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Tuesday, May 08, 2012


the coalition government have become an ‘omnishambles’ (gotta love such a perfect description), it started with the car crash of a budget and they have continued to stumble ever since. add in the poor, boris not withstanding, local election results and the european election results and you have a bit of a squeaky bum time for the coalition. no worries they have come out fighting. cameron, osborne and clegg are, in various ways, telling us they understand how tough it is out there and they ‘get it’. i am not quite sure how the millionaire 3 do get it – just think that mr. cameron’s recent holiday in tuscany cost approximately 82 week’s worth of job seeker’s allowance. i am not saying that he, osborne and clegg, should pretend to be poor, but at the same time i am not so sure they should be trumpeting how they ‘get it’. while cameron and clegg were telling us all that the coalition was fine and dandy and that they had some great plans for creating growth (such a shame they have waited two years to unveil them, but hey better late than never). nick clegg, reported in the guardian, said "ducking the tough choices would only prolong the pain, condemning the next generation to decades of higher interest rates, poorer public services and fewer jobs." this would be fine if it were not for the fact that we are currently being faced with declining public services and fewer jobs. never fear though as vince cable (remember when we all thought he knew what he was talking about?) has got a plan. he knows how to get businesses booming and the economy growing, and like all good plans it is a simple one: cut red tape. see simple. the universal panacea for all businesses: cut red tape. one of the ways he wants to do away with red tape is to try to opt out of the working time directive which sets a limit of 48-hours to the working week. oh mr. cable admits that this wasn’t a bad idea, after all he says “for example, when european markets first opened up there was a legitimate need to prevent long-distance lorry drivers falling asleep at the wheel” i would argue there still is. he even goes onto say that it wasn’t that long ago that the average british worker didn’t have decent holiday time and work breaks. however mr. cable argues that the working time directive is heavy handed and illiberal and goes against one of britain’s great strengths of a flexible work market. what he seems to be saying is that people should be allowed to work longer that 48-hours if they want, or more importantly if they need to. we’ll come back to the need bit in a minute. on its own the idea of allowing people to work as long as they like doesn’t seem like a bad idea – some people want the overtime. yet in a period of large unemployment i am not sure how letting those currently in work put in extra hours grows the economy. when you couple it with another piece of proposed red tape cutting it becomes a tad sinister. the coalition government wants to make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. leaving aside the making it easier to hire someone (as how hard can it be? company needs new staff, they advertise, they interview and they hire). the part that is going to appeal to employers is making it easier to sack employees if they feel they are not being ‘productive’ enough. couple that with the idea that you can work more than 48-hours in a week and you get one idea of how ‘productivity’ is going to be measured, but you putting in a shed load of hours. what you don’t want to work six days a week, 9 hours a day? oh well you are not productive: bye. oh i need you to do 12 hour shifts all this week – surely that won’t be a problem for you? it is: bye. never fear though the con/dems have merged stick and carrot into one. another of their ‘ideas’ is to get rid of national pay agreements because in some areas the pay of the public sector makes it hard for private companies to employ people. what the con/dems would like to see, it appears, are as many people on the minimum wage as is possible (for those who don’t know what that is it is £6.08 per hour). drive wages down, make people work longer hours to earn their money – after all if you are putting in long shifts to earn cash it isn’t like you can go out and spend it on having a social life so why do you want lots of cash? leave having money to those who are born to it and appreciate blowing £6k on a two week holiday. by making it easier to sack people (and as one of the architects of the idea said – there will be some people who are sacked because their boss doesn’t like them, but that is just tough) it has the potential to create a very compliant workforce who will just worry about keeping their jobs and not worry about such anathemas (to the conservatives) as health and safety, bullying and harassment. it is ironic that during the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of charles dickens that con/dems, well mainly the conservative side, seem very keen to bring back the conditions that he railed against. it is sad that dr. vince cable seems all too happy to help them.

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