From the TUC

Employment rights will be battle line at next election

15 Jun 2009, by in International, Politics, Working Life

The Guardian reports that Ken Clarke has softened Tory opposition to the Lisbon treaty. One suspects that many Conservatives are secretly not wanting an early election so that Lisbon can be ratified after an Irish referendum.

But much more interesting is his strong reiteration of Conservative plans to tear up the Social Chapter, and repatriate powers to regulate the labour market. If it is said by Clarke – the leading Tory Europhile – then it cannot be dismissed as a pre-election gesture to the Tory/UKIP fringe. It also looks like they have thought about the detail of how this might be done.

That will mean that there is a clear dividing line at the next election. Even for Labour’s most ardent deregulators, the relatively modest gains of the the Social Chapter – equal rights for part-timers, unpaid parental leave, emergency leave for carers, information and consultation rights etc – are settled and not seen as controversial. Nor do I think the bigger employers’ organisations would really want these reopened.

2 Responses to Employment rights will be battle line at next election

  1. Charlie Marks
    Jun 15th 2009, 10:50 pm

    “Nor do I think the bigger employers’ organisations would really want these reopened.”

    Uh, really?

  2. Nigel Stanley

    Nigel Stanley
    Jun 16th 2009, 3:36 pm

    See the FT today.

    The IoD are – unsurprisingly – in favour, but I don’t really see them as an employer organisation.

    The EEF are against. The CBI is more nuanced:

    The CBI employers’ body, which supported the 1991 opt-out from the social chapter, said it would back any future reduction in the scope of European social legislation affecting the UK. But John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said there was a balance to be struck between this desirable aim and the government being “able to maintain Britain’s place at the table on European policy”.

    I suspect that this means that they feel they have to be positive in public, but don’t see it as any kind of priority in private.

    After all, the bigger employers who dominate the CBI tend to honour the modest content of the Social Chapter and would continue to do so – particularly as at least some are unionised. Letting smaller employers undercut them is not in their interest. Very many operate across the EU, and are worried by Tory euro-sceptic instincts – as the CBI quote shows.

    Of course employer bodies oppose most new reforms, but once they are bedded in, bigger employers generally accept them. They are not campaigning to allow children to sweep chimneys.

    It’s the more poujadist small business lobby who hate European rules.