Proposals by Vince Cable to make it easier for bosses to sack workers have been branded ‘a charter for bullies and rogue employers’.
The plans have been condemned by Unite, the TUC and the GMB.
Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “At a time when unemployment is at a 17-year high and youth unemployment has topped a record one million, it is appalling that this government should concentrate on making it easier to fire people, rather than getting people back to work.
“Ministers are hell-bent on removing long-established rights at work, making dismissal easier and promoting a culture of fear in the workplace. These proposals are a charter for rogue employers and bullies.
“If ministers praise our ‘flexible’ labour market, then what problems is this concerted move against working people meant to be solving? Vince Cable knows there is no business case for this, whatsoever, other than for the right-wing ideologues in the coalition to curry favour with the pressure groups like the CBI and the unaccountable Taxpayers’ Alliance.
“And the government has yet to set out how this will create one single job. The problems we face as a country, with the highest jobless rates for generations, are profound. Yet the only solution that this government can conjure up is to drill away at employment rights.
“Young people and women, who typically have shorter service at work, will be hardest hit by the extension, from one-to-two years, the period before an unfair dismissal claim can be made. It will be much harder to make a legitimate claim.
“As the evidence shows, and this government knows only too well, any spurious claims are rooted out by the system early on. It is not the claims that are vexatious, but this government’s argument.
“It’s clear that David Cameron has gone into ‘Flashman’ mode and is intent on kicking working people during the worst recession for a generation – but is too scared to tackle to the real architects of the economic crisis – the bankers and the City elite.
“The Liberal Democrats, rather than holding back the Tories, are willing collaborators in this onslaught on long-established employment practices that have worked well.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Reducing protection for people at work will not save or create a single job. It’s not employment law that is holding firms back, it’s the tough economic climate and the problems many companies are having getting the banks to lend to them that’s to blame. Research from the OECD shows that there is no link between regulation and economic output – German employees have much more protection at work and their economy is the strongest in Europe.
“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. The move will have little impact on the company but it will make a huge difference to staff worried about their futures, increasing their stress at what can be a hugely traumatic time.
“Although unions will welcome any moves to improve the chances of disputes being resolved within the workplace, the idea that every year employment tribunals are presented with lots of trivial claims is nonsense. Tribunals already have solid procedures for rooting out weak claims.
“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.”
The GMB said it was outrageous that on top of cuts that stalled economy recovery, the Lib Dems were attacking the rights of ordinary workers while they have yet to lay a finger on the multi- millionaire elite whose misdeeds and greed led us into this deep economic depression.
General secretary Paul Kenny said: “This agenda is being driven by CBI who want the balance of power in the workplace tilted even more against the ordinary worker. 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. Last year 218,000 workers felt that they had no other way to deal problems at work.
“Lib Dems are making life at work harder for people. On top of cuts that stalled economy recovery Lib Dems attack the rights of ordinary workers while they have yet to lay a finger on the multi- millionaire elite whose misdeeds and greed led us into this deep economic depression. We now know that Lib Dems in government in practice attack the 99% and support the 1%.
“Changing the balance on tribunals to a single legally qualified chair with the voice of business and the shop floor removed will weaken the system. It is a retro grade step which will make the tribunals more legalistic not less so.”