The government is attempting to introduce a new charter of employers' rights that will give bosses much greater freedom to sack workers. The proposals include an extension of the qualifying period for an unfair dismissal claim from one year to two, meaning that no worker will be able to claim for unfair dismissal within their first year of employment. The charter also includes a plan to charge for the right to lodge an employment tribunal, with government sources suggesting the fee will be towards “the higher end” of the £30-£500 bracket suggested by bosses' organisations.
Leading figures in bosses' groups such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) have been lobbying David Cameron for changes to the tribunal system. Adam Marshall, the BCC's policy director, said “the employment tribunal system is in dire need of reform. Currently, tribunals are too slow and overwhelmingly weighted in favour of the employee.”
This “overwhelming weighting” in employees' favour will come as news to many workers, for whom the tribunal system is often a cumbersome bureaucratic process which has little real power. For example, a recent tribunal found in favour of sacked tube driver Eamonn Lynch, but his management have refused to give him his job back.
Against government and business-led attempts to make life easier for bosses, trade unions should go on the offensive for a positive charter of workers' rights that goes well beyond defending that status quo of the inadequate tribunal system but guarantees full employment rights from day one of employment.