Beecroft: Tory benefactor and “misery” maker

Revealing the real motivations behind Beecroft’s proposed reforms of UK employment law, Tony Burke, assistant general secretary at Unite the Union, sets the record straight following TM’s June leader.

 The June issue of The Manufacturer carried extensive reporting on the proposals to change employment rights as proposed predominantly by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft. There was little comment on opposition to his proposals – so it’s time to redress the balance.

It should be recalled that Beecroft’s original report was left gathering dust on a Whitehall shelf after civil servants had branded much of it as “unworkable”. One is reported to have commented that the report was “Full of the Tory millionaires’ philosophy that government should not interfere in anything.”

But before I set out the case against these proposals let’s just remember that Mr Beecroft is no independent minded employment expert.

He is the chairman of Dawn Capital, the company that owns and makes money out of other people’s misery – the payday loans company Wonga.com – and is also a major donor to the Tories.

Let’s look at just some of the items on the ‘turn the clock back’ agenda.

A ‘no fault’ dismissal system where a worker can be sacked after a ‘protected’ arm-round-the-shoulder conversation.

The respected Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said the proposal is ‘objectionable and unnecessary’ and would fail to create new jobs.

The manufacturers’ body the EEF said there was no evidence that “firing at will”, would help growth and job creation. The Federation of Small Businesses whose members these proposals are supposed to help have opposed it; recognising that small companies would be dubbed ‘second class’ in the world of work.

Vince Cable has described the no-fault dismissal proposal as “bonkers” and many employers and employers’ organisations that I have spoke to have said they don’t need any more employment legislation.

The UK has some of the weakest employment regulations in the developed world – something that Unite is committed to changing.

Beecroft proposes an end to a mandatory 90-day consultation period when a company is considering redundancy programmes. Instead he recommends a 30-day period and an emergency five-day period if a company is in severe economic distress. I would argue that 90 days consultation is not onerous on companies – it can give breathing space for companies, unions and employees to negotiate restructuring when thay are facing problems or need new backers.

A cap on loss of earnings compensation for employees who make successful unfair dismissal claims is proposed. Most tribunal payouts are modest and small – the ones that hit the headlines tend to be high profile cases involving people who earn mega bucks. Anyway why should somebody found unfairly dismissed not be able to secure decent compensation?

Proposed major reform to TUPE and parental provisions –  Beecroft’s proposals will take us back to the dark days of workers not knowing whom they work for and two-tier employment and antiquated maternity and paternity rights.

The reality is that Adrian Beecroft and allies such as Dominic Raab MP and Aiden Burley MP who chairs the Trade Union Reform Committee (yes the same Aiden Burley involved in the Nazi styled stag party) are ideologically driven – trying to drive employment rights as far back as you they can get them – arguing that making it easier to sack people will create jobs when there is not a scintilla of evidence that proves this.

One thing we in the trade union movement recognise is that this is not the head-on big-bang assault of yesteryear. Instead employment rights are being sliced away bit by bit as Thatcher did – an ideologically driven stealth attack hoping many workers don’t pay much attention – until it happens to them.

Check out the TUC’s website at http://stopemploymentwrongs.org/

This blog first appeared on the blogsite of The Manufacturer

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