THE TRADE UNIONS condemned huge attacks on workers’ rights announced by LibDem Business Secretary Cable yesterday.
Declaring he intended to make the process of getting rid of workers ‘simpler and quicker’, Cable told a businessmen’s meeting: ‘Unfair dismissal qualification period will rise from one to two years in April 2012.
‘A consultation will be published next year on protected conversations which allows employers to discuss issues like retirement or poor performance in an open manner with staff – without this being used in any subsequent tribunal claims.
‘A further consultation will be published on simplifying the use of compromise agreements (where employers pay an agreed amount to an individual if both parties agree the employment contract should end). . .
‘The tribunal system will be streamlined – removing witness expenses, taking witness statements as read and needing only one judge in unfair dismissal cases.’
He said he wanted a ‘radical slimming down of the existing dismissal process’.
‘There is a genuine concern that if you take measures which create substantial job insecurity this will affect people’s general confidence in life and willingness to spend,’ he admitted.
‘But we have to balance that against the need to create an environment in which firms will expand and take on new employees’, he claimed.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow responded: ‘Not content with opening up the widest gap between rich and poor since Victorian times, Vince Cable and the ConDems now want to drag us back to days of hire and fire where workers have to grovel to the boss for the right to earn a days’ pay.’
Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary said: ‘These changes will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of workers to bring cases of victimisation, unfairness and bullying at work.
‘This will just sweep abuse under the carpet.’
Cable’s proposals are a charter for ‘bullies and rogue employers’, said Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey.
‘Ministers are hell-bent on removing long-established rights at work, making dismissal easier and promoting a culture of fear in the workplace.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘At a time when thousands of jobs are under threat as a result of the government’s austerity programme, reducing the time that organisations have to consult with their employees whose jobs are at risk of redundancy flies in the face of good sense.’
He added: ‘Allowing conversations that happen at work over difficult issues like retirement or poor performance to take place but not permitting their record to be referred to in the future, should a case ever go to tribunal, is hugely worrying.
‘This could simply provide the perfect cover for rogue bosses to bully at whim without fear of ever being found out.’