Tuesday, September 13, 2011

David Cameron's attack on worker's rights is no substitute for a plan for growth and jobs

EU legislation provides guarantees for employees on their working hours, paid holidays and the right to be consulted, as well as on many other issues.

Last week, the Prime Minister, speaking before a committee of senior MPs, said he was unhappy with these rules. This came just a day after reports that he is seeking to water down proposed new rights for agency workers, which are being brought in as a result of the EU's Agency Workers Directive.

Labour in Europe has fought long and hard to protect people's rights at work. The Agency Workers' Directive is just one example of this: the Directive was adopted in 2008 with strong backing from Labour MEPs and against opposition from the Conservatives. We were disappointed to see the introduction of the new rights delayed until 2011 in the UK.

Once it has been implemented here, the Directive will give agency workers, after 12 weeks of employment, the same employment rights as workers who are recruited directly by their employer. These rights include not only their pay, but also the basic conditions many workers take for granted - such as holiday pay, sick pay or access to facilities and training.

Cameron has chosen to portray all of this as an issue of national sovereignty, saying that labour issues "would be better dealt with at the national level." But in fact this is simply a further attack on workers' rights. The Conservative-led Government believes this is somehow the best way to bring about economic growth - earlier this year, for example, the Chancellor was forced to make a U-turn on his plans to promote growth by reducing maternity and paternity rights for employees of small businesses.

Instead of undermining British employees, the Government urgently needs an economic Plan B to promote growth and jobs in the UK.

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