In November, I’ll be going into a month of hibernation from social media as I’m embarking on the NaNoWriMo writing challenge – 50,000 words of a novel in a month. Ouch! Before I go (and I’ll be back in December), I wanted to reflect on the legacy of former Work and Pension Secretary, Vince Cable, and look at the potential future legacy of David Cameron.
Vince Cable may be gone, but the process he began of moving power away from the employee to employers continues.
In a previous blog, I wrote about the tribunal fees which were introduced by Cable in the summer of 2013. Employees now have to pay up to £1,200 to take their claim to the employment tribunal. Cable argued that this would deter around 25 per cent of employees.
The drop in employees able to afford the tribunal route turned out to be a lot bigger, closer to 80 per cent. For employers, this nut wasn’t just cracked, it was oven roasted and then blitzed in a Tory food processor.
Employees had one defence left, it seemed: union membership. Unions can help represent you at tribunal and even help towards the cost of the tribunal fee. However, a moderate amount of strikes involving London Underground, civil servants and teachers has seen the government reaching for its sledgehammer again. The sledgehammer has a name: The Trade Union Bill.
I came across an interesting article by Adam Bienkov at: http://politics.co.uk/blogs/2015/05/29/the-government-are-trying-to-kill-off-the-trade-union-moveme. Bienkov cautions that it’s easy to lose sight of the main agenda in the technically complex Trade Union Bill. He writes:
‘It is about damaging the basic ability of working and middle class people to campaign for good pay and employment rights...It will hamper any future campaigns for a living wage, or against exploitative contracts and discrimination. Basically any union campaign that can in any way be judged as political will have its funding restricted by this law.’
Even if you’re in a union, if the Tories win this battle, the only help you’ll get in terms of employment is an official with their hands tied behind their back and a pair of ears to listen to you.
I sense there’s more behind this sledgehammer mentality. This isn’t the winter of discontent of the 1970s, but with deeper austerity cuts on the way, perhaps the tribunal fees and the Trade Union Bill are preparatory work. Perhaps the end game is to try and ensure mass discontent is not given a voice in the coming months and years. I’m pretty sure David Cameron doesn’t want his legacy to be a winter of discontent. He may be underestimating anyway if the austerity measures get worse. His legacy looks more likely to be the Four Seasons of discontent.
That said, the battle isn’t over yet. Come on, the unions!