Thursday, August 9, 2012

More Tory attacks on employment rights

The Tory contempt for Labour rights is so severe that
 they let multi-millionaire capitalists like Adrian
Beecroft draw up labour reform proposals for them.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Tories have absolute contempt for the rights of ordinary working people. I've written about this subject before, in the context of their plans to cancel the May Day bank holiday, which also happens to be International Labour Day.

One of the most blatant attacks on the rights of workers was written by multi-millionaire private equity fund manager Adrian Beecroft, who also happens to have donated £millions to the Tory party. The Beecroft report is a corporatist's wet-dream. It proposes attacks on labour rights, sack-at-will legislation, cutting unfair dismissal compensation, facilitating the asset-stripping of companies by removing carry-over employment rights when companies are bought out and removing the obligation from corporations to check that their employees are even eligible to work in the UK.

It is absolutely disgusting that the Tory party allow their rich donors to draw up their legislation for them, but what is even more shocking is that Beecroft's private equity fund own the parasitic payday loan company Wonga.com. If the Tories do pass Beecroft's sack-at-will legislation then parasitic lenders like Wonga will be direct beneficiaries as tens of thousands of newly unemployed people are forced to take out 4,000% APR loans from predatory lenders like Wonga in order to keep their heads above the water. Another massive conflict of interest is that private equity funds would be direct beneficiaries from the scrapping of carry over legislation, which would allow them to asset strip British companies at will without having to worry about the pesky employment rights of the staff they need to sack in order to maximise their profits.

Beecroft's plans are misleadingly sold to the public in right-wing rags like the Telegraph and the Daily Mail as nothing more than a simple exercise in cutting "pointless bureaucracy" and "red tape", when in fact they are quite clearly fundamental attacks on the rights and working conditions of ordinary working people. The sad thing is that so many of the unthinking reactionaries that take their opinions directly from the right-wing press will support "cutting red tape" even though the slightest amount of critical thought would reveal that Beecroft's proposals are quite clearly against their own best interests.

The Tories notorious mandatory unpaid "Workfare" schemes have rightly attracted a lot of criticism. Some people have described these work-for-your-benefits schemes as a form of modern corporate slavery. I can't say I disagree, "mandatory unpaid labour" would seem to be an adequate definition of the word "slavery" to me, however I don't consider slavery comparisons to be particularly useful. In my opinion it is always a better strategy to stick to facts and analysis rather than raising simplistic appeal to emotion arguments.

There are plenty of rational arguments against these schemes, ranging from the simple argument that "if the work is worth doing, it is worth paying someone to do" to the growing body of evidence that very few Workfare trainees ever get taken on by their corporate workmasters and that they are simply being exploited as a supply of free, right-less labour.

Another argument against Workfare is that if the Tories provide a near unlimited supply of free low-skilled  labour for the corporate sector, they can simply sack their unskilled workers in order to save themselves the cost and inconvenience of having workers that actually have to be paid and are capable of asserting their employment rights. Thus forcing people to work for their benefits can actually exacerbate the unemployment problem by incentivising corporations to make their paid staff unemployed.

The argument that the state provision of free labour can lead to paid workers losing their jobs was strongly reinforced when Shiv Malick posted an article in the Guardian describing how a company called Becoming Green have started busing in prisoners in order to staff their call centre for as little as £3 a day and then set about laying off at least 17 of their full time staff.

Of course there are always plenty of unthinking reactionaries who use their vindictive attitudes towards the unemployed and imprisoned in order to justify their exploitation. Sadly the revenge fantasies of unthinking reactionaries against those that they feel are beneath them will always take precedence over any kind of rational socio-economic analysis, even if the analysis demonstrates that such schemes cause significant socio-economic harm by costing working people their jobs.

The Tory policy of using prisoners and the unemployed as free labour in order to undermine the minimum wage and employment law is an utterly contemptible policy which creates market distortions and exacerbates the unemployment situation. Allowing their rich donors to draw up their fantasy wishlist of which employment rights they want to destroy is possibly even worse, especially given the massive conflicts of interest.

If you ever find yourself questioning whether the Tories are actually that malicious, just remember Thatcher's famous description of the Trade Union movement as "the enemy within". Whether you agree with the Trade Unions or not, you have to accept the fact that it is their job is to protect the interests of ordinary working people. There can hardly be a clearer demonstration of the Tory the contempt and malice towards ordinary working people than Thatcher's callous words about her own countrymen.


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