Friday, 6 April 2012

A licence for bullying and casualization.

The ignorant bullying face of Lord-Sir-Allun-Fucking-Sugar has become the totemic icon of 'entrepreneurship'. How apt. As of today the qualifying period for a worker's entitlement to raise a claim of unfair dismissal has been extended from one year to two.

I've got three different angles on this - as someone who was made redundant - as someone who was a manager and had to implement redundancy and dismissal procedures - and as someone who knows a blatant bit of class warfare when he sees it. And this is wrong from every one of them.

Losing your job fucks with your life. Up there with divorce and bereavement it is a life-changing moment and one of the most common causes of stress and clinical depression. Fortunately for me it went the other way - and although I still feel the occasional pang of bitterness it has allowed me to start on my way to a new and happier life. But I'm lucky - and unusual. Most people who lose their livelihoods in middle age are screwed. And - although this shouldn't need to be said -  people are not simply economic units of labour or in the newspeak of management 'resources' to be turned on and off at will.

If you're a responsible manager - or even just a half way decent human being - sacking people is difficult and traumatic. Emotionally and legally it can be a minefield. Which is exactly as it should be. I'm not proud of it ,but over the years I've had to lay people off - I've even sacked a couple for disciplinary reasons. I'm not asking for  sympathy but I lost sleep over it, I wrestled with my conscience and I think I can hand on heart say that I acted fairly - and legally. However ethical managers are not necessarily the norm - and so if we can't count on them to act according to their consciences, we could at least make them act according to the law.

The previous regulations were no more than a fragile safety net, often circumnavigated by the unscrupulous. But they were a safety net nonetheless. Now it has been taken away by a ConDem government who has no scruples about openly demonstrating that it is on the side of bosses in the name of making it 'easier' for businesses. Of course it will be. In the private sector -  as I know all to well - contracts are hardly ever awarded by big businesses to their suppliers for more than two years. So bosses will effectively be able to hire and fire at will within the life cycle of these contracts - in other words they can operate on a risk-free casualized basis. 

And why should it go without question that things should be made 'easier' for business ? I imagine that the abolition of the Highway Code would probably make things 'easier' for motorists - and Jeremy Clarkson is probably lobbying for this right now. Have a look at some of the arguments put forwarded by the business lobbies and you'd think that the previous employment legislation was tantamount to workers' control. Rather than just a baseline of procedures and administration as to what constitutes 'fair'. Which frankly if you didn't have the competence to keep up with - you shouldn't have been running a business in the first place.

Although as we know this government takes a far more lenient attitude to questions of competence in business - particularly in big business and banks - than it does with the rest of us. 

1 comment:

Robin said...

Having represented so many union members facing dismissal this programme quite literally gives me the shivers. The programme normalises the idea that people can be dismissed which is horrific. I think it is in very bad taste and has a direct negative bearing on thousands of peoples lives because I am sure there is a generation of managers who are developing their ideas of what being a manager is all about based on this programme and that stupid Dragon's Den. Take it off the air, I say.