George Osborne has many faults, but we have to thank him for one thing – uniting the Liberal Democrats. There are groups within the Lib Dems holding different, even opposite views. However, many Lib Dems are united in their opposition to Osborne’s idea of exchanging workers’ rights for shares in their company. If you agree, please help us by taking part in theconsultation on these proposals which ends on 8th November.
Whilst the Lib Dems are fully behind the idea of Employee ShareOwnership, we do not believe that an employee should have to give away hard-won employment rights. The John Lewis model of staff shareholding is one that the Liberal Democrats strongly support and Nick Clegg is working hard to present it to businesses. This could be an important move towards growth stimulus in the long term economy. Employees with a stake in a company have been shown to be more committed and more productive because when the company does well, they do well. Liberal Democrats also passed a motion at conference along these lines.
But George Osborne seems to think that workers will be encouraged and productive if the threat of dismissal is held over them in exchange for shares. It’s like holding a gun at someone to make them work. If you thought you could lose your job in an instant with no legal comebacks allowed, no redundancy money, and having to sell the shares back to the employer at a rate determined by them, would you want to go out spending money in the economy? Would you feel secure and stable? Or would you save every penny in case the unthinkable happened? This ‘model’ would not encourage growth by any stretch of the imagination.
This elitist idea is presented as an aid for new start-up companies to free them from the binds of employee rightswhilst they get off the ground. However, employees don’t have the full range of rights immediately. Unfair dismissal only kicks in after one year’s service, right to redundancy after two years. You have a right to ask for training, but your employer is not obligated to give you that time. The same applies for flexible working – the employer does not have to agree to it. So where are the disincentives to new start-ups on this issue? They have at least one year before unfair dismissal comes into play. So what of Osborne’s proposals? Well, they state that it would apply to current companies too. Where is the excuse for removing employee rights for current companies if not to bring in Beecroft’s ‘fire at will’?
And where does the idea that it is voluntary for the employee come from? If a company chooses to offer ONLY that kind of employment does a potential employee have the choice to turn the job down? Is there an abundance of jobs that they can pick and choose from? Does someone on Job Seekers’ Allowance have the option to turn the job down? Well, only if they want to lose their benefits and end up on the street.
The Tory view of the world we live in is so far removed from reality. Whilst they try to keep their banks and big business paymasters happy and whilst Labour sit on their hands in the comfort of opposition, the Liberal Democrats are the only ones who can stop these outlandish plans which would damage, rather than improve our economy. This is why we have come together to send a message to Osborne. Please take part in the consultation today.
* Tracy Connell is a member of the Liberal Democrats in Newcastle City, and a regional officer.