Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
GMB likens Osborne to ‘a stick of rhubarb’
THE Chancellor last night came under fire for radical plans that would see workers forfeit employment rights in exchange for a stake in their company.
Under changes unveiled by George Osborne in his Conservative conference speech, staff will be asked to sign contracts that exempt them from the right to claim unfair dismissal or a redundancy payoff.
Women would be required to provide twice as much notice of a firm date of return to work from maternity leave – 16 weeks instead of eight.
Rights to ask for flexible hours or time off for training would also go under the contracts to start next April.
Mr Osborne said that in return, tax-free share packages valued at between £2,000 and £50,000 would be available.
He believed that the owneremployee contract, which will be voluntary and aimed at new employees, would suit fast-growing firms and encourage closer links between staff and their employer.
“Workers of the world unite,” said Mr Osborne, echoing the Marxist slogan.
But unions scorned the idea as an attack on workers’ rights, and employers reckoned it would do little to kickstart the economy.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “We deplore any attack on maternity provision or protection against unfair dismissal, but these complex proposals do not look as if they will have very much impact.
“This looks more to be said for effect than because it will make much difference, but we will be vigilant to ensure that they do not represent the thin end of a future anti-employee wedge.”
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: “Slashing people’s employment rights under the guise of ownership schemes won’t create jobs and it won’t create growth.
“His attempts to dupe the electorate that he knows what he is doing has been rumbled.
George Osborne has as much knowledge about economics as a stick of rhubarb.”
John Cridland, the CBI director- general, said that he did not think the idea would take off.
He added: “In some of Britain’s cutting-edge entrepreneurial companies, the option of share ownership may be attractive to workers, rather than some of their employment rights. But I think this is a niche idea and not relevant to all businesses.”
Director of the British Chambers of Commerce John Longworth said Mr Osborne’s announcement was imaginative, but warned it was unlikely to be a game-changer.
The Treasury, however, said it expected that hundreds of thousands of people will accept the contracts.
The plans come shortly after the Government received a report by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft which made suggestions about reducing red tape for businesses, but which prompted a political row.
In a speech that was praised by ministers, Mr Osborne also outlined a list of growth priorities, including more aviation capacity, investment in renewable energy and shale gas, and a new approach to exploiting Britain’s science through industrial policy.