We could be doing more to help workers facing redundancy

Mark Stuart photoThe recent announcements of large scale job losses at the Honda plant in Swindon and the closure of the camera retailer Jessops are a timely reminder of the fragility of the UK economy. Honda, which had sought to weather the initial brunt of the economic crisis through joint working with unions, plans to shed some 800 jobs, with more likely to be lost in the surrounding supply chain. The closure of Jessops will see 1,370 staff made redundant. Similarly, at the end of 2012 Tata Steel announced another round of 886 job losses as the result of an internal restructuring.


Sadly, such cases of large-scale job loss are not uncommon to the UK economy. Indeed, while it is logical to assume that significant incidents of restructuring would be common in most economies, with some jobs being lost as others are created, involuntary redundancy seems to be more significant in the UK. Evidence to support this can be found in the European Union Restructuring Monitor (ERM). The ERM records planned announcements of restructuring across all European economies. The UK has consistently topped the table in terms of planned numbers of job losses. For example, since the election of the Coalition Government in May 2010, 192, 614 cases of reported job reductions have been recorded in the ERM. When the balance between reported job reductions and job creation (97, 135) is calculated, the gap between the UK and its nearest rivals in the restructuring table (France, Poland, Germany and Sweden) widens even further.


The government responded to the recent redundancy announcements by saying that it will look to work with local partners to minimise the impact of job losses. However, without any formal strategies to support company restructuring and redundancy, and with its ideological commitment to attacking workers’ rights and employment regulation, any response is likely to be minimal or far too late. Yet, there are some clear and available options here that the government could look to support. Read More…

Building union and employer partnerships for a new capitalism

Mark Stuart photo

Mark Stuart is Professor of Employment Relations and Director of the Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) at the University of Leeds

Ahead of the Chancellor’s speech at Conservative Party Conference (1100-1230), Prof Mark Stuart writes for us on today’s UnionHome theme: partnerships and the new economy.


Should trade unions work with employers in social partnership to forge a new capitalism? This was the topic for discussion at a Unions21/ Progress fringe at this year’s Labour Party conference. The position was put most provocatively by Nita Clarke of the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA). She asserted that unions have no choice but to follow the partnership approach. There is no alternative! Firstly, the mobilising rhetoric of a new winter of discontent is unlikely to bear fruit; and anyway strike action remains at historically low levels and does not resonate with working people. Second, to argue against partnership is to present unions as either stuck in the past or as victims: neither appeals to the new generation of workers that unions so badly need to attract.

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