Financial crisis leads to Conservative attack on workplace rights
I thought this would happen just not so soon. Those ‘compassionate conservatives’ are already using the threat of recession to argue for a reduction in workplace rights. This is no backbench fundamentalist sounding off. It’s a major intervention by Mark Prisk who is, apparently, the Shadow Business Secretary and Chris Grayling, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. Prisk, in particular, has called for the recent deal improving rights for agency workers (and supported by the CBI!) to be overturned. Grayling wants the priority to be deregulation over the next two years. The reason: to create jobs. I can think of three reasons immediately why this is daft (not to mention cruel).
First, Prisk and Grayling obviously have not noticed that one of the lessons of the last few weeks is that the UK’s relatively high employment levels had nothing to do with our flexible labour market – it was the result of a high growth economy built in large part on debt and risky financial innovation and which has recently come crashing down.
Second, to deregulate further now would make it easier for employers to sack workers not more likely to hire them.
Third, if the Tories had anything like a strategy to get us out of the recession, they might have considered that the UK will now need to focus on boring, hard stuff like building up sound companies through high productivity, genuine innovation and exports. That is much more likely to occur when employers can’t take the short cut to higher profits through low pay or sackings. Look at Germany for example.
I could also mention the irony of the fact that in the same week that Cameron paints himself as the friend of greater regulation of the City (apparently atoning for the deregulation of financial services in the 1980s which started this mess), his colleagues are arguing that we need the precise opposite for the rest of the economy.