October 13, 2012
Forced to Sell Hard-Won Rights

What I’d like to see is a website that gathers political news from around the world. Not a CNN-style brunch buffet with a little taste from here and an exotic relish from there, but a serious meal of politics that took a global view. American news sources don’t even make a stab at this. Talking Points Memo does a great job with American politics but rarely even mentions major developments in the UK, let alone any non-English speaking countries other than perhaps Israel.

For instance, I saw this article in the Guardian a couple days ago but haven’t seen the story in American sources, though it seems a natural for the more liberal-leaning among them. The article is headlined “George Osborne unveils employee ‘shares for rights’ scheme”, and subtitled “Proposal would allow firms to make new staff forfeit key rights, such as redundancy, in exchange for tax-exempt shares”. So I expect we’ll see similar initiatives here after the election. The setting for the announcement, after all, would fit right into the red, white, and blue stages our political candidates favor.


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That in a nutshell is where we today: democracy is being bought in the most overt and explicit manner possible. If you’re not a UK politics buff you might not know that George Osborne is the Chancellor, which is not quite equivalent to the American Secretary of the Treasury because the Chancellor is more independent of the chief executive, and is thus in many ways the second most powerful person in the British government. So this is not some random wacko among the right-wing punditry calling for screwing everyone but the rich. No, this is the official government wacko doing it.

Under the plan, opposed so far by the junior partners in the coalition, the Liberal Democrats, companies could choose to make new employees give up some of their rights under UK law regarding unfair dismissal, redundancy, the right to request flexible working times, and the right to time off for training. Women would take an extra hit, as they

… would have to give twice as much notice of the date when they want to return from maternity leave. Women currently have to give eight weeks, but this would increase to 16.

In exchange for the loss of rights that were the result of many years of struggle, pain, and death, the new employees are to be granted shares worth between £2,000 and £50,000, and the shares are to be tax-exempt.

Businesses will be allowed to remove “gold-plated employment rights” in exchange for handing out shares to employees which will be exempt from tax, George Osborne has said.

The Tories call their scheme “employee-owner”, but it’s hard to imagine how a few thousand pounds’ worth of stock makes one anything resembling an owner. What the scheme actually does is further empower management in its battle to conquer labor. Which is why we can be sure it will show up in the US very soon.

One final way the UK situation resembles ours:

During his speech, Osborne also confirmed he would seek an additional 10bn of welfare cuts from 2015–16, and that 80% of the deficit reduction would be borne by spending cuts rather than tax rises.

Austerity’s working for the rich, so let’s keep it going as long as we can!

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at October 13, 2012 04:13 PM
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Chuck, I keep up with international news on Boiling Frogs Post,Sibel Edmond's site, and on VoltaireNet.Org which also has a lot of international news. Of course, Naked Capitalism is a pretty good source for international economics info.

Posted by: Charles D on October 13, 2012 5:42 PM

Thanks for the pointers! VoltaireNet looks useful and Sibel Edmonds is certainly impressive.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on October 13, 2012 6:31 PM

BBC Monitoring Reports: wisely not prepared nor offered for the truth of the matters asserted, but as indicators of how news reports are being emphasized to other publics elsewhere:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/default.stm

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on October 13, 2012 11:05 PM

Something on the order of what RD Wolff proposes, the Marxist economist with degrees from Harvard, Yale and another Ivy League, I forget which. He mentions the Mondragon corporation in Northern Spain as a model for the US, which is a very large worker owned cooperative. Although nobody gives up those rights that are mentioned in that article, at least its not mentioned by Wolff.

Although in one talk, Wolff described himself as a peacock, which made me wonder what his purpose is, if not to change capitalism as we know it. In case you are interested, his blog is on our blogroll.

People do seem to have a hard time putting an ideology on it though:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_democracy

Posted by: Buck on October 17, 2012 6:16 PM
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