In the post-Brexit crisis the Tories will use any opportunity to make workers pay and prove that Britain PLC is a ″good place for business″. Signs are, despite Theresa May′s rhetoric of a ″government not just for the privileged few″, they are looking at a whole raft of anti-worker measures.
The new head of Theresa May′s policy board is George Freeman MP, known for saying that people working in new companies should have no employment rights — including maternity pay, paid leave, and the minimum wage. He has also previously suggested that the biggest companies should pay just 10% corporation tax. Mr Freeman said, in a paper written in June 2013, that both minimum wages and public sector pay should be “regionalised”. And he suggested: “We should exempt new firms for their first three years from employers’ national insurance, business rates, corporation tax and employment legislation.”
Freeman has boasted that his role will ″guide the deep economic and social reforms we need to make.″ Already many workers are being made to pay for the Tories’ national ″living wage″, with companies feeling at liberty to cut paid breaks, hours, or other benefits. 88% of new jobs created in the UK in the past three months were for the ″self-employed″, but in fact this is not a boom in small business owners but a boom in employers circumventing workers′ rights. What other ″loopholes″ will companies try and use to attack workers′ rights under the guise of remaining competitive in the post-brexit world?
In her speech on becoming Prime Minister May talked about curbing corporate greed, and of putting workers in the board rooms of companies. On the collapse of BHS she talked about the retailer having been the ″unacceptable face of capitalism″. But this isn′t just one face of capitalism, this is capitalism. Curbing the worse excesses, or giving an impression of workers having a say, won’t change that. It will be no surprise if, while making it very clear to world capitalism that Britain will bend over backwards to allow bosses to make profit here, the Tories try make us feel like we are all in this together, and we are part of ″one nation″.
As a labour movement we must go on the offensive to win back some rights but also for positive demands. Immediately this must mean breaking the anti-union laws put in place to try and curb effective resistance to any future attacks, and a Labour Party committed to repealing these laws in power. The resurgence of energy released by the coup attempt in the Labour Party can be harnessed to campaign on a whole range of issues — getting rid of zero-hour contracts, unionisation drives, pay campaigns, fast food rights campaigns. We have a whole other vision for how to curb capitalist greed. Our movement will be the front-line defence against the Tories using Brexit to attack workers, but it is also capable of winning offensive struggles for better working conditions and rights generally.