Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Union Outrage at 'Shares for Rights' EMPLOYMENT

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Union Outrage at 'Shares for Rights' EMPLOYMENT

Article excerpt

Byline: Alan Jones

UNIONS launched an angry attack against the Government after controversial plans to allow businesses to offer free shares in return for reduced employment rights were forced through.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said the scheme represented a good deal, particularly for new businesses.

But Unite likened the move to the "darkest tactics" of the Thatcher era, and warned it would usher in an era of "hire and fire".

Under the proposals, contained in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, employers can offer to swap some employment rights, including those relating to redundancy, for at least PS2,000 of shares.

Mr Fallon insisted it would be wholly voluntary and announced changes to guidelines to ensure anyone on jobseeker's allowance could not be "mandated", or punished, for failing to either apply for an "employee shareholder" post or failing to accept one when offered.

Last month, peers defeated the plan and stripped it from the Bill, but MPs yesterday voted 277 to 239 to re-insert the clause and send the Bill back to the Lords.

Defending the plan, Mr Fallon said it was an imaginative proposal, adding: "What is at stake here is choice and a new status that companies can use to give themselves a competitive edge and more flexibility in deciding how to structure their workforce.

"This new employment status gives young companies, in particular, a new option they can use to attract high-calibre individuals to help grow their business."

Unite said the Bill, coupled with separate moves to confirm abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, which sets the pay of more than 150,000 agriculture workers in England and Wale, meant it was a bleak day for workers.

General secretary Len McCluskey, said: "These bills represent the biggest attack on human rights since the Thatcher era.

"While they ready themselves for tomorrow's funeral, the Coalition Government is slaying the last vestiges of rights for UK workers, already the poorest protected in Europe. …

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