Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Worker's Charter

The vision for a worker’s charter has been with us for some time.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s workers had been on the sharp end of tory restrictions and anti-trade union laws – the time for bringing a claim of unfair dismissal was one year [and strangely enough there were large numbers of people dismissed on one year minus one day – a bit coincidental!].

The Institute of Employment Rights with others, including trade unions, attempted to establish a platform of minimum standards at work that workers could expect not to fall below

The Labour Government of 1997 published ‘Fairness at Work’ and brought forward a new Employment Rights Act but it still countenanced many of the tory anti-worker laws and even Tony Blair acknowledged that we had the most restrictive industrial framework of any other European country.

UNISON commissioned Keith Ewing to produce a workers charter for us with 10 objectives that a worker could reasonably expect in their terms and conditions and protections and in 2002 the TUC went on to launch a charter all unions could get behind.

The supporting work for this charter detailed how to improve individual and collective rights at work and was presented alongside ideas for an alternative economic framework – one that promotes economic efficiency and social justice. It also illuminated the extent to which the UK failed (and still fails) to meet its international standards and obligations.

Needless to say, despite campaigns from the trade union movement and lawyers of the ilk of Ewing – the government of the day failed to significantly improve rights or ensure sustainable laws

As can be seen now by moves by Government and Employers to attack workers rights now.

The release by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills of an Employer’s charter – ostensibly to advise employers on what they can do – came not long after the release of the LG Employers advice on reducing costs by reducing workers terms and conditions

All of this giving a signal to employers that the worker was a target at work as well as in society

Rather than giving them encouragement

This charter was also released alongside a consultation on changing the tribunal system, including extended the time period from one to two years for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal. Other potential changes may also affect statutory sick pay and there is an expectation that smaller businesses may be exempt from many employment laws already.

Ironic given that most ‘entrepreneurial’ enterprises already seem to treat them with contempt – just talk to your friends working in small manufacturing companies – they will have some stories for you.

Cameron ‘explained’ that this was all about getting business moving again – about removing red tape – about freeing employers from their obligations to their employers – but strange that it is the workers intended to bear the brunt.

After all if an employer doesn’t want to warrant a claim of unfair dismissal – then they simply shouldn’t dismiss unfairly

It really is just another dig at workers – particularly softening up the workforce so that they are cheaper to hire and fire – or privatise in the case of public services!

Did you know that the UK is in breach of not one, but 13 of the 16 different obligations specifically accepted by this country in the Council of Europe Social Rights Committee – going back through successive (and different political) governments to the 1960’s – all at the expense of workers – how dishonest can you get!

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