Are you thinking about voting UKIP as a protest against the 'political class' in elections in May? It is understandable as many feel that Labour, the Lib Dems and Tories have betrayed the people and are only interested in themselves. Disenchantment with the three party system runs deep in the UK. Hold on a minute though! Do you know what UKIP have planned for another class – the working class? You might be surprised.
A personal view from our general secretary Pat Harrington
UKIP want big changes in the relationship between the employer and employee. These changes will not benefit the employee. They want bosses to be virtually unregulated: “UKIP would put an end to most legislation regarding matters such as weekly working hours, holidays … overtime, redundancy or sick pay etc. and provide a statutory, standard, very short employment contract template … those employers who offer relatively generous terms would be able to use this in their advertising and might be able to attract better candidates or pay slightly lower salaries, and the reverse would apply to employers who demand longer working hours, or offer fewer holidays or fewer days’ sick pay etc.”
This leaves out one important thing – power. Employees or potential employees negotiating contracts aren’t in a strong position. That's even more true in times of recession or high unemployment when a lot of workers are competing for jobs. That’s why we have increasing numbers of zero hour contracts. There is no doubt that under the UKIP plans employees would end up with worse contracts – put bluntly more work for less money and poorer conditions. Do you really want to vote for that?
Employment regulations which are consistent, transparent and well-understood actually support the work of companies. They make it clear what the duties of employers are and give security to the workforce. Removal of this framework may lead to legal uncertainty with employers having to look at individual contracts far more – a big burden for smaller businesses as legal advice is seldom cheap.
UKIP also support reduced job security for employees. “UKIP would legislate to ensure the scope of claims which can be heard by tribunals will be greatly reduced. In particular, limits on unfair dismissal and discrimination claims will be re-instated and no unfair dismissals or discrimination claims would be admitted by the Tribunals in respect of employees with less than two years continuous employment.”
The two year benchmark for bringing an employment tribunal claim has already by implemented by the ConDem government. It has lead to greater job insecurity for workers and a tendency for bad bosses to fire people before they reach two years. The UKIP proposals would not only massively increase job insecurity for UK workers but also encourage bad practices by line managers and damage workforce morale. This would in turn lead to a negative effect for the economy as a whole, as increasing numbers of workers experience insecure employment and low pay. Once consigned to this shadowy economy, they’d find themselves without many safety nets, as UKIP plans to ‘simplify’ the welfare state by getting rid of all benefits and replacing it with a ‘Basic Cash Benefit’ of around £64 per week for parents aged 25 and above. Could you live on that?
UKIP informs us that ‘many SMEs are understandably nervous about employing young women, or try not to promote them to key positions’. Rather than rely on anti-discrimination legislation (which they would repeal), UKIP would leave it to employers to decide what to offer parents or potential parents. “An SME which refuses to offer parental leave will either have to offer young women higher salaries than other businesses which offer a long leave period or they will simply have to recruit from a smaller pool of potential employees.”
Women who feel that employers can now discriminate against them with impunity might not have much recourse to the law for redress, since “UKIP would additionally scrap most ‘equality and discrimination’ legislation, cap all compensation payments and allow commonsense to prevail.” While they do not get into any detail as to which parts of equality law they would repeal, they do name the provisions around Race, Sexual Orientation and Religion or Belief as being particularly undesirable and would free private companies providing public services from having to follow equality legislation. In short, "UKIP will oppose measures in the ‘Equality’ Bill to force employers in the public sector to discriminate against the indigenous male population". Together with their wish to get rid of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption pay and sick pay these proposals amount to a desire to give power to employers to discriminate against large numbers of workers for reasons unconnected with their actual work.
Now the Union I am general secretary of, Solidarity, does think that the Equality Act needs reform. But we don't start from the standpoint of removing rights. We want the rights extended so that people can't be discriminated against on, for example, political grounds. We also want any form of harassment at work outlawed not just that directed at defined groups. In other words we want rules that are fair to everyone whilst in contrast UKIP want no rules! No rules mean that bosses will decide everything. Do you really want that?
UKIP’s have big plans for Employment Tribunals as well:
“It is far better to allow localised tribunals to build up a body of practical case law and real life examples on what is, and what is not, acceptable, and to occasionally embody these into consolidating statutes, than it is for the government, largely in the name of some ‘equality and discrimination’ agenda to constantly impose more and more rules on employers who then find it almost impossible to work out which particular rights given to one perceived victim group trump those of another group.”
By implication, case law could differ from one part of the country to another, increasing uncertainty for employers. With the planned repeal of so much employment rights legislation, UKIP’s plans for employment tribunals could actually produce an outcome contrary to the their stated aim: to make employers’ legal obligations to their employees clearer.
In conclusion, one thing is clear. UKIP are not a friend of workers or trade unions. Nor is there an evidence base for their economic and employment policies, which would remove virtually all regulation particularly for small companies. Let me summarise:
• Any woman voting UKIP is like a turkey voting for an early Xmas.
• Any gay person voting UKIP is like a turkey voting for an early Xmas.
• Any parent voting UKIP is like a turkey voting for an early Xmas.
• Anyone who wants to enjoy employment rights who votes UKIP is like a turkey voting for an early Xmas.
• Anyone in receipt of any form of welfare benefit who votes UKIP is like a turkey voting for an early Xmas.
Are you a turkey?