Workers and businesses need a real industrial strategy, not a bank with no money and a workplace with few rights

September 14, 2012 3:30 pm

For a man who said that pure laissez-faire economics does not work, Vince Cable’s recent proposals for a British `business bank’ and watered down employment protection are dangerously laidback.

While at Unite we welcome the recognition of the need for a new institution to invest in industry, the proposals for a ‘business bank’ amount to little more than warm words, a website and a bank without any money.

A  genuine state investment bank should support projects that are based on long-term returns, which the current market has failed to deliver.  By facilitating investment in areas like construction,  manufacturing, infrastructure and renewable energy, the bank could create decent, skilled  jobs,  and  help to rebuild and rebalance our economy.

With the OECD recently predicting that UK GDP would shrink by 0.7% this year, condemning millions of people to unemployment and under-employment , the country is crying out for progressive intervention, not regressive deregulation. But rather than address this desperate need for growth, Vince Cable has launched a cynical attack on employment rights, reducing access to tribunals and cuts to compensation for  mistreated workers. With TUPE regulations, often the last flimsy defence for workers in takeovers, now in this government’s sights, ordinary people have every right to be very worried.

We already have some of the weakest protections for employees in Europe. Further undermining this will do nothing to boost the economy; instead it will just create further instability and fear in the workplace,  damaging already low consumer confidence.

A viable alternative is possible and achievable.   Look at  Germany where more secure working conditions and a properly resourced state investment bank have delivered the strongest economy in Europe, with secure growth and skilled jobs in areas like manufacturing.

This week the government promised proposals to repower our economy.  What we got was an empty bank, an attack on workers and a government mute on the sidelines while our defence industry is put at risk. What’s needed desperately are the radical growth-focused reforms.  Instead, time we simply do not have is being wasted on piecemeal schemes, aimed at generating headlines not jobs, and measures to make Britain a European haven for bad employers.

This has been a wasted week, Vince.  Your government needs to do much, much better.

Tony Burke is the Assistant General Secretary of Unite

  • rekrab

    Vince and the Mince pie economy, it’s all a bit light and crusty you’know Vince.Next Vince you’ll be telling us that your building a silo to hide that Nuke you’ve got in your pocket.

  • AlanGiles

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I honestly think the time has come to ressurect the National Enterprise Board, set up by Harold Wilson’s mid 70s government, to give practical support to British industry.

    • JoeDM

       Yep.   Back to those good old days of my youth:  strikes, prices & incomes policy,  3 day weeks, governments trying to run businesses, British Layland, etc……   

      After all it was such a success – not !!!

      • sdrpalmer

        I’m up for a 3-day week!
        The curious thing was the relatively little drop in production when one was last imposed.

      • AlanGiles

         Actually Joe, 3 day weeks were the brainchild of Ted Heath, who I seem to recall was a CONSERVATIVE Prime Minister (in addition to the wonderful big band he led throughout the fifties :-)

  • Brumanuensis

    Here’s a question I’d love to ask the – admittedly a minority of the total – businessmen who keep pontificating about the supposedly ‘onerous’ requirements of modern UK employment law:

    Have you perhaps considered that you might just be crap bosses who can’t get the best out of your workforce?

    • JoeDM

       Crap bosses put their companies out of business and the workforce out of a job.  

      Its the good bosses who identify the poor workers (at all levels) and get rid of them so that the others can work in a successful company.

      • Brumanuensis

        Which is precisely what the current regulations allow employers to do.

        • ColinAdkins

          Joe, Brumanuensis,

          As someone who represents workers at tribunal hearings the legal precedents are anti-worker. So much so I address expectations ahead of any hearing by telling the member to not expect justice. I believe unions should stop wasting their time with tribunals and go to court on the basis of contract.

          Having said that I don’t relish taking employers to a tribunal. One of my speils to members is if you don’t like working at the organisation why not see if I can get you out. I try to use pre-claim conciliation where I can and I believe this may be ‘codified’ in the new proposals which is positive.

          There should also be an examination of the ‘origins’ of any claim.  My union takes a full merits assessment before proceeding. The same thing cannot be said for the ‘no win no fees’ chancers. You will find many of the vexatious claims originate from this source.

          So advocates of minimal worker protection can reap that they sow.

        • ColinAdkins

          Joe, Brumanuensis,

          As someone who represents workers at tribunal hearings the legal precedents are anti-worker. So much so I address expectations ahead of any hearing by telling the member to not expect justice. I believe unions should stop wasting their time with tribunals and go to court on the basis of contract.

          Having said that I don’t relish taking employers to a tribunal. One of my speils to members is if you don’t like working at the organisation why not see if I can get you out. I try to use pre-claim conciliation where I can and I believe this may be ‘codified’ in the new proposals which is positive.

          There should also be an examination of the ‘origins’ of any claim.  My union takes a full merits assessment before proceeding. The same thing cannot be said for the ‘no win no fees’ chancers. You will find many of the vexatious claims originate from this source.

          So advocates of minimal worker protection can reap that they sow.

          • Brumanuensis

            Colin,

            I’m not sure it would be such a good idea to move outside of the employment tribunals set up. International evidence suggests that dedicated employment tribunal systems offer quicker resolution than going through the regular courts. 

            Agree with the rest of your post though.

          • Brumanuensis

            Colin,

            I’m not sure it would be such a good idea to move outside of the employment tribunals set up. International evidence suggests that dedicated employment tribunal systems offer quicker resolution than going through the regular courts. 

            Agree with the rest of your post though.

          • Brumanuensis

            Colin,

            I’m not sure it would be such a good idea to move outside of the employment tribunals set up. International evidence suggests that dedicated employment tribunal systems offer quicker resolution than going through the regular courts. 

            Agree with the rest of your post though.

        • ColinAdkins

          Joe, Brumanuensis,

          As someone who represents workers at tribunal hearings the legal precedents are anti-worker. So much so I address expectations ahead of any hearing by telling the member to not expect justice. I believe unions should stop wasting their time with tribunals and go to court on the basis of contract.

          Having said that I don’t relish taking employers to a tribunal. One of my speils to members is if you don’t like working at the organisation why not see if I can get you out. I try to use pre-claim conciliation where I can and I believe this may be ‘codified’ in the new proposals which is positive.

          There should also be an examination of the ‘origins’ of any claim.  My union takes a full merits assessment before proceeding. The same thing cannot be said for the ‘no win no fees’ chancers. You will find many of the vexatious claims originate from this source.

          So advocates of minimal worker protection can reap that they sow.

  • postageincluded

    Wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.  Ed Balls should use a very long spoon…

  • Ashurstman

    Apparently the very richest need incentives (ie lower taxes) to work hard but workers need to be bullied to work harder. Hardly the model of fairness that the Lib Dems claim to represent.

  • sdrpalmer

    In my experience, a unionised workplace was more successful than a non-unionised one in a similar line of work.  The union kept the management to account and promoted a more successful business environment.
    It is a shame that public sector unions appear to act in the opposite way.

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