Corporate fat cats paid "obscene" amounts of money who complain about workers' rights should "shut up or ship out", according to the leader of one of Britain's biggest unions.
Kevin Curran, general secretary of the GMB, accused industry leaders such as Digby Jones, director general of the CBI who will today address the opening session of the annual TUC Congress, of "ignorant rantings" about red tape and the difficulty of making profits in Britain.
Speaking on the eve of the conference in Brighton, Mr Curran said that he was "disappointed" that Mr Jones had been invited to address delegates. Mr Jones led an employers' delegation at a breakfast meeting at No 10 last week where the Prime Minister was warned that British industry was under threat from restrictive European regulations.
"My members are sick and tired of people like Digby Jones attacking British industry. We want patriotic entrepreneurs, not just entrepreneurs who are interested in the size of their own wallets," Mr Curran said.
"Unfortunately a lot of people in the top ranks of industry are non-performers. They should shut up or ship out and the sooner they go the better."
Mr Curran, who will be tabling a motion this week calling for a minister for manufacturing, said he was deeply disappointed by the Government's "lukewarm" attitude to industry. He said: "The best managers I've met are those people motivated by challenge, not money. People earning obscene amounts of money have a negative effect on people in their company."
The GMB leader's comments are echoed today in an article written for The Independent by Bill Morris, leader of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
He writes that it is about time the CBI acknowledged that loopholes in British legislation permit "spiv employers to deploy sharp practices, waltz off with the assets and leave the British taxpayer to pick up the tab". Mr Morris was referring to a company, Friction Dynamex, which unfairly dismissed employees, declared itself bankrupt and bought back the liquidated company's assets, thereby passing the bill for compensation for unfair dismissal to the taxpayer.
The union leaders' attack drew an immediate response from Mr Jones, who described Mr Curran's assertions as naive. "The unions should be bending over backwards to keep talent in this country. Isn't it obvious that the global economic environment gives people plenty of options when it comes to where they create jobs?" he said.
He said that "anti-business rhetoric" was bad for employees, for wealth creation and for the British economy.
The comments by union leaders will also make uncomfortable reading for Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, who will be attempting to balance support for workers' rights with the need for flexibility in a keynote speech to the Congress tomorrow.
But TUC delegates will reserve much of their rhetoric for the performance of the Prime Minister and the Government.
Ministers will come under fire over the private finance initiative, public-private partnerships, top-up fees for students and the war in Iraq.
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