News in Brief May 2015 New Government promises to boost productivity and reform strike laws The recently elected Conservative Government has promised far-reaching changes in the world of work. George Osbourne has promised that his upcoming budget a ‘laser-like focus’ on boosting productivity, which has stalled since the financial crash in 2008. Measures include extending plans to boost the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, supporting science and technology, improving skills and investing in critical infrastructure. An Enterprise Bill looks set to be the centrepiece of the Queens Speech. It will aim to cut ‘red tape’ by £10billion in this parliament. The Government argue this will help support small businesses, but critics have highlighted the fact that the UK is already one of the least regulated labour markets in the developed world. There will also be big changes to the law around industrial action. Strike ballots will need to have a minimum turnout of 50%. And in essential public services, 40% of all eligible members will have to vote for a strike to make it legal. Employers will also be allowed to hire agency staff to cover striking workers and there will be changes to facilities time. The changes have been fiercely criticised by the TUC with General Secretary Frances O’Grady calling them ‘the most aggressive assault on basic labour rights anywhere in the developed world.’ Looming recruitment crisis as vacancies increase A new monthly report by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG found that while April saw the strongest increase in permanent staff appointments in eight months, the availability of candidates for permanent roles continued to deteriorate. The latest fall was the sharpest since last November, with around 41 per cent of respondents reporting lower availability versus 9 per cent noting an improvement. The demand for staff from the private sector continued to rise at a stronger pace than that for the public sector in April. The fastest rate of growth overall was for private sector permanent employees. Kevin Green, REC chief executive said that while the job boom is good for jobseekers, the government needs to look at how sustainable this could be as skill and talent shortages become extensive. He added: “We urge the new government, whatever its complexion, to start to tackle the UK’s looming jobs crisis....by improving vocational education, providing quality careers advice for all, and ensuring a sensible approach to immigration to help businesses find the skills they need to compete and win.” Warning of industrial action from nurses if ‘seven-day NHS’ results in pay cuts Peter Carter, the General Secretary of Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned of industrial action if ministers try to cut staff wages for working unsocial hours, including weekends and holiday periods associated with delivering prime minister David Cameron’s “seven-day” NHS service. The Prime Minister has reiterated his promise to deliver seven-day services and to increase the NHS budget by £8bn a year by the end of parliament to help fund the changes. “Our commitment is to free healthcare for everyone - wherever you are and whenever you need it” he said. But the British Medical Association, which represents doctors, questioned how the government expected to deliver additional care when the NHS faced a funding gap of £30bn, and there was a “chronic” shortage of GPs and hospital doctors across the UK.