The Queen’s Speech and the Court Jesters’ Response

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The weekly UnionHome Thompsons Solicitors Blog


Employers’ body the Institute of Directors accused the government of a “poverty of ambition” in its response to this week’s Queen’s Speech. It complained that the new legislative programme “does little to cut back red tape for employers and nothing to tackle the problem of ‘gold-plated’ EU regulation”.


Aside from the fact that one of the most vicious pieces of legislation – the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act – has just received royal assent, a swathe of further employment law reforms are still in process.


So if working people appear to have been given a bit of a breather from further dismantling of their rights at work, it is not, I fear, for lack of government ambition.


The IoD is of course miffed that its bonkers “Beyond Beecroft” Bill to bring in no-fault dismissals didn’t make it onto the legislative agenda. [see this week’s LELR weekly]


Nor did its “Too Big to Strike” and “Midas” Bills – the former requiring at least 50% of union members to back industrial action and the latter restricting implementation of EU directives into UK law to the minimum required.


But if the bosses body didn’t think it had the wind behind it, it wouldn’t be persisting in its efforts to further restrict trade union rights and to rob workers of the little job security they still have.


A curious theme emerged from the comments made by IoD director general Simon Walker. Marital breakdown.


Unions have, he claims, become divorced from their original purpose, no longer representing workers from specific industries and able to cause disruption beyond the site of the original dispute.


Compensated no-fault dismissals are, he thinks, “like a divorce” – the relationship isn’t working and there is no point in going on or even going to court.


Given that a key part of the original purpose of trade unions was collective action in the absence of other influence over injustice in working life, Walker seems to be arguing against himself.


And his no-fault dismissals analogy only works if it is assumed that marriages are built on the same master and servant relationship as the employment one is. How cynical.


Walker’s “super unions” line – he wants the Competition Commission to investigate union mergers – makes no more sense. Interviewed on the Today programme, he attacked public sector super unions for being too strong, but praised private sector ones for being constructive and helping to keep factories open, citing specifically the unions at Ellesmere Port. It was early in the morning, perhaps I missed something, but aren’t those the exact same super unions that organise in the public sector?


A colleague told me of a strange lunch she was “treated” to in the IoD’s swanky brasserie at its Mayfair headquarters. The brasserie was used as a set for the Batman film the Dark Knight, in which the Joker is bent on turning Gotham on itself.


Time to return these clowns and their lunatic ideas back to Arkham Asylum.


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