UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

TUPE attacks prove that Clegg's muscular definition is no more than knots on cotton

It is no surprise that the Government and their business cronies are starting to unpick the employment rights of UK workers. There are serious right wing moves within Europe started by Sarkozy and Blair who backed Angela Merkal’s moves to create ‘freedoms and flexibilities’ for employers at the expense of worker rights.

Whilst the moves made by the Tory led coalition are not unexpected they are surprising early. The libertarian sections of the conservative party were keen to avoid unnecessary fights with the trade unions and comparisons to the Thatcherite battles of the late 80’s and early 90’s but it would appear that the right of the party, in association with the economic liberals, who also hold right wing free- market views, are now ready to push away barriers to change and go full steam ahead with unpicking the limited successes of employment protection gleaned through the EU.

Rights such as TUPE, whilst emanating from Europe are best affected by strong domestic regulations and changes to TUPE in 2006, whilst in part opposed by the trade unions on some of the changes, nevertheless restated the application of TUPE provisions to public services. There was no attempt by the previous labour administration to dumb down TUPE and redundancy provisions in terms of public service contracts.

Moves by this Government are inherently more worrying. Maude has already withdrawn Cabinet Office guidance on the two tier workforce and hot on his heals the Fat Controller Eric Pickles has killed off the Two Tier Code as it applies to Local Government contracts, as well as guidance on consideration of workforce matters in contracting.

This is a disconnected policy approach since on the other side of Government Chris White, a Tory MP, is urging legislative changes through a private members Bill which supports the use of community benefit clauses in procurement – which the Government has pledged to support and allow parliamentary time for.

One of the core local community benefits is surely the ability for the public sector to be a standard setter in pay, terms and conditions? The wealth of individuals is a key determinate in quality of life issues such as health and well-being. It is also a huge factor in the educational attainment of children – so slashing pay has dramatic and wide socio-economic consequences. If we had an affective moderator in the form of progressive liberal ministers maybe some of this nonsense could be stopped in its right wing tracks.

Sadly the ‘muscular definition’ that Clegg so craves to reprofile himself and his beleaguered ministers is no more than a knot on a piece of cotton. The Tory right will steamroller changes to make way for the privatisation of public services. Without employment rights and redundancy protection they can complete the privatisation project started by Thatcher, and nurtured by Blair.

Does anyone have a guide on how we can turn around a tanker on a very narrow road?

Anna Rose