‘Vampire’ Sajid Javid comes from the working class so why is he bleeding us of all our rights?
Sajid Javid is the son of a bus driver who sits at the Cabinet table, the proud embodiment of the Tories’ new-found love for working people.
Dracula and blood banks spring to mind. Mr Javid cut his teeth not on the shop floor, but on Wall Street when “greed was good”, Mammon was almighty and wannabe Gordon Gekkos crushed small nations before breakfast.
Now he’s in charge of the UK’s industrial policy, and it’s back to the 1980s all over again.
Vince Cable’s well-regarded strategies have been slung in the shredder and “For Sale” signs slung around the Royal Mail.
But Mr Javid’s No 1 priority is not to create decent jobs or invest in a new economy – it is to lay siege to UK workers’ already threadbare protections.
It’s said that the jobs current schoolkids will do have yet to be invented, such is the rapid pace of technological change. If Mr Javid gets his way, when today’s children enter tomorrow’s labour market it will be with 19th century rights.
His laws will make it impossible for ordinary people – however diabolical their treatment, no matter what tricks bad bosses pull to stymie solutions – to stand up for themselves in the most fundamental way by withdrawing their labour.
Countries like Niger and Uzbekistan with appalling labour rights spring to mind when thinking about tyranny in the workplace.
Certainly not the UK, the very country who’s working men and women fought in world wars to face down oppressors. Democratic governments just do not plunge their citizens into powerlessness.
In 40 years of representing people, I have never once met a boss who has said that the trouble with UK workers is that they have too many rights.
On the contrary, it is the shabbiness of protections for Britain’s workers – once boasted about by Mr T Blair – that see more productive Goodyear workers dumped on the dole while their German counterparts are safe. Yes, they can keep their job, if they take a transfer – to Mexico.
Then there’s Jen, a carer. Her tale is pretty bleak. “Starting my shift, I found out my much loved stepfather had passed away. They left me on shift for 12 hours.
“I couldn’t walk out – the client depended on me… I took time off without pay for my stepfather’s funeral, they took away shifts for two weeks.
“They put a colleague on a shift for 30 hours then sacked her when she fell asleep.
“If you’ve a family you will find yourself without work.”
After abuse from clients, 160-mile round trips with no travel costs and being spied on by her bosses, Jen can take no more. She’s now too ill to work.
Jen is not a freak case in an otherwise well-ordered working world. This world is changing, and not for the better – which is why our hard-fought freedoms are more precious than ever.
Look at Amazon, celebrating 20 years in business this month. In its short time, for sure, it has revolutionised shopping. But some of its practices have no place in modern life – particularly zero-hours contracts demanding employees remain exclusively at the beck and call of the company alone.
Once, corporate titans marked their might by building schools or homes.
Places like Port Sunlight or New Lanark speak of a time when the elite wanted to be remembered for more than their fabulous wealth, however ill-gotten their gains.
Nowadays, the financial press drools over the splendid opportunities to make bucket loads out of people like Jen.
Labour has been accused of talking too much about insecurity, and not enough about “aspiration”.
What rubbish. In looking at the busted labour market the party was responsibly posing proper questions about the sort of country we ought to be.
Mr Javid’s is a Tory government that will make the working world even tougher, stacking all the cards in the bad bosses’ favour.
It will allow blackleg labour to be used to starve back workers in dispute, while it wants to scare off those who want to show support for a cause or colleagues on social media.
Hardly acts of friendship, despite the Tory posturing and PR. More the stock in trade of the bully.
The government refuses to bring voting bang up to date, blocking any consideration of online or secure workplace ballots to help turnout in strike votes while, hypocritically, the Tory party used these very methods for its own London mayoral selection.
Perhaps Mr Javid looks at workers and does not see people who, like his dad in his day, are the decent folk who drive our buses, clean our streets, educate our children, care for our sick, stock our shops – six million union members, all contributing to the wealth of our nation.
He sees, not the backbone of Britain, but “the enemy within”.
So it was in 1900 when vengeful bosses at Taff Vale sought to destroy workers and their unions.
Enraged by the choke-hold business had over their lives, and the complicity of the political parties in their repression, working people pushed back.
A new force took root, the Labour Party. Born to level the playing field. Going on to be the mightiest force for social justice this nation has seen.
Heed history, Mr Javid. You push working people at your peril.
This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, July 29