Conservative Conference – Anti-Union Announcements

1. Rights for Shares


Under the scheme announced in the Chancellor’s speech, employers would be able to offer “employee-owner” status to new recruits or existing members of staff. The employee-owners would receive between £2,000 and £50,000 worth of shares, which would be exempt from Capital Gains Tax when they are eventually sold.


In return, staff will give up rights including the ability to claim unfair dismissal after two years in a job; the right to statutory redundancy payments; and the statutory right to request flexible working or time to train. Employee-owners will have to provide 16 weeks notice to bosses of their intent to return from parental leave after the birth of a child – double the eight weeks required from other staff.


Unfair dismissal claims will remain possible in a few exceptional circumstances, such as when dismissal is linked to the national minimum wage or to an employee’s refusal to work on a Sunday. Businesses will remain free to offer contractual redundancy pay, flexible working and time off to train to employee-owners if they choose to. (Express & Star)


Reaction: Policy unravelling


2. Facility Time


Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced that civil servants will no longer be allowed to spend more than half of their paid time on trade union work, unless they have special exemption from the secretary of state or their chief executive.


In addition, each department will face a limit on how much of the pay bill can be spent on trade union activities. Departments will be able to spend 0.1% of their pay bill on trade union representation, including time for health and safety and union learning representatives. (Personnel Today)


Unison reaction: Effective and engaged union representation saves the public purse between £170m and £400m a year.



UPDATE 10/10:  The Guy Fawkes blog reports that at one of the TURC meetings trailed earlier this week, Eric Pickles spoke of “recommending” Francis Maude’s restrictions on facility time across local government to save money, and issuing advice on charging unions for using Council payroll for administration subs (check-off).


Not only do are the figures strongly disputed (for every £1 spent on union facility time in the public sector, between £3 and £9 is returned in accrued benefits) but it’s also unlikely the recommendation will find a receptive audience in strongly independent local Councils currently working with union reps to see through difficult changes.


Patrick Wintour reported the meeting at which “Pickles highlighted that he had made it a criminal offence for councillors not to declare if they union members, in receipt of union funding or unable to attend a council meeting after being given time off for union activity”. His twitter feed, below, gives a flavour.






















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4 Responses to “Conservative Conference – Anti-Union Announcements”

  1. [...] Read more on the Conservative Conference here. [...]

  2. [...] earlier this week on the blog was the announcement from the Conservative Party conference of the Chancellor’s shares for rights policy: workers [...]

  3. Dan Whittle says:

    Valuing Maternity has sent round this response: The new ‘owner-employee’ contracts just announced by the Government are the latest in a series of employment initiatives which undermine maternity rights in the workplace. They effectively remove important rights to request flexible working arrangements, such as part-time working hours on return from maternity leave. Much longer notice periods for women returning from maternity leave could be imposed.

    These changes come on top of several earlier Government decisions: to impose fees of £1200 to take a pregnancy discrimination case to the employment tribunal; to weaken HSE guidance on health and safety at work; and proposals to remove the questionnaire procedure for discrimination claims. These will make it much harder for pregnant women and new mothers to exercise their maternity rights at work.

    What causes us particular concern with the ‘owner-employee’ contracts is the speed with which these contracts are being introduced. The Government is planning to have the contracts in place by April 2013.

    Normally, major changes to employment rights would undergo a 12 week consultation period. The Government would prepare legislation, based on their response to the consultation, and the legislation would also be consulted on before being brought to Parliament. There is insufficient time for these processes if the Government is to meet its deadline.

    This process of consultation is not mere bureaucracy. It is an opportunity for the different stakeholders – unions, employer groups, charities and others – to examine the proposals, provide feedback what will and won’t work, and suggest how best to resolve emerging problems. Failure to consult properly is likely to result in legislation which doesn’t achieve what the Government proposed and have negative, unintended consequences.

    We don’t agree with reducing maternity rights in ‘owner-employee’ contracts. Maternity rights are about protecting the health and well-being of pregnant women, new mothers and their babies, as well as enabling women to remain in the workforce during their childbearing years. We should be looking at increasing support for families during the recession, not removing essential workplace protections.

    In the real world, maternity rights are not ‘red tape’.

    P.S. Make sure your friends and family know all the facts about governments plans – Tweet about them, and share on Facebook

  4. [...] an obvious line of attack here too. The Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles said at Conservative Party Conference earlier this Autumn that he would encourage Councils to charge unions for using payroll for the [...]

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