Friday, February 22, 2008

Rights for all; including agency workers?!

In their book Break Through, Nordhaus and Schellenburger make the case for what they term "the politics of possibility" an alternative conceptual box to replace environmentalism. One of the primary outcomes of accepting this proposal is the need to take a more active interest in social issues, on the understanding that environmentalism is post-material, people will find it hard to support change and perticulalry environmental protection if they their basic needs are not met. For this reason I will be posting from time to time about significant developments that impact on peoples rights and sense of security.

Rights for All

According to the BBC a seemingly simple proposal by a Labour backbench MP to give agency workers the same benefits as other employees is being resisted by the Labour government and the Conservatives. It looks likely to be the biggest rebellion that Gordon Brown has faced as Prime Minister. It is difficult for many to accept that the Labour party has moved so far from it's roots with concerns for workers to a position of accepting free market dogma. The relative positions of the Confederation of British Industries and the union Unite gives and indication of where Labour's loyalty lies.
"The CBI warned that new rights for agency staff discussed by the EU
employment ministers would cost up to 250,000 jobs. The union Unite is
campaigning for equal rights for agency workers, saying there should be a "level
playing field" with permanently employed people."

The phrase 'flexible labour marker' is particularly Orwellian, it's real meaning is insecurity. It seems quite unlikely that a anything other than environmental damage can result from a nation with a million extra people without the rights--the security--in employment that the rest of the nation enjoys.
"More than one million people are employed via agencies, which means they do not get benefits such as sick pay."

This Bill has only been introduced due to a failure to reach an agreement at the European level, due in large part to the UK.
"The UK opposed the proposals, saying it would damage the country's flexible
labour market
and hit jobs, but the legislation will be discussed again this

Labour MP Bill Miller who introduced the bill said:
"In economic terms, we are not going to succeed if we try and undercut the lowest terms and conditions of employment in the world, we are going to succeed if we have a highly skilled, highly trained workforce...The way in which a lot of employers are using agencies to drive down pay and conditions is not a long-term, constructive solution; it's good old British short-termism which is
good for just that but not good for Britain in the world as portrayed by the
prime minister in his speech at Davos."


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