’re not going to be better off, they are going to be worse off.
Putting aside the VAT rise.
And all the other tax rises that have already happened.
From this April alone they will be a further £253 a year worse off.
All he is doing for ordinary families is giving with one hand and taking far more away with the other.
It’s a millionaires budget that squeezes the middle.
Out of touch.
Same old Tories.
Under his tax cut, a banker earning five million pounds will get an extra £240,000 a year.
Let’s call this what it really is:
The Government’s very own bankers bonus.
Presumably he wants us to believe that the £240,000 tax cut is necessary to make them work harder.
And it’s one rule for them, and another for everyone else.
On the very day his millionaires’ tax cut kicks in, this Chancellor will be telling a family working for sixteen hours on the minimum wage that if they don’t work more hours they will lose nearly £4,000 in tax credits.
It tells you everything you need to know about the values of this Chancellor and this Prime Minister.
The poor will only work harder by making them poorer.
And the rich will only work harder by making them richer.
Out of touch.
Same old Tories.
While everybody else is squeezed, what’s the Chancellor’s priority?
A massive tax cut for his Christmas card list.
And what about the hapless accomplice to all this, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Only the Liberal Democrats could be dumb enough to think that a George Osborne budget is a Robin Hood budget.
Calamity Clegg strikes again.
This is what he said just a few months ago about the 50p rate:
"I do not believe that the priority at a time like...[this]...is to give a tax cut to a tiny, tiny number of people who are much, much better off than anybody else."
The party that once followed Lloyd George is now reduced to following George Osborne.
The party that delivered the people’s budget of 1909 supporting the millionaire’s budget of 2012.
They should be ashamed.
For all the talk, all the briefing, the Deputy Prime Minister has done exactly what he’s done on every big issue, from tuition fees to the betrayal on the NHS.
Rolled over and said ‘yes Prime Minister’.
The truth is that for ordinary families, it’s hurting but it’s not working.
And we know why.
Because this Government has been cutting too far and too fast.
What did the Chancellor say in August last year about America’s more balanced deficit plan:
“Those who spent the whole of the past year telling us to follow the American example ... need to answer this simple question: why has the US economy grown more slowly than the UK economy....”
Mr Deputy Speaker, the numbers are in.
And the Chancellor is plain wrong.
The US economy grew at 1.7% last year, twice the rate of ours.
This Government have run out of excuses.
It’s their mistakes which are damaging our future.
It’s the failure of their plan.
Today we heard about more schemes for growth from the Chancellor.
But why should we believe it?
Because every scheme he has put forward so far has failed.
What was the big idea of his first Budget?
The national insurance holiday.
Not a word about it today.
And it’s no wonder.
He told us back then it would help 400,000 firms.
Now we know he’s missed his target by 97%.
This Chancellor’s plan has failed.
What about the centrepiece of last year’s budget?
The Budget for Growth.
This is my favourite.
The Business Growth Fund.
Six regional offices opened.
And how many businesses benefitting?
One for each office.
The Chancellor’s plan has failed.
We needed a plan for growth that will work.
We needed a guarantee on youth jobs.
We needed a British investment bank to help small businesses.
But on growth, on jobs, on how we pay our way in the world, this Chancellor has failed.
On the proposal on film tax relief, let me say this:
It is great to support the great British success stories like Downton Abbey.
A tale of a group of out of touch millionaires.
Who act like they’re born to rule.
But turn out to be no good at it.
Sound familiar Mr Deputy Speaker?
We all know it’s a costume drama.
They think it’s a fly on the wall documentary.
This Budget will be remembered for his failure on growth and jobs and the top rate tax cut.
This isn’t just a bad policy, or a misjudgement.
It destroys the claim the Prime Minister made about who he was and what he believed.
What did he personally say in his aims and values document, sent out to every Conservative Party member.
“The right test for our policies is how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich”.
It was called Built to Last.
That was his test.
A test this Budget fails spectacularly.
It’s the death knell of his project.
His compassionate Conservatism.
He and the Chancellor have shown their true colours.
They promised change.
But they have failed on growth, on jobs, on borrowing, on fairness.
Unfair. Out of touch.
For the few, not the many.
An unfair Budget built on economic failure.
An unfair Budget from the same old Tories.
Ian Murray MP, Labour's Shadow Business Minister, commenting on today’s National Minimum Wage announcement, said:
“Youth unemployment is at the highest rate since records began, with over a million young people unable to find work. So it is disappointing that the only response from this out of touch Government to the job crisis facing our young people is to impose a real terms cut to their wages.
“This is the first time that the development rate for young people will not rise. The Low Pay Commission's recommendation represents a vote of no-confidence in the Government’s handling of the economy and the prospects for recovery.
“If the Tory-led Government was serious about tackling youth unemployment they would back Labour’s Real Jobs Guarantee by repeating the bank bonus tax and using the money raised to help create 100,000 jobs for young people, which they would be required to take up. We have also called on the government to use public procurement to boost apprenticeship opportunities, but they have failed to do so.”View Comments
Yesterday, this Government pushed through a vote in a Committee of the House of Commons that will take away important rights at work from anyone who's been in their job less than two years, or anyone who might change jobs or start a new one in the future.
They have changed the rules, so that employees no longer have protection from being unfairly sacked until they’ve been in their job for two years. At the moment, those rights kick in when you’ve been in a job for a year.
The Government claims that this move will increase jobs, but there is simply no evidence to back this up. The Chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was quoted by one of the MPs in the debate. He said:
“If you look at the evidence on unfair dismissal, I mean there isn’t actually anything to suggest that watering down those rights would create any more jobs and indeed the job insecurity it would create would actually be bad for the economy and businesses.”
At the moment there are 3 million people who have been in their job more than one year, but less than two. Thanks to this Government, they are no longer protected from being sacked unfairly. That’s an awful lot of people who are losing this important right.
But although it is 3 million people who are currently losing that right, in reality any of us who will ever start a new job are losing out too. Trends show that people are increasingly likely to change jobs regularly over the course of their careers – if protection only kicks in after 2 years, then many people will spend a high proportion of their lives without the job security that is so important. Important to them, but also to the economy.
As Citizens Advice have said:
“Doubling the qualifying time for legal protection against unfair dismissal to two years will make the jobs of three million workers even more insecure than they are already. It’s nothing short of a charter for rogue employers.”
At the Committee yesterday, Labour MPs argued strongly against this right being taken away. Many Labour MPs came along to speak, even though they don’t have a vote on the Committee, because they wanted to have their say. But the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have an inbuilt majority, and the rule change was passed.
Before it becomes law, this measure has to be approved by the House of Commons, but there won’t be a debate, and given the Tory and Lib Dem majority in Parliament it’ll be almost impossible to stop.
This just goes to show the real agenda of this Government – Tories and Lib Dems alike. They’re actually using unemployment, caused by their failed economic gamble, as an excuse to attack the rights at work that ordinary people rely on. 3 million people are losing their job security right now – and no doubt that’s just the beginning of what this Government has in store.
The rights we take for granted, that we rely on, are in danger – it’s up to us to build a strong campaign to defend every one of them.
MPs who voted to remove protection from being unfairly sacked from 3 million people:
Aidan Burley, Conservative, MP for Cannock Chase
Helen Grant, Conservative, MP for Maidstone and the Weald
Sam Gyimah, Conservative, MP for East Surry
Norman Lamb, Lib Dem, MP for North Norfolk
Stephen McPartland, Conservative, MP for Stevenage
Tessa Munt, Lib Dem, MP for Wells
Sarah Newton, Conservative, MP for Truro and Falmouth
Dr Daniel Poulter, Conservative, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich
Craig Whittaker, Conservative, MP for Calder Valley
Jeremy Wright, Conservative, MP for Kenilworth and Southam
MPs who voted against scrapping this important workplace right:
Michael Meacher, Labour, MP for Oldham West and Royton
Jessica Morden, Labour, MP for Newport East
Paul Murphy, Labour, MP for Torfaen
Ian Murray, Labour, MP for Edinburgh South
Chris Ruane, Labour, MP for Vale of Clwyd
Andrew Smith, Labour, MP for Oxford East
Dave Watts, Labour, MP for St Helens North