Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tory proposals on sacking people are both useless and criminal

Mass sackings: welcome to The Great Conservative Economic Strategy.

Another fine display of 21st century British politics took place yesterday when David Cameron dropped the bombshell on the millions of unwitting voters that it should be made much easier to sack workers in this country ("Firms get power to sack the slackers", Telegraph).

Now, of course, the Tories don't have a mandate for that. They never mentioned any of their "employment reforms" at any stage of the election campaign. They didn't because they knew that voters would punish them for that. And in fact, at this point, if you're an ordinary worker and you still think voting Tories will do you or the country any good, then you may as well chop your own bollocks off. The outcome will not be dissimilar.

It's astonishing that, in the face of the biggest crisis in sixty years, The Great Conservative Economic Strategy amounts to the sacking of half a million public workers, even easier sacking procedures for everybody else and -of course- higher costs of living.

The Tories' proposal is based on the contempt they have for ordinary workers. If you are an employee, you are - by default - a burden, an irritant, a disposable pain in the arse. Whatever the issue, financial or otherwise, you're the first one who should bear the brunt. No matter how much this may undermine morale or loyalty to the company. No matter how insecure it makes you feel. You're not a person. You're just a cheap pawn.

David Cameron's proposed new "Employment Charter" starts from a fallacy the size of the Millennium Dome: the ridiculously simplistic illusion that if you decrease protection at work, employment levels will rise automatically.

This is so all over the place that it's difficult to know where to start. But let's just say that the post-1997 implementation of the minimum wage and new maternity rules in Britain were followed by the lowest dole rates in thirty years. Look, instead, at the swirl of anti-Union laws and other measures brought in by Thatcher. It did nothing to even slow down the sustained high unemployment rates that kept looming large over the 1980s and 1990s.

Or consider Italy and Spain, where the last ten years saw most extreme forms of casualisation and disposable employment steamrolled in. Their unemployment levels are still looking extremely sorry, in fact worse even than before.

The second fallacy is that the Conservatives are making it sound as if the current British labour market was stifling and inflexible, while it is already one of the most boss-friendly in the EU as it's cheaper and easier to get rid of staff in Britain than it is in most of its counterparts.

Currently, bosses already enjoy the possibility of hiring as many agency or casual workers as they please. These come with no tie whatsoever. They are literally disposable.

If, however, the same boss saw fit to recruit "properly", there is a probationary period of up to 6 months in which he/she can sack said employee on a whim - literally - no notice, no motive, no compensation. Nowt.

After that, the boss will still have up to 12 months in which he/she can still fire him without any possible fear of being done for unfair dismissal or forking out a penny in statutory redundancy pay.

At this point, you will already concede that if a manager hasn't clocked who the slacker is without successfully rectifying the situation, it is he or she who should be sacked and not the worker.

And it's not over yet. While unfair dismissal claims can be brought after a year, you have to work a total of 24 months in order to be entitled to the lowest possible allowance of statutory redundancy, which - please note - is by far the cheapest in Western Europe.

However, egged on by the British Chamber of Commerce, David Cameron thinks that all of the above amounts to "too much red tape" and that the period that allows staff to submit unfair dismissal claims should be increased from one to two years.

But the icing on the cake is the Coalition's proposal to levy a charge on workers who decide to still fight their corner. This may be vintage Tory philosophy, but in this case it just borders on the criminal - as it crucially links access to justice not to whether you're in the right or not, but to whether you can afford it.

And, needless to say, it also ignores the fee that plaintiffs already pay their lawyer, or their union in the form of fees, if it is they who provide legal counsel.

Incidentally, unions rarely decide to pursue claims that they themselves think will lack weight. The amount of pre-screening that is done prior to deciding whether to gamble on a worker's claim is immense. And that's without even including the conciliation and arbitration stage.

And even so, official figures say that, in the first quarter of last year, just 11% of cases taken to an industrial tribunal were successful - and a puny 5% for constructive dismissal. Amazingly, this is the system that bosses complain is "weighed against them" and is "affecting employment levels".

The Conservatives are mistaking increased turnovers with higher employment rates. Their new proposals will do absolutely nothing to get people back to work.

All they will achieve is a system where it's easier to sack unfairly and without scrutiny and a workplace where it will be even more difficult, often impossible, for an honest worker to fight bullying and victimisation or to seek protection against unscrupulous employers.


Jackart said...

Um, no. (Via)

claude said...

Did you even bother to read the two bits (sleectively, I must add) linked by Chris Dillow?

a) the first compares the Italian situation which is a very specific one and where you have a tier of supermegamaxiprotected workers and another tier of perma-casuals with literally subZERO protection that make UK agency workers look like the USSR. In other words, it's harldy evidence either way or what may or may not happen in Britain or elsewhere.

b) there is a wealth of evidence that suggests otherwise. As you will imagine. I dont have time now but tomorrow I'll link to a few which no doubt you'll peruse and no doubt will change your non-biased mind ;-).

University research papers can be used to prove everything and the opposite of everything.

I send you back, in the meantime to the FACTUAL points I make in the OP and the ridiculousness of the belief that making a worker pay 500 quid to start a claim (only if he's served a minimum of 24 hours at a company) will boost emplyment rates.

You've got to admit, Jackart, it is inept as well as ridiculous. It's the type of stuff they make up on Private Eye or similar to prove a point by hyperbole.

Jackart said...

Yes. Did you see my comment below chris dillow's piece.

The leftist argument ammounts to "La la la, I can't hear you".

Do you really want to work somewhere where you're useless, everyone wants to get rid of you but they can't because it would cost more than continuing to employ you. You honestly think that's better for all involved?

I couldn't care less about what the government is doing. The individual policies and micromanagement ARE ridiculous. Most Government action is ridiculous. Here you and I agree.

But the general point stands. If you make it harder to fire, you make it riskier to employ. That is undeniably true, and (yes, at the margin) reduces employment, especially for the most vulnerable.

Lefties love to pretend that isn't the case and demonstrates why lefties screw countries up every time they get control.

FlipC said...

But Jackart you're making your own assumption. If making it more difficult to fire someone stagnates the job market; then making it less difficult to fire someone will free it up.

If it's already difficult to fire someone I'm not going to; if you make it more difficult there's no change. On the other hand if I can fire at any point, this will have the greatest impact on the interchangable unskilled workers. This won't change unemployment as one goes on as one comes off, but at a lower wage.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I had a feeling jackart would knee jerk, again, I still don't get consistently visiting a blog you always disagree with, seems wilful and pointless.

claude said...

Jackart, the difference between us is that you adhere to an ideology and feel compelled to walk around reading passages from the Free Market Bible, I don't.

You said yourself you're a "Libertarian". Perfectly legit. But you look too much at the theory. I look more at the practice/evidence, because I may have more in common with the left, but 'm not a "socialist", not a "fabian" (whatever the fuck that means), not a "liberal", not a "libertarian", etc. I do not want to be identified by an abstract ideology.

So, looking at the evidence:

1. It is UNDISPUTED that the minimum wage was not followed by a rise in unemployment rates. It is a fact. Even David Cameron admitted that the anti-min wage Tory histeria of 1998-99 was wrong and misplaced.

2. We already experienced your ideal society, Jackart. We have. It was tried and tested and for a long time too. Until way into the 20th century. Look at the Victorian era.
Yes, production rates were sound, even amazing. Yes, the economy was "expanding". Yes, some people were making a load of money. Yes, Britain felt big and powerful.
But the price for that was abject mass poverty. Britain had, literally, masses of incredibly poor people.
As work was unregulated, there was no protection whatsoever for anybody (including children). No sick pay, no health & safety, no maternity guarantees, no holiday pay, no min wage. Those people were so immensely poor that their children had to work. They had to live amassed in slums. And as housing was also, that's right unregulated, there were serious sanitation problems.
I heard the other day on TV that in Victorian London 1 woman in 16 was working as a prozza.
That society was tried. It was barbaric. It was a nightmare.

Amicably and all, but when youw rite "Do you really want to work somewhere where you're useless, everyone wants to get rid of you but they can't because it would cost more than continuing to employ you. You honestly think that's better for all involved?,

frankly, Jackart, what are you talking about?
Are you seriously wailing that it's difficult/impossible to sack people in Britain?

Read the piece above this comments therad again. You can hire casuals for years, pretending that they're casuals and keep no tie, and fire them on a whim.

If you decide to contract them "properly", you have 6 months of probationary time. You can still sack them then.
Then you have a full year with no fear of unfair dismissal.
Is all that still not enough for you?
And you're still moaning about red tapes?

A manager who, after all of the above, still can't identify a bad worker is useless.

claude said...

OECD data updated to 2008-9:

"Strictness of employment protection":

Britain (0.75) is (with Canada) only second to the United States (0.38).

Every single other OECD country, every one, : from Australia to Germany, from Sweden to Spain, from Chile to Korea, South Africa, France and New Zealand, Poland and Italy have a higher index.

And the Tories and their paymasters are still moaning there's too much red tape protecting employees. Unbelievable.

Stan Moss said...

I've got the distinct feeling Jackart is not being so glib on the subject. Maybe he's secretely aware himself that the latest Tory promise of prosperous returns reeks of bullshit.

Jackart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Vile? Ignorant? Unwilling to learn?

Then using a Nazi reference to label me?

You've overstepped the mark here Jackart by some margin.

You don't engage, you use ad hominem and in doing so you expose yourself and we you're here.

claude said...

Jackart you haven't been able to refute ONE point. Not ONE. All you did was a hyperlink to two obsolete and duff research pieces from 1980s Italy.