In an interview for New Left Project, David Renton, author of Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done, discusses the state of employment law with Taimour Lay:
Do you think that the present attempt to remove the legal route from thousands of people – not just in the employment law context but legal aid cuts more generally – will have the effect of channelling grievance into more political forms of action?
A series of tactical decisions are being made by the government. People holding property and their representatives in Parliament think: ‘There is a relationship between strikes and tribunal claims’. In fact, Tory MPs talk about the number of strikes and claims together as a total picture of workers’ unrest. Look at Beecroft [the report commissioned by the Coalition from Adrian Beecroft on further deregulation of employment law]. The mindset is: ‘Why are these people [workers] allowed to sue us? They shouldn’t be allowed to!’ So they put strikes and tribunals in the same box. Tribunals go in a box marked ‘kind of like strikes but not so bad’.
The ruling class thinks: ‘It’s possible that reducing the number of tribunal claims will increase the number of strikes. However, when we think about this as a plus-minus equation we plan to reduce the number of tribunal claims by such a large number, and the number of strikes will go up by such a small number, that on balance the gain is worth it.’
It’s not about direct costs to the state [of running the tribunal system]. It’s around £100m. They can deal with that. What they’re bothered about is that the companies and lobby groups tell them that the cost of defending all these claims is huge. To deal with that problem, they’ll just take out 50% of claims. And the number of strikes might increase by 10 or 15. Or there might be one walkout of 2000 people – some second-order effects but worth it overall.
One of the nice things about Beecroft is he’s a venture capitalist so he doesn’t bother with the PR. Cameron, Clegg and others stand up and say ‘this is about flexible labour markets increasing the number of people in work’. Beecroft simply admits that if you sack more people, in no way will that result in more people being in work.
Visit New Left Project to read the interview in full.
Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done
Shows why we can’t rely on the employment tribunal system to deliver fairness and highlights the changes required to protect workers’ rights.
“How can employers and the government argue that employment rights are a burden on business at the same time as so many workplace injustices go unremedied? In the context of a debate over employment law reform that is in danger of being overwhelmed by rhetoric and misinformation, this book will be essential reading for its empirically grounded and dispassionate analysis of what has gone wrong and how it might be put right.” – Simon Deakin, Professor of Law at the University of Cambridge
“‘Employment law in this country isn’t written for working people’ – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that at union meetings. But when you’re the person victimised at work, then we all hope Employment Tribunals will deliver us justice. With this excellent step-by-step explanation of how the system works in reality, David Renton explains why it so rarely does. Blacklisted workers have experienced the process first-hand and know this book is true.” – Dave Smith, Blacklist Support Group