In whose best interests are our government promoting a return to working in offices?

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53942542

Well now, apart from thinking at first this seems more like Russian socialist tractor factory ‘advice’ i.e. do it or else, my more sober reaction was why are the Tories saying get back to your offices?

Sage advice I was given in politics and indeed life many moons ago was to understand how to react to a situation you need to know, as far as possible, why what you are reacting to is being said in the first place. So let’s look at the possible motivations:-

* To make public transport more sustainable and for it to require less subsidy – good one
* To help businesses which rely on office buildings (sandwich shops etc.) – good one
* To get people out in their cars driving to work – No, goes against climate change requirements
* To help mental well being – Unlikely as there will as many benefits as disbenefits
* Because employers want it – No, as many will not as they’re eyeing up saving money on office space

Now how about the cynical reason? Those who fund the Tory Party are rich property owners who stand to lose a lot if office space stops being used/rented out at the same scale as before lockdown. Oh yes, you can bet they’ve been lobbying hard and who pays the piper etc. etc. Of all the reasons this will be the main one although unspoken of course by Ministers. You can bet your bottom Dollar, Euro or £ on it in my opinion.

Also on this subject, I happened upon the TUC Leader Frances O’Grady being interviewed on Radio 5 Live about this earlier this evening. It was on one of those infotainment/news programs that 5 Live puts out. As usual she was impressive and to my mind she makes the often media unsavvy trade union movement seem in touch with real people and I say that as a retired TU officer who often despairs of TU leaders in the media such as McCluskey. I have the feeling that she’s a Liberal and does not realise it. I hope I’ve not just caused her problems saying that!

Her contribution to the debate about whether office workers should be pushed/forced/cajoled back into their office blocks was well considered and balanced. And of course she was firm on the difficulties some workers will have working at home in small inappropriate spaces where they can’t get the peace and quiet they need.

So yes, like everything in life one size does not in any way fit all but where appropriate, given the right facilities, working from home has to be right for some people. Government should butt out except to ensure employment standards are met by the money saving employers and they should be thankful that almost by chance the appalling pandemic has potentially reduced climate changing air pollution via some folk no longer having to do the daily commute.

TUC Leader is spot on over May’s failed Brexit ‘Deal’

That Teresa May’s failed Brexit (and now withdrawn) ‘deal’ would have been bad for jobs, the economy, employment rights etc. etc. is a given simply because it’s a poorer deal than we presently have as EU members. Here’s what the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady had to say about it:-

www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/deal-will-threaten-uk-workers%E2%80%99-rights

But of course, every form of Brexit deal will only deliver a worse outcome than we presently have so no one can ever promise one that will meet, never mind better, our present situation as EU members. The TUC knows this better than most because it’s the millions of trade union members across the UK who are at risk from us leaving the EU under ANY deal.

However, I fear that Frances O’Grady has to be careful what she says with TU leaders like UNITE’s Len McCluskey trying desperately to stop Labour from adopting a pro-EU stance. Sadly there’s always been a wing of the trade union movement who have been anti-EU despite it being a really positive force for good on things like employment rights and protections. How on earth they can call themselves trade unionists beats me. As a life-long supporter of the TU movement, I’m ashamed that it has Little Englander’s in its ranks.

Uber – It’s drivers deserve employment rights says Employment Tribunal

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37802386

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

As a trade unionist and indeed as a Liberal I welcome this Employment Tribunal result.

There is a trend these days for companies to require those who do work for them to treat themselves as self employed. The question is why do that? Is it in the interests of the person doing the work, or is it to reduce employment costs and responsibilities? But if I understand this particular case properly then the requirement is not even full self employment rather a restrictive version of it.

A quote from the BBC web article – The ruling accused Uber of “resorting in its documentation to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology”, adding: “The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our mind faintly ridiculous.”

Lib Dems defending trade union rights

An article by Newshound from Lib Dem Voice

Well, there’s a turn-up for the books. A former Business Secretary teams up with the head of the TUC to warn about the draconian effects of the Trade Union Bill introduced by the Government.

In an article for the Guardian, Vince Cable and Frances O’Grady say that the Bill is trying to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist. Anyone who was brought up in the 70s would surely find it hard to argue that today is even remotely as bad as it was then. They say:

“Strikes, when they happen, are not always popular. The public, and business, face disruption. Strikers themselves lose pay. But the right to withdraw labour as a last resort in industrial disputes is fundamental to free societies, as the European Convention on Human Rights recognises.”

“Moreover, it is far from obvious that Britain has a “strike problem”. There have been periods in 20th-century history of intense industrial strife. But in the 1990s and 2000s strikes accounted for well under a million days a year. The trend continued under the coalition, despite strong disagreements over pay, pensions and redundancies. The 6.5 million British people who belong to a union – just over a quarter of the labour force and over half of public sector workers – withdrew their labour, on average, for one day in 15 years.”

Of course, the Tories wanted to bring in this Bill during the coalition years, but the Liberal Democrats stopped them:

“Several major changes are envisaged, all of which were considered by the coalition and rejected on their merits by Lib Dem ministers (who had absolutely no self-interest in defending trade unions that sometimes seemed as angry with them as the Conservatives, if not more). But the Lib Dems simply regarded the proposals as ideologically driven, unnecessary and bad policy.”

After looking at the proposals in detail, they conclude that there is a much better way to prevent strikes – constructive dialogue:

“The Conservative proposals are ideological rather than practical and have a weak evidential and legal basis. An opportunity is being missed to work with unions on a positive and forward-looking basis. Unions represent a substantial and, now, growing proportion of the workforce. Many good employers, private and public sector, work constructively with unions to raise productivity, and thence pay. As the TUC has argued, we should be seeking to strengthen industrial democracy, involving the workforce in genuine consultation around the transition to a digital age, in training and worker education and – yes – in pay differentials from top to bottom.”

The Tories should not forget that GB is the land of free speech

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34017423

For Government to even suggest that trade unions should be restricted in their use of social media is very alarming. The Tories should remember that they often say this is a free county, yet their actions via this pathetic excuse for a present Government indicate that what they want to do is to restrict freedom for those they disapprove of.

Removing rights by chucking out the Human Rights Act, snooping on our e-mails (as Labour was also keen on during their appalling identity card phase) and now suggesting that trade unions may need to give notice of social media use during industrial action is more like the actions of despots than an elected government.