FOLLOWING an increase in the number of employment tribunals – after an attempt was made two years ago to make it deliberately harder for workers to take their employer before a tribunal – the government has launched a ‘root and branch’ review of how ‘workplace grievances are resolved’.
This year there has been a 30 per cent rise, to 115,000, in the number of cases being heard, with ministers now saying the system has to be improved.
Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling said the system should be made to work better for both employers and their staff.
‘By reducing the number of disputes, and resolving those that do happen more quickly, we can raise the UK’s productivity and ensure better employer relations,’ he said.
‘We can also cut the cost of dealing with disputes, which can be substantial,’ he added.
When Darling talks about reducing the numbers of disputes, and a root and branch review, he is really talking about narrowing the mandate of tribunals so that most of the current cases could not be heard.
He is talking about abolishing tribunals as we know them so as to instantly give rapacious wage cutting and job cutting employers the kind of industrial relations that they want – the right to hire and fire at will!
The Confederation of British Industries has of course welcomed the latest move against tribunals by the Blair government.
‘We welcome this fundamental review of the system which is still not working two years on from the last attempt to improve it’ said John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general.
The review is to be led by former Powergen executive Michael Gibbons. Its recommendations will be submitted to the government next spring.
The Labour government is committed to assisting the employers deregulate. Chancellor Brown in budget speech after budget speech has assured the employers that the government is for lighter and lighter touch regulation and inspection to take the pressure off them and make them the ‘master’ in the workplace.
In fact, the Labour government is a sponsor of employers’ attacks on the trade unions with its out and out support for ‘total globalisation’.
In this year’s pre-budget speech Brown emphasised that he is a supporter of globalisation and opposed to all feather-bedding of British industries and all forms of job protection.
He spoke about the survival of the fittest as he detailed that UK industries would have to out produce and undercut China and India if they are to survive.
Brown supports the drive of employers, like Gate Gourmet, who sack whole workforces to bring in cheaper and more flexible labour.
He is the leader of the employers’ drive to speed up production, cut wages and get rid of final salary pension schemes to maximise their profits by cutting their costs.
Employers who wage this struggle have the Labour government’s support. Brown’s Treasury is part of the drive that is forcing hundreds of thousands of workers to go to employment tribunals to receive compensation for dismissal or victimisation.
Now the bosses say that the tribunals are costing them too much time and money. In response, in steps Brown to pledge the lightest inspection and regulation possible, while the government pledges root-and-branch reform of Employment Tribunals.
In our opinion employers who cut wages, engineer mass sackings and bring in cheap labourers to replace workers should not only be forced to pay massive compensation. The Employment Tribunals should be given the power not just to recommend re-employment, but to force employers to re-employ workers on their old terms and conditions.
Of course, a Labour government will never push through such legislation – they are intent on the demolition of the Employment Tribunals.
Only a workers’ government will do this.
Meanwhile, the trade unions must tell Labour that further attacks on Employment Tribunals will be met by the most determined strike action.