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

14th September, 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

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