Letters: Jobs and flexibility

Bust the myths about joblessness

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Simon Walker (letters, 24 November) promotes the myth that employers would be more willing to hire people if they could fire their staff more easily and cheaply.

Employers can already hire employees on a temporary contract for periods of up to three months to determine whether they're capable of doing the job, and at the end of that time the employee is automatically dismissed at no cost to the employer. The fact that employers are not hiring more temporary workers is evidence that they cannot afford to hire more staff, not that employment law makes it too difficult to fire them.

Mr Walker is calling for companies to be able to dismiss large numbers of employees without having to give them redundancy payments. This is very bad for the UK, as when multinationals need to reduce their head count they do so in countries where it is cheapest and easiest. This is why the UK keeps losing jobs while continental Europe does not.

Thomas Wiggins

Wokingham, Berkshire

Your 3 December article concerning George Osborne's Office of Budget Responsibility requirement to keep immigration high does not say anything about the jobs the "essential" immigrants are supposedly going to fill. With 1 million under-25s, many with university degrees, now unemployed, why can they not do the jobs the immigrants are to do?

If another 140,000 are required each year to pay taxes – then they will need 140,000 homes, plus NHS care etc, while the unemployed 1 million receive benefits to merely exist. Why have these young people been trained for the wrong jobs?

Lilian Pallikaropoulos


It is not at all surprising that more than half of those asked "believe jobless benefits are too high and discourage the unemployed from finding work" (James Derounin, letters, 8 December). It is not a matter of being reluctant to help those less fortunate than ourselves that has led to that attitude but a concern about the canker at the heart of the modern welfare state – something for nothing. The rise and rise of the Shirking Classes, three generations now in some cases, has only been possible due to the safety net of the welfare state.

If all those capable of work were made to work for their benefits there would not be a "poverty trap" to discourage the unemployed from returning to work (or even entering the workplace for the first time) and there would be no need for that expensive farce of working tax credits to reward those who did make the effort to find employment.

Roger Chapman


I am one of the middle-aged thrown on to the dole by Coalition policies, unemployed for over a year now since I lost my public-sector job with a local Devon council. I have made over 250 formal job applications, not including countless speculative letters, phone calls etc.

So far I have not had a single interview, and only a bare handful of negative replies. For the rest, silence. Not one of my ex-colleagues has done any better.

Here in Devon, there isn't the private-sector infrastructure to take up the losses caused by mass public-sector redundancies.

My generation has simply been abandoned by this government. All the previous employment schemes for the 50-plus age group have been cancelled.

Ian Lawson


Let's admit it; the EU is not always a force for good

With the honourable exception of Adrian Hamilton, your coverage of "Europe in crisis" (10 December) might easily lead one to conclude that the EU is a self-evident and unalloyed good. Yet not all suspicion of European projects comes from the far right, and nor does it mean that opponents of ever-closer fiscal (and other) union are therefore supporters of banks and untrammelled free markets.

There are those of us for whom mention of the EU also brings to mind the follies of the CAP; the disastrous fisheries policy; the venality and corruption associated with the Brussels and Strasbourg machinery and institutions; and the continuing democratic deficit.

To think it obvious that opposition to further centralisation and unaccountable European integration is misguided, and that being in a minority in any argument is necessarily equivalent to being wrong, is a curious position to take. The crisis and the surrounding issues are surely considerably more profound, complex and nuanced.

Dr Mark Pluciennik

Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

I watched the leaders in Brussels, talking detail here, point-scoring there, Cameron in "bulldog" mode, and wondered where are the true statesmen/women when we need them? Cuts that engender more cuts – nothing learned from the 1930s – it's the big picture that needs addressing.

How do we in Europe act collectively? "United we stand, divided we fall" really could be where we are at. Europe requires a Bretton Woods moment where the future is laid down, but not just financially, but politically, which means a democratic United States of Europe.

Peter Downey


Mary Dejevsky is right that Britain should join the euro (9 December). But instead we'll probably have to endure a decade or so of clinging to the wreckage of our financial-services industry and an ever-devaluing pound, just as we did from 1956 until 1973 to the detritus of our empire and the fading glories of our Second World War victory. As then we'll have to join on worse terms than if we'd gone in at the start and will find that the club has developed in ways we wouldn't have wished.

It's ironic that our present pariah status has been enabled because the allegedly pro-European Lib-Dems chose to go into coalition with a braying bunch of eurosceptics. I wonder how stalwarts such as Dame Shirley Williams feel now. At a meeting of the European Movement a few years ago she told us that Britain would be much more closely integrated with Europe and less of a US toady if only her party, rather than the one she'd run away from two decades earlier, were in government.

Brian Hughes

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The US sub-prime crisis was caused by a lack of judgement by – the banks.

As a result, the UK government had to bail out – the banks.

Unsustainable national deficits in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Italy were encouraged by injudicious lending by – the banks.

Now our Prime Minister deliberately alienates a potential market of 30 countries in order to protect – the banks. Discuss.

Grant Serpell

Maidenhead, Berkshire

In one breath the Tories praise the courage of our Prime Minister in using the veto; in another, they speak of his having no option but to do so. How can it be courageous to do what you have no option but to do?

Peter Cave

London W1

According to Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, the bulldog ranks 78th out of 80, "being of lowest degree working/obedience intelligence". Now I understand why some Eurosceptic MPs have championed it with such nationalistic fervour.

Nick Meyer

Great Easton, Leicestershire

Ever more people need more trains

Your correspondent (letter, 8 December) compares any future construction of HS2 in an age of austerity to that of the Great Central Railway in the 19th century. Although for much of its short life it was a Cinderella line, the Great Central, which was not completed until 1899, connected the Metropolitan and Great Western lines north of London to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield via Rugby from a new London terminus at Marylebone. It was built to high engineering standards as a high-speed main line – unlike most of the piecemeal developments connecting towns and cities earlier in the 19th century. It was the only line to comply with continental loading gauge for connection to a future channel tunnel and had no level crossings between Nottingham and Aylesbury.

The current West Coast main line is struggling to cope with the demands of local and rail freight requirements alongside the high-speed inter-city services. Whatever our period of austerity brings, it is unlikely to have a major impact on the population growth predictions for the next 20 years.

Whatever the outcome, we should consider that the closure of the Great Central line between 1966 and 1969 was one of the worst infrastructure follies of the latter half of the 20th century.

David Bowler

Milton Keynes

There's never any problem finding land next to motorways for extra lanes, so why not build HS2 next to existing motorway and railway, thereby minimising new blight? Further, capacity is a much more plausible reason than speed for building the line.

There is also latent capacity on the network we have now that could be realised by lengthening all those two-carriage trains, and running some of them over much longer cross-country routes.

Chris Noël

Ledbury, Herefordshire

Alas for mangled language

While I won't trivialise your incisive piece on Bell Pottinger's lobbying activities (8 December), I'd like to single out managing director Tim Collins for his brutish assault on the English language. "But we need to put some flesh on the bones of what movement in the right direction looks like. So it might be step by step, something like this, set a timeframe, 10, 20 years in the future when it will all be gone completely, but we take it step by step."

How many clichés can one man pack into two sentences of corporate drivel?

JES Bradshaw

Southam, Warwickshire

Asthma drug

Your obituary of Sir David Jack (9 December) contains an important factual error. The actions of salbutamol do not resemble those of histamine, but the opposite beta-2 action of adrenaline (epinephrine), without the undesirable beta-1 action of adrenaline on the heart.

Dr Ronald W Griffin

Colchester, Essex

'Budget' airlines

I could not help laughing at your report on budget airlines' rising prices (10 December). These so-called entrepreneurs are absolutely addicted to restrictive practices. They wish to increase fares by sleight of hand by charging for bags. Hence, no one checks in a bag any more. On a recent return flight from Rome to Bristol, the staff were begging punters to check their bags because the hold was empty. What a surprise.

Robert Senecal

London W1

It's all Greek

According to Jacob Rees-Mogg (Diary, 9 December) it was Oedipus, not Odysseus, who fooled Polyphemus by telling him that his name was "nobody". This is going to make my understanding of Greek mythology more complex.

Graham Hudson

London SW19

Pension pyramid

I'm astonished that an emeritus professor of economics at a prestigious university has only just discovered that "of the eight largest public sector pension schemes... six... are unfunded" (letter, 6 December). When I started out as a teacher in 1957, my father, who was an NHS doctor, described our respective pension arrangements as "never, never schemes". Nothing has changed.

David Smith

Clyro, Powys

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