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At today’s Tory Party conference, George Osborne announced plans to make employment rights optional. Workers, henceforth, will be able to relinquish their right to sue for unfair dismissal, along with various other employment rights, in exchange for shares in their company.
It has long been recognized that certain rights ought to be inalienable. You cannot sell somebody your vote, or your kidney even if you wish to. Equally, a worker cannot voluntarily opt-out of the minimum wage. The latter makes sense, given the power disparity between bosses and workers. Any thing that a worker can do is also something that may potentially be compelled to do.
And this will inevitably be the case once workers are given the option of pawning their employment rights. Of course, when you start a new job, taking up your boss’ kind offer will be “optional”. Just as long as you carry on working through your probationary period, ignoring the heavy hints, and unofficial threats, that you might be thrown into unemployment at a time when there are five jobseekers for every existing vacancy.
The affects of this policy will not merely be financial. For it will also make even more tyrannical the relationship that many employers enjoy with their workers. With union membership at a historic low, and statutory rights now to be sold off, bosses will be able to deal with their serfs exactly as they please.
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