Making Britain the place to work ….ban strikes against job cuts

June 21, 2010

If it wasn’t so serious you’d have to laugh.

The CBI has urged the coalition government, which as we know comprises Tories (supported by 36.1% of those voting) and LibDems (23%) to legislate so that unions will in future need support from more than 40% of members balloted, in addition to a simple majority in favour, to authorise an official strike.

CBI plans might have sailed through if the Tories had won the election; and a mere 40% share of those voting would probably have won it for them. With the coalition there may be problems.

After all, the coalition partners’ agreement on the alternative vote (AV) goes no further than a commitment to organise a referendum on the issue. The Tories are committed to oppose AV. We should stick to what we know, they will argue; it’s not necessary in order to take their place in the House of Commons, for politicians to have the support of the majority who vote in their constituency even by counting second preference votes.

So, insisting for trade unionists that having a majority favouring a strike is insufficient for anyone to take their place on a picket line might well seem ever so slightly inconsistent.

No legislation to raise the bar for strike ballots to 40% of those entitled to vote could get through parliament without significant backing; of MPs on Commons benches most of whom could only ever dream of having that level of popular support and, incidentally, totally unelected nobles and bishops in the Lords.

As Britain’s self-proclaimed ‘leading business group’ the CBI doesn’t just concern itself with trade union democracy, it worries too about problems of uncertainty for all workers.
Its press release recommends:-

“…the consultation period for collective redundancies should be shortened from 90 days to 30 days to reduce uncertainty for staff and allow employers to reshape their workforces swiftly to respond to significant falls in demand.”

John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, elaborates –

“…when… redundancies are inevitable, dragging out the process over three months just prolongs the agony for employees.”

This is bullshit. Trade unions have long had a response to the shedding of management crocodile tears over uncertainty in redundancy consultation – “We’ll get by with the uncertainty thanks – it’s losing their jobs that people find harder.”

John Cridland knows full well of course, that if consultation on mass redundancies was limited to 30 days, no trade union members could ever take lawful strike action to resist them because 30 days is insufficient for their unions to conduct ballots in compliance with the law.

Cridland also knows that workers got rid of before the 90 day consultation period is up are entitled to be paid, in addition to redundancy pay, for the unexpired part of that period. Ending workers’ uncertainty by sacking them early costs employers money.

With UK workers amongst the cheapest in Europe to get rid of and a government committed to mass unemployment, he just wants it to be cheaper still.

These measures are put forward under the rubric of a “fairer approach to employment relations in the workplace”.

Before Cameron latched onto ‘fair’, just as Blair latched onto ‘modern’, it used to mean free from bias, dishonesty or injustice.


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