25 July 2016
Prime Minister Theresa May has hired George Freeman as the head of her policy board, giving backing to a man who believes people working for newly created firms should have no employment rights at all.
Three years ago, the Tory MP co-wrote with his colleague Kwasi Kwarteng a policy paper for right-wing think tank the Free Enterprise Group entitled The Innovation Economy Industrial Policy for the 21st Century.
In the report he advocated the scrapping of employment legislation for companies in their first three years and the ‘regionalising’ of pay in the public sector, which would include lowering wages for workers living in poorer areas.
Meanwhile, he suggested that businesses get tax breaks, including lowering corporation tax to just 10% of the nation’s largest companies.
May is charged with reshaping British law following the exit from the EU and if her personnel choices are anything to go by, the people carrying the burden will be the workers once again.
Freeman concluded in his report that “if we are to prosper, it must be through innovation” rather than through “cheap labour”, and yet part of his plan is lower workers’ rights.
The Institute of Employment Rights agrees with Mr Freeman that Britain should compete in the global economy by improving innovation and productivity (which is currently at a record low in comparison with the G7), but we have a plan to achieve this without throwing our workers on the sacrificial altar. Indeed, doing so would only encourage companies to compete on cheap labour – the exact circumstance Mr Freeman claims to oppose.
In our Manifesto for Labour Law – 25 policies for the next Labour government – we envisage a new structure for the labour market in which the vast wage inequality Britain is currently experiencing – the largest pay gap in Europe – is remedied.
Through the promotion of collective bargaining at the sectoral level, workers will negotiate higher wages and better conditions through trade unions, and these more favourable terms will set a new floor for their industry across the economy. This prevents businesses from competing on low wages or through cutting corners on employment rights, and focuses their attention instead on improving productivity and investing in research and development to promote innovation.