The UK government has today published their full programme for government that expands on the original publication (see UNISON P&I Briefing 231 for my summary), although it is still full of vague commitments, reviews and commissions. There are a few opt-outs for Lib-Dem MP’s, but the parliamentary arithmetic means that the Tory plans on these issues should go through.
Again much in this agreement applies only to England post-devolution. Most of the big ticket items that do impact on Scotland are unchanged from the original document, particularly the savage additional cuts in public services. But here are a few that we should keep an eye on:
• Cutting ‘red tape’ through ‘one in one out’ rules and sunset clauses. Inspections to be targeted and greater co-regulation. The real concern here is the downgrading of safety legislation and inspections.
• At least the part-privatisation of Royal Mail.
• Review all employment laws to ‘maximise flexibility’ providing a ‘competitive environment’. This is self evidently a move to weaken employment protection and move to a US style de-regulated labour market.
• Review alcohol taxation. This may impact on the proposals in the Scottish Parliament Bill on minimum pricing.
• Cut Child Trust Fund and tax credits for undefined high earners. This reflects an approach of targeted support rather than universalism. The concern is that the aim is to make benefits and public services a safety net for the disadvantaged, by undermining broader public support.
• Continue public sector investment in clean coal technology. Plus smart metering and feed-in tariffs. Reviewing the role of Ofgem and the energy market. Nuclear power stations to go ahead.
• Consult ‘business’ (not the workers) on extending the right to request flexible working. No prizes for guessing what ‘business’ will say.
• Promote equal pay (not clear how) and unspecified measures to end discrimination in the workplace.
• Fair pay review to implement the ’20 times’ pay multiple - in the public sector only.
• New protections for whistleblowers, but only in the public sector.
• Simplify occupational pension regulations. We should be awake to efforts to weaken the rights of pension fund members.
For a broader UNISON commentary on the coalition agreement there is an article in the Guardian by UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis.