Friday, 25 May 2012

'No Fault Dismissal' & Labour Law Reform

YESTERDAY, The Daily Telgraph ran a leader declaring that 'There is no excuse for economic timidity' and in the same issue on the facing page Peter Oborne wrote a column entitled:  'Leave Cable alone - he's the moral centre of this Coalition'.  Adrian Beecroft, a Tory donor and private equity boss, had issued a report proposing 'no fault dismissal' for workers; so that they couldn't apply for justice in their cases at Employment Tribunals when they were sacked, even if they had been 'unfairly dismissed'.

What ought to be our position on labour law in these cases? 

In Manchester since 2003, and now elsewhere, campaigns have been fought by electricians against blacklisting by taking their former employers the multi-national construction companies to the Employment Tribunals.  It was the only way the electricians in the building trade could get justice.  A few years ago some British libertarians, like 'Spiky Mike' a fomer housing manager, at a Northern Anarchist meeting even sneered at these efforts.  Ought not the electricians to be fighting the blacklist using direct action and not in the courts of law, they would argue?  After all the Spanish anarchists in the 1930s would never have turned to the Courts.

The context we now find ourselves is different from Spain in the 1930s, and the electricians had only one option in 2003 to make their point and that was to force cases through the Employment Tribunals and even to be prepared to go to the European Courts.  This business of workers and trade unionists becoming barrack-room lawyers has not been an ideal process but it was the only way forward.

What will happen if that possibility of seeking justice at the Tribunals is taken away?  Peter Oborne writes:  'Mr Beecroft, along with his Conservative admirers, has taken a very dangerous wrong turning ... The kind of untrammelled free market capitalism which Mr Beecroft is advocating is inhumane, unedifying and unBritish ...'  Mr Oborne tells us of Mr Beecroft that 'he is very rich' and 'Apax, the company he helped to run, was one of a number of similar concerns which made vast fortunes for a tiny financial elite on the back of Gordon Brown's tax reforms at the turn of the century.' 

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has dismissed this proposal saying that the Government doesn't want to 'frighten workers to death' with schemes like that of  Adrian Beecroft's 'no fault dismissal'.  He is right if we want English politics on the shopfloor and building sites to continue as they have been doing for the last generation or so with disputes often being argued out in the Employment Tribunals.  But what Mr Oborne, and perhaps Vince Cable may worry about more, not to mention Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, is that if the option of workers resorting to the Courts is withdrawn they may take to the streets more readily - as happened with certain other discontented elements in the August 2011 riots.

No comments: