From the TUC

The CBI’s rose-tinted specs

08 Sep 2008, by in Labour market, Working Life

The CBI cannily time their annual labour market survey to the opening day of the TUC congress. Sometimes it’s what we in the communications trade call a spoiler – an attempt to muscle in on the natural media attention paid to the TUC (and of course sometimes the TUC does the same with the annual CBI conference – so no particular complaints there.)

But they have done it very straight this year and led with claims that employers are getting more flexible. Clearly something is happening if this year’s report shows real differences from last years, and that is undoubtedly welcome.

However this survey is no scientific measure of the UK workplace in 2008. The full report is a little vague about the methodology, but it is clearly a postal survey and the results are based on the forms that are returned, with some weighting to reflect the UK’s economic structure.

It is doubtful whether any of the employers of Britain’s two million vulnerable workers most in need of better legal protection returned survey forms even if they were sent to them and so this is a survey of Britain’s better employers, looking through rose-tinted glasses at today’s world of work.

The TUC’s recent YouGov survey of more than 2,500 people at work has a much more robust methodology. Like all such surveys it does show that most people are reasonably satisfied with their jobs. But the picture is nothing like as soft-focus as the CBI survey.It shows that:

  • 44 per cent of the workforce say that they do not have proper chances to learn new skills;
  • 37 per cent say they do not enjoy good flexible working arrangements;
  • 64 per cent say they do not enjoy opportunities for promotion and advancement.

The CBI also argue that as most employers are reasonable, there is no need for employment protection.

“employers feel that they are making strong progress in these areas under their own steam, and without the need for rafts of new legislation.”

This is a fallacious argument. Most cars do not get stolen, but that is no argument for not outlawing car theft.