American dream 'would be a nightmare for British workers'

Nov 04 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

George W Bush may have been returned to the White House yesterday, but the idea that businesses should aspire to an “American dream” of flexible workforces that can be hired or fired at will is a “fantasy” that would be a nightmare for UK workers, the TUC has claimed.

A study by the TUC has said the view among many businesses that the US is a red tape-free economy is based on selective analysis, a string of myths and just does not stand up to scrutiny.

The study, entitled "Building a modern labour market", argued that when employers complained of red tape and urged firms to be more like the US to become more productive and competitive, they simply meant UK workers should accept far fewer holidays, longer work hours and less secure jobs.

Instead, the TUC has called for UK businesses to cherry pick the best from both US and European models – combining the dynamism of the US with the investment in a quality workforce typical of Europe.

Britain could - and should - benefit from US levels of investment in training, technology and transport and the venture capital freedoms that have driven economic success in the United States, the report says.

But it should not try to compete with India and China by cutting wages and conditions, or by denying workers proper holidays.

Smarter workplaces, high skills, high commitment and high investment are the way to achieve greater competitiveness, it argues.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Everyone agrees that the UK economy needs to be more productive. But it can sometimes be hard to find a serious employer contribution to the debate on how we get there.

"Instead we hear a continuous whinge about red tape, and calls for us to become like the US.

“Yet British people don’t want the nightmare long hours, short holidays, less secure jobs, huge inequalities and weak safety net of the American ‘dream’ economy,” he added.