Doubts cast on Conservatives commitment to workers rights as manifesto launch nears
TORY CLAIMS to grant more workers’ rights to UK nationals has been branded a “conservative con” by political opponents, while Scottish policy experts have cast doubts over whether it is a policy that will safeguard workers.
Under new plans trailed by Conservative central office, the Tories manifesto will include new proposals to “bolster workers rights as we exit the European Union”. The plans will include an unpaid year off for employees to take care of a sick or disabled relative as well as limited representation of workers on boards.
The proposal would give workers the right to take between 13 and 52 weeks off while retaining their employment rights. The leave would not be paid but employees would be guaranteed to return to their job at their existing salary once the period was over.
The move is seen as an attempt to take votes off Labour in the North of England and allay fears on both sides of the border that the Tories would tear up employment protections after the Brexit process is complete.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper poured scorn on the proposals, which she called a “Conservative con”, pointing out that the Theresa May had consistently voted against worker’s rights on several occasions such as votes on employment tribunal fees.
"For the Tories to claim that they will stand up for workers' rights really is like some kind of sick joke.” Angus Robertson
Dr Craig Dalzell, lead researcher at the Scottish think tank Common Weal questioned whether the set of policies, in fact, amounted to a new bill of rights. He also cast doubts on the effectiveness of unpaid leave when the same people being cared for and caring would be affected by a lack of resources.
He said: “This new ‘right’ to a year's unpaid leave will not help people in an age of already squeezed living standards and rising costs. If the Conservatives were serious about supporting carers they would acknowledge that the UK social security system is one of the least secure in Western Europe and would take on board the recent recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council.
“This was to work towards implementing a Universal Basic Income which would allow people to take time off work to properly care for relatives without the uncertainty of how they would support themselves through this already difficult and stressful period in their lives.”
Tories argue that even though the “leave” would not be paid employees would be guaranteed to return to their job at their existing salary once the period was over.
Theresa May, ahead of the UK Tory manifesto launch on Tuesday, claimed such a policy was the “greatest extension of rights and protections for employees by any Conservative government” and also committed her party to introducing statutory child bereavement leave and the right to request time off work for training.
“This new ‘right’ to a year's unpaid leave will not help people in an age of already squeezed living standards and rising costs.” Dr Craig Dalzell
Yet on 24 April 2013 the Prime Minister voted to impose employment tribunal fees meaning that workers had to pay astronomical fees to go to tribunal and protest unfair dismissal. Consequently, the number of challenges at tribunal has gone down, affecting predominately women and ethnic minorities.
She also voted to make workers wait two years before getting employment rights such as reasons for unfair dismissal. This along with her support for the infamous Trade Union Bill has left critics doubtful of her statements as the prime minister claims she wants Brexit to be “a chance to make this a country that works for the many.” May is attempting to rebrand the Tories as the party for workers.
Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminister, said: "For the Tories to claim that they will stand up for workers' rights really is like some kind of sick joke.
"The Tories are currently taking a wrecking ball to workers' rights with their iniquitous Trade Union Bill, they are overseeing the biggest squeeze on wages since the Second World War, and they are hammering working families with their cuts to working tax credits.
“The greatest extension of rights and protections for employees by any Conservative government.” Theresa May
"Thanks to this Tory government, work is no longer a route out of poverty for many people - a terrible indictment on their record in office. And of course, for many leading Tory Brexiteers such as Priti Patel, the whole point of leaving the EU was so they could roll back on EU employment protections, which they described coldly as 'red tape'
"With the limited powers of the Scottish Parliament, the SNP government has worked tirelessly to support workers. We have the highest proportion of workers earning at least the living wage in the UK, we are working to protect workers from the worst effects of the Trade Union Bill, and policies such as free prescriptions, no tuition fees, and maintaining the Education Maintenance Allowance have helped protect family budgets.”
Picture courtesy of YouTube
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