"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.
"We recognise that the independence of individuals is safeguarded by their personal ownership of property, but that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly" Two extracts from the Preamble to the Liberal Democrats Constitution
How then do we find ourself in coalition with a Chancellor who is offering to lift employment rights for new employees in return for share options?
As someone who is currently seeking work I don't want to have as a question in interview:
"If you were to be offered this job would you be willing to do without employee rights in return for some shares?"
Maybe it is because I am an economics graduate who knows that share values are only of value while there is a solvent company behind them. Or maybe it is because many of my former colleagues in The Signet Group were tied into share bonuses while the company's share price plummeted.But mostly it is because as a Liberal Democrat I do not want any individual to be trampled over in the name of business. Those rights are there to protect not only the employee but the employer.
We are looking at a large number of people who are unemployed. Every job I currently apply for is heavily over subscribed so even being called to interview is a rarity. So how would I, or someone less tuned in to their rights and how shares work going to respond if they were asked that question? They are likely to be given the job, those of us who do not want to waive our employment rights will be shunted to the end of any list when it comes to awarding the job. We would be made unemployable as there might be someone out there who is prepared to take the shares and give the employer permission to do whatever they want them to do.
If we as a party do not believe that people should be enslaved by conformity, this new option may end up leading to those that do not want to conform to Osborne's ideal being enslaved to poverty being unable to find work as they will not take the shares.
There are arguments going around in senior Lib Dem circles that this is only voluntary and nothing to worry about. How can they be so blind? Employers will make it appear voluntary but take the option that best suits them, ie those that agree to waive their rights. The pressure will be applied to return us all to Victorian working practices ie that the employer has all the rights and the employees none.
We need to stop Osborne from making this ridiculously backward step. We need to not be distracted by the voluntary language that is being used. We need to stand up for the individual, every individual and protect tehir employment rights as it is clear that the Conservative Party are not going to even hide that they don't want to.