1) Record numbers of people on low-pay
A report by the Resolution Foundation has found that there are record numbers of people stuck on low pay in Britain.
After an additional 250,000 people joined the workforce last year on or around the minimum wage, there are now around 5.2m people on less than two thirds of the median hourly pay, £7.69.
The minimum wage was recently increased to £6.50 but after years of failing to keep pace with inflation, the minimum wage is rendering an amount that leaves millions in poverty.
The coalition vowed to ‘make work pay’ but the report from the Resolution Foundation suggests that the bottom-heavy jobs market will see less tax paid as lower incomes are taken out of the tax bracket, and a growing benefits bill as workers are unable to make ends meet.
“All political parties have expressed an ambition to tackle low pay, yet the proportion of low-paid workers has barely moved in the last 20 years.”
Matthew Whittaker, Resolution Foundation
Part of the increased difficulty in low pay is the increased amount of time many are spending trapped on low pay. In 2004, around 11% of the workforce were within 5p of the minimum wage for over 5 years. In 2013, this figure was 23%.
2) Child Poverty rising in UK because of austerity measures, says Unicef
More than 1 in 4 children are now living in poverty, and it is only going to get worse, says charity Unicef.
The charity found the UK’s attempts at reducing poverty “disappointing” in comparison to 18 other wealthy countries who had actually cut down on the issue during the recession.
The UK was also ranked 25th out of 41 developed nations for allowing the economic crisis to affect vulnerable families.
Ahead of further austerity measures, Unicef warn that these problems will only get worse.
However, the Department for Work and Pensions has hit back at the report which compiled data from 2008 to 2012. The DWP said that the report makes ‘distorted comparisons’ due to a change in the reporting used, which switched from ONS figures to ones compiled by the DWP in the last year of the report.
A spokesperson for the DWP said (with reckless disregard to the previous story and other reports of growing child poverty):
“Our reforms are improving the lives of some of the poorest families by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”
3) Leaked memo shows continued struggle to rollout ‘Universal Credit’
A leaked memo shows that the government is still struggling to rollout the flagship Universal Credit scheme.
The memo titled ‘Ideas Please: Sinking’ was sent by a jobcentre manager to her staff in a plea for help with ways to deal with the increased workload from the new social security system.
The memo was uncovered by Channel 4’s Dispatches and shows that in one of the centres where the scheme has been rolled out “is generating such a substantial backlog of claims, centre staff will have to work three times more than their limit to clear it.”
4) Fracking company applies for licence in London
A new fracking company has applied for a licence to frack in London in an area that reaches from Harrow to near Downing Street in Central London.
Nick Grealy, who runs London Local Energy is outspoken in his support for the fracking industry, and says that fracking in London will make it easier to overcome the complaints about noise pollution raised in the mainly rural areas where fracking has previously been proposed. He also said:
“We want to light a fire under the debate and we want to make money as well.”
5) One-man protest over ‘slave labour’
John McArthur, 59, has been staging a one man protest against slave labour, outside the charity he used to work for.
McArthur has not claimed benefits since August after refusing to participate in a six month work placement at LAMH Recycle in Motherwell. He is now struggling to pay bills and rent as a result.
Still, McArthur protests outside LAMH Recycle for two hours every weekday, handing out leaflets and informing the public of the government workfare scheme LAMH Recycle use.
McArthur used to work for the same company he protests against, and was paid the minimum wage. After falling into unemployment, the jobcentre attempted to place McArthur on a workfare placement at LAMH Recycle, which would see him work for free at his previous employer.
“He said; “It’s essentially slave labour which bypasses the minimum wage regulations.
“My trade is electronics, but I’ve been applying for every kind of job. I make around 50 applications a week, but I refuse to work for nothing.”
Mr McArthur, who is single, said it’s not the first time he’s had his benefits stopped – he went without for 18 months after pulling out of another Government programme.
Although he has a works pension, he is struggling to survive without jobseeker’s allowance. He said: “I can’t put the heating on and I’m living on 16p tins of spaghetti.”
6) Ritzy Cinema’s Living Wage Campaigners WIN!
The owner of Ritzy Cinema in Brixton made a huge u-turn on threats to job cuts for a third of staff, instead implementing the Living Wage which staff and campaigners have been demanding.
The news that the cinema would cut jobs sparked a fightback from staff, seeing public protests and boycotts. The campaign was supported by several celebrities including Will Self, Owen Jones and Russell Brand.
Now managers have backed down and said that no one will face redundancy.
Cineworld managers say that there were crossed wires in communication with Picturehouse, who manage Ritzy, and these played out in the ‘public domain,’ adding they were not consulted on the measures to cut jobs.
7) Disabled woman steals food after benefits are stopped
In a case that highlights how the poor are being criminalised for their poverty, a disabled woman in Poulton faced charges over theft from a supermarket after her benefits were stopped and she was left penniless.
Wendy Rogers, 51, plead guilty to two charges of theft from Asda, where she stole Lamb and cheese. She had no previous convictions.
8) AltGen & Co-operatives UK offer start-up money for new co-operatives in Young Co-operator’s Prize
AltGen, a co-operative dedicated to enabling young people to create their own employment as a solution to the insecure jobs market, are offering several prizes of £2000 along with mentoring and business advice in the Young Co-operator’s Prize.
To enter or find out more, visit the website and check out their video below!