"Decent" employers fail the test

Praise indeed to the New Statesman editorial ("Bosses are still beastly to workers", 20 September).

The Prime Minister's speech to the Brighton Trades Union Congress suggests that he is beginning to grasp the nature of trade unionism and its primary function as the principal defender of democratic rights for working people.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and his advisers seem still to be trapped within the illusion that workers' rights - as well as responsibilities - can be advanced and secured by relying on "decent employers" to behave intelligently. It is a misreading of history. Employers do not inherently behave badly because they are evil people - they are driven by the relentless forces of competition, rivalry, greed, the ever-increasing demands for a higher return on capital invested and, now, ever more by the tempo of ultramodern technology. Capitalism is not just an old-fashioned phrase used by romantic socialists; it is a living organism of modern times, regenerated and made more powerful by global technology. And it is just as crippling to wider and more civilised social aspiration as it ever has been.

Geoffrey Goodman
London NW7