The TUC has joined forces with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), EEF the manufacturers’ organisation, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and The Work Foundation to call on the Brown government to introduce ‘a temporary short-time working scheme across the UK’ in next week’s Budget.
The organisations have jointly written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, outlining a plan ‘in which government would partially compensate workers for lost earnings where there was an agreed reduction in working hours and pay, and a commitment to training’.
The TUC and bosses organisations claimed that ‘such a scheme would be vital to keeping workers in employment and would help viable businesses survive during the global downturn’.
Their statement said: ‘Arrangements of this kind can be found across the EU.
‘In Germany, state support for short-time working is available for 18 months from the date of application – and this may be extended to two years if unemployment continues to rise.
‘The organisations believe that such short-time working arrangements minimise the risks of unemployment while economies are shrinking.
‘They are also an investment in the workforce, as staff use sacrificed working hours to take part in government-backed training.
‘The organisations believe the benefits of short-time working schemes are evident: workers keep their jobs and build their employability; employers retain skilled employees; and the government avoids the higher costs associated with benefit payments and the indirect costs of rising unemployment.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘UK unemployment is already over two million and is spiralling fast.
‘Introducing a temporary short-time working scheme would help businesses stem the flow of job losses.
‘Such agreements provide a quick and effective way to cut costs for struggling businesses and give hard-pressed employees vital financial help.
‘Short-time working schemes are working well across Europe and are preventing many thousands of unnecessary job losses.
‘The government must ensure that UK businesses and workers have access to such channels of support.’
BCC Director General David Frost, who has called for a freeze in the National Minimum Wage, said: ‘It is absolutely crucial that our economy’s skills base is protected during the downturn.
‘The loss of skills, especially in manufacturing, will only act to stifle growth in the long-term.
‘Successful initiatives from previous recessions should be revisited and applied to the present climate – a short-time working scheme is one of them.’
EEF CEO Gilbert Toppin said: ‘As part of the real economy, manufacturing will play an important role in dragging us out of our current predicament.
‘However attracting and retaining skilled workers was one of the main problems for manufacturers when times were good.
‘In the current economic climate, therefore, it is vital that we give temporary support to help companies hold on to skilled workers who could otherwise be lost to the sector.’
FSB Employment Policy Chair Alan Tyrell said: ‘A short-time working scheme is something that would be of immense help to smaller employers in the UK during these difficult times.
‘We must at all times avoid the direct and indirect costs of rising unemployment and this scheme will do just that.’
Executive vice chair of The Work Foundation, former ‘radical’ Will Hutton said: ‘Such extraordinary times as we are in demand the government does all it can to help businesses avoid making people redundant.
‘Everyone loses from escalating unemployment – employers, individuals and the state.
‘Saving as many jobs as possible through a short-time working scheme ought to be seen as just as worthy a cause of active government as financial stability.’
The TUC has thrown in its lot with the employers to ‘help cut costs for struggling businesses’ and to save the government ‘higher costs associated with benefit payments’.
The TUC leaders forget they are supposed to be representing the interests of up to seven million workers, whose subscriptions pay the very good salaries and finance the ‘pension pots’ of these bureaucrats.
Short time working and pay cuts never defended a single job as the GMB has found out at JCB.
In fact the capitalist crisis is deepening rapidly and is heading for a slump, trade wars and then a new imperialist world war. This is the lesson of the 1930s.
The trade union bureaucracy is seeking to lead the working class into a massive disaster and ruination.
Any trade union leadership that sought to defend the interests of workers would be demanding the nationalisation under workers control of bankrupt industries and banks, not trying to rescue capitalism, as the treacherous British trade union bureaucracy is seeking to do.
Workers need to reject such corporatist moves, remove these reformist leaders who serve the bourgeoisie, and replace them with a revolutionary leadership that organises mass action to bring down the Brown government and fights to expropriate the bosses and to achieve socialism.
This means forward to a workers government and a socialist economic plan to provide jobs and a future for all.
Capitalism cannot be ‘rescued’ – for workers to have jobs and a future it has to be overthrown, and with it its trade union servants of the TUC leadership.