Archives For living wage

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.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

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%.

Read more about this story here.

Read our earlier interview with the Resolution Foundation here.

2) Child Poverty rising in UK because of austerity measures, says Unicef

child poverty

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.”

Read more about this story here.

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.

s300_uc-logo-960-no-border_s

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.”

Read more about this story here.

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.”

Quite.

Read more about this story here. 

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.

Image: The Motherwell Times

Image: The Motherwell Times

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.”

Motherwell Times

Read more about this story here.

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.

Image: citizensuk.org

Image: citizensuk.org

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.

Read more about this story here.

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.

Read more about this story here.

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!

Advertisements

1) Rebekah Brooks walks free, Andy Coulson faces jail, David Cameron desperate to limit reputation damage 

Astoundingly, Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the infamous News Of The World, walked free from court, escaping all charges, despite extensive evidence of industrial scale phone hacking across News International newspapers.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Andy Coulson on the other hand, faced jail for his part in the scandal, with evidence that Coulson continued to be paid by News Interational after his departure and during his employment by Cameron. PM David Cameron was forced to apologise for his appointment of Coulson as his spin doctor, despite the fact the PM was warned repeatedly against hiring Coulson. Cameron was reprimanded however, for speaking out against Coulson during the trial, which could have jeopardised the 8 month long case, costing millions of pounds.

Cameron called Coulson a liar before the decisions were handed down. On BBC Question Time, Conservative MP Anna Soubry claimed that Cameron had never called Coulson a friend, which is a complete lie. Cameron said Coulson was a ‘close friend’ and this attempt to remove himself from his actions should not be tolerated.

Read more about this story here.

2) Wonga sends out thousands of fake letters from fake law firms to threaten customers

Between October 2008 and November 2010, Wonga, a company with only a few dozen staff, sent out 45,000 threatening letters from fake law firms threatening to take action against customers.

Though reluctant at first, the Metropolitan police did a u-turn on committing a criminal investigation, following public outrage that the matter was not being taken seriously.

Image: Periscopix

Image: Periscopix

Wonga released a statement admitting they were a smaller company then, though refrained from mentioning whether the management knew anything about the letters. Though one could wonder how 45,000 letters could leave an office of 31 (excluding the IT dept) and it was all some sort of initiative taken on by workers which was not known by management. Maybe they had a rogue reporter letter writer, eh?

Read more about this story here.

3) ‘Cries for help’ found sewn into Primark clothing

Primark is beginning an investigation into it’s own stores and supply chains after three ‘cries for help’ were found by shoppers sewn into garments.

Two of the tags read ‘Forced to work exhausting hours’ and “Degrading sweatshop conditions.”

Image: Daily Star

Image: Daily Star

 

Primark has batted off allegations of bad working conditions for workers abroad, and say they have a strict code of ethics.

Though, it does not seem appropriate for Primark to investigate themselves, as they will want to limit reputation damage and their interests are in the profit of the business. They have also already said they believe the labels are a hoax.

Read more about this story here.

4) Protestors mock Tesco with fake price tags about the Living Wage

Living Wage protestors have targeted Tesco stores by changing price tags on shelves to read the below:

 

Image: The Mirror

Image: The Mirror

 

Tags end with “‘Wow! £1.39billion pre tax profits in the six months to August 24 2013.’

Stefan Baskerville, Citizens UK organiser, said

“Working with ShareAction we are calling on Tesco to consider how implementation of the Living Wage could help tackle in-work poverty for their lowest paid staff.

“The Living Wage is a robust calculation that reflects the real cost of living, rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay.”

The protests come before the Tesco annual general meeting, and with the previous Primark story coming to light, it seems the issues to do with low pay and working conditions cannot be ignored.

Read more about this story here.

5) Tory MPs demand early break up of coalition

Senior Tory backbenchers have demanded the early break up of the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition following reports that Conservatives could lose up to 12 seats to UKIP at the next election, forcing them to fall short of winning a majority.

The Bow Group who put forward the estimates have pushed MPs to put forward proposals to break up before the 2015 Election, saying that the Conservative party needs to make drastic moves on policy of immigration and Europe if it is stand a chance next year, and these issues are where the coalition strongly differ.

It should also be noted that the Conservative party have won by a lesser and lesser majority at each election over the last 3 decades, with the election in 2010 forcing them into a coalition to gain any power. The membership of the Tory party has also halved since they came to power.

Read more about this story here.

6) Labour backs trespass laws on fracking, says Energy Minister

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said that the Labour Party has confirmed it will back new trespass laws on fracking which allow shale gas companies to frack under homes without permission, despite public feeling going against the laws.

“A recent YouGov survey of 1,898 people found that 74% opposed the controversial move, which underpins efforts to drive a “shale gas revolution” that could see fracking across swathes of the UK.

“More than 45,000 people around the country have already joined legal moves to block energy companies from fracking under their properties, but a change to the trespass laws could allow companies to explore for shale gas without needing their permission.”

Click Green, June 2014

Image: BBC - Gas test Well

Image: BBC – Gas test Well

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

“As the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (2013: 6) recently concluded, ‘a comprehensive approach to tackling in-work poverty is the missing piece of the Government’s policy jigsaw’.”

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released some research on tackling low-pay. The report, Rewarding Work For Low Pay Workers, looked at possible ways to deal with the growing problem of low pay, and to find the causes of it’s prevalence. The growth of in-work poverty is damaging, and tackling low pay is one way of addressing the issue, though the JRF noted, it is not the full story.

The report found that the complexity of the issue could lead to no single one size fits all approach, but there are definite actions that could improve the jobs landscape and opportunities for jobseekers.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

Encouraging better pay from those who can afford it

“There are organisations, including large organisations in sectors with a high incidence of low pay such as retail, that could clearly pay substantially more to those they employ, either directly or through contractors, without this having any discernible impact on costs or profits,” according to the JRF report.

However, the report also highlights that this is not universally true, and smaller companies or contractors struggle to pay the National Minimum Wage, thus “policymakers prefer to play safe and combine a modest NMW with tax credits for low-income households.” This has meant that while the NMW has abolished “extreme low pay,” it hasn’t stopped the widening numbers of those on low pay, as large companies who can afford to pay more take advantage of tax credits and the state help to top up wages.

Concentrating the help the state can give to those who most need it would be helpful here, but this over-widening of resources and help to the point of benefitting those that don’t need benefitting is common in other areas of policy too.

Take for example the introduction of childcare vouchers by George Osbourne last year. Families earning up to £300,000 can claim £1200 in childcare vouchers to help them get into work or work more. However, the scope to upper levels of income in this scheme take away concentrated life-changing help from those in need, who are at the bottom of the pay scale. We spoke about this with Giselle Cory, from the Resolution Foundation a while back:

“I think a much better way to spend the money, is to make sure the people who can be persuaded into work and can be helped into work… we focus whatever funds we can on childcare for these families, because it’s firstly, unlikely that higher income families would change their decision about work based on that support, and secondly, it’s unlikely that a large proportion of their income would be taken up by childcare. So we’re not changing their lives much. We’re helping them a little bit, but the life changing stuff is for the people on low incomes. The government have proposed £200 million of extra childcare for this group, but the problem is that £200 million doesn’t really go far enough. You either have to target a specific sub-group or it’s spread out amongst everyone and you lessen it’s bite significantly.”

In a similar way, concentrating tax credits and help to smaller companies who are struggling to pay the NMW would allow more resources for those who distinctly need it, and less cost to the taxpayer for topping up wages that can be afforded by the employer.

“Influence of Conceptual frameworks”

Amongst the organisations where low pay is present but not necessary, conceptual motivations can help push them to pay more. Hence when the Living Wage concept entered the mainstream and companies were called on to adopt the wage voluntarily, many did in order to align themselves with being good employers. Awareness in the public field and reputation can encourage employers who are able to raise wages to do so.

“It is no wonder that organisations most willing to sign the pledge on the Living Wage are large, highly profitable corporates in sectors such as banking and finance (Bain, 2013).”

One very successful example of this is the “Best Companies to Work For” list. This has often been “cited as a reason why some large employers in sectors such as retail choose to pay employees more than the NMW or offer an array of non-wage benefits to boost their reputation in the eyes of employees, potential employees, customers and the community at large.”

The-Sunday-Times-Best-Companies-to-Work-For-2013-Logo-300x246

Adding value to low wage employers

“But what would be of little consequence for these organisations is at the same time likely to result in a significant profit squeeze for many low-paying organisations. Those that find this difficult – where raising prices means less business and they’re unable to absorb costs through increased efficiency – may have little choice other than to cut the number of people they employ or the hours of work they offer simply in order to survive, to the detriment of low-paid workers themselves.”

On the other side of the scale are the companies who would struggle with raising wages, and this JRF report looked into ways to improve the working conditions and benefits for employees that could see an increase in value in the job and employee experiences.

“With increased demand for higher level knowledge skills generally outstripping increased supply, the underlying tendency has been for pay at the top of the distribution to rise relative to the pay in the middle. By contrast, the supply of people seeking work in service-oriented jobs has generally exceeded demand, thereby depressing pay toward the level of the NMW, making the UK’s low-paid labour market, in the words of the first Chairman of the Low Pay Commission, ’increasingly bottom heavy’ (Bain 2013).”

As well as this, rewards and non-pay benefits have also stalled in the make up of low pay organisations. Between 2004-2011 there was “no general increase in the provision of flexible working practices; indeed, the proportion of workplace managers who consider balancing work and family responsibilities as down to individual employees rather than the organisation increased from 56% to 71%.”

These attitudes are also symptomatic of a jobs market which is moving in the direction of greater (undue) power to the employer, whilst reducing power and stability for the employee. These conditions are growing in the jobs market with statistics from the ONS last week revealing that 1.4 million Brits are not on Zero hour contracts with one in ten employers now using these casual employment contracts, that do not commit employers to holiday pay, sick pay or a minimum promise of work.

The JRF report stated, “given that labour turnover is costly and low employee morale can be detrimental to their productivity or overall organisational performance, it is thus contended that low-paying organisations could improve their financial bottom line by improving the working conditions of their employees.”

This is also conducive to other benefits for the employee and wider society:

“The Government Office for Science, through the Foresight Unit, has stressed the importance of good working conditions to mental well-being in the workplace and society as a whole (Foresight Unit, 2008).”

The JRF used the example of the care sector, to demonstrate where rewarding workplaces are necessary in low pay sectors, to provide a good service, as documented in the final report of the Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People (2012:13):

“Caring for older people is skilled, demanding and often stressful work. Staff who are appropriately trained and who feel valued and empowered to make decisions will be the ones who support dignified care. Staff who are denied the right to training and development, who do not feel valued by their organisation, who are not encouraged by their managers, and who do not feel that they have the freedom to make the right decisions for patients and residents are far more likely to deliver poor care.”

However, improving working conditions can differ in meaning and approach from workplace to workplace. “The Good Work Commission, established by the Work Foundation, describes the concept of GW (Good Work) as ‘inherently ambiguous’, with some definitions emphasising the interests of the employees while others focus on what it means for employers and the wider community. According to the Commission, for employees GW concerns the development of skills; choice, flexibility and control over working hours and the pace of work; trust, communication and the ability to have a say in decisions that affect them; and a balance between effort and reward. For employers, GW is about engaging employees to encourage their contribution to organisational success. For the community, GW is about organisations being socially aware, ethical and sustainable.”

Logo_Head-1

This requires the close attention and respect of the role of human resources and development (HRM/D). Managers and owners would need to lock into what would make a difference to their employees. The JRF noted that the presence of HRM/D personnel lowered the smaller a company or workplace got, however, their presence is also not useful unless they are committed to making a difference.

“If managers merely pay lip service to HRM/D practices, this will limit their effectiveness. But this lip-service effect might itself be a reflection of deeper inadequacy in leadership and management, or indicative of a low-trust organisational cultures that also impinges on performance.”

The effect of creating better working environments and resourceful, supportive management approaches has long been considered effective for employee, who gains the benefits of this environment, and employer, who gains a more efficient and productive employee. The ideas behind improving HRM/D have gathered pace in the last few years, “so much so that ‘personnel economics’ is now considered a major sub-field in labour economics” (Bloom & van Reenan, 2010).

url-1

But it is the application of these approaches which could see their downfall for low wage employers, especially when taking into consideration the poor skill levels of managers in the UK:

“Given this, improving the quality of management and leadership might be a more appropriate means of improving organisational performance than the adoption of HRM/D practices per se – a possibility strengthened by evidence that UK managers are less well qualified than managers in other advanced economies despite being far greater in number (there are 4.8 million ‘managers and senior officials’ in the UK, accounting for one in six people in employment; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) 2012).

“The definition of ‘manager’ is more loosely applied in the UK compared with other countries – hence the large management cadre – but only one in five has a management-related qualification and of these fewer than two in five are qualified at NVQ level 44 or above. According to the UKCES, only one in three organisations provide management training, another report for the government also commenting that ‘UK provision of leadership and management training tends to be ad hoc rather than strategic’ (BIS 2012: 20).

“Studies suggest that this comparative deficit in management quality contributes to the UK’s well-known productivity gap with major competitors and results in the UK having a ‘long-tail of poorly managed firms’ (ibid).

“One consequence of this is that UK managers are found to be slower and less successful at translating new management practices into improved performance than their counterparts in France, Germany and the United States. Survey-based analysis also shows a statistical relationship between organisations’ commitment to management and leadership development, related HRM/D practices and organisational performance measures (McBain et al 2012). The relationship was found to be associated with a 23% variation in organisational performance measures, though no direct causal process was demonstrated.”

————————————————————————–

The report concluded that there was no clear single answer to tackling low pay, but that a campaign that encourages workplaces to become ‘Anti-poverty Employers’ or something similar could help improve the working conditions and pay in some companies.

Further, HRM/D could help companies who already struggle to pay their staff at NMW to add value to the employment they offer. However, certain industries such as care and hospitality which may be contracted and thus, the aim is to keep costs as low as possible, or that the sector is historically a low paid industry with factors that maintain the pressure on low wages, need closer attention, as the effects of improving the working conditions and pay in these sectors can bear the fruit of better service and efficiency – which these sectors are built to provide.

Facts from Rewarding Work For Low Paid Workers:

  • “At one in six private-sector workplaces, at least a quarter of employees were paid an hourly rate at or below the adult National Minimum Wage (the proportion is as high as two in five in the wholesale and retail sectors; and one in four in the hotel and restaurant sectors). The corresponding proportion in the public sector is 1 in 40.”
  • “The hospitality, retail and cleaning sectors together account for over half (54%) of minimum wage jobs, while social are, childcare, transport, food processing and storage each account for between 3% and 4%.”
  • “The incidence of low pay rises as the size of organisation falls: minimum wage jobs account for one in 20 jobs in large firms (250 or more
    employees) but one in twelve in small firms (10–49 employees) and one in eight in micro-firms (1–9) employees.”
  • “If the Living Wage were paid universally in the private sector, the government would at present save £3.6 billion from increased tax revenues, higher National Insurance contributions and reduced spending on tax credits to the low paid.”

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

From inequalitybriefing.org:

 

So your favourite ginger bearded polemicist has been away for three weeks – researching important things in Mexico, and writing about Comrade Bob. But I am back, and we’ve got a lot to cover so let’s check it out!

REGULARS

Liberty

In one of the most appallingly vicious acts of counter productive stupidity, a blanket ban on giving prisoners books has been introduced by professional arse face Chris Grayling.

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Image: johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Image: johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

And in Spain massive peaceful protests are met with blanket violence, though don’t kid yourself this is just something that happens in other countries…

Economics (not boring I promise!)

As ever, we are trying to make money real with this section, and what is more real than realising you would be £44k better off if we didn’t create a housing bubble that only benefits rich landlords!

Also let’s think seriously about the living wage, this is a basic concept that should be a right for all.

Maybe we should conceive of government differently:

Image: Anonymous ART of Revolution

Image: Anonymous ART of Revolution

or not conceive of government at all?!

Because let’s face it, whilst five families own more than 20% of us we are never going to have a government that represents us…

Oh and by the way – those new jobs (the shit zero hour ones that supposedly show that we are in recovery) 80% were created in London – SO FUCK YOU NORWICH!

Environment

In the wake of the floods nobody mentioned this in the mainstream news. In fact, this only made the comment is free section, but we essentially paid farmers to flood our homes.

Fracking is still centre of the agenda for this government and globally, so maybe we should take a moment to enjoy this fantastic video by Green Goyo, who proves that actually fracking is good for everyone!

I don’t want to go into it too much more, as next week we will be releasing our first RealFare video on the Barton moss protest camp, but suffice it to say that what people have had to go through to stop their water being polluted and their land forever damaged has been unnaturally brutal.

Debates coming up

Europe is going to inevitably dominate the news at some point, so it is worth mentioning that if you like UKIP because you are anti-Europe and yet at the same time believe in things like renationalising the railways, maybe you should have a look at someone else

And good news for the UK weapons industry is bad news for everyone else.

Image: Occupy London

Image: Occupy London

 

Good news!


Half the cases against anti-fracking protestors have been dropped  – because, of course, they are bullsh**T – one day I will be able to report people protested and didn’t get arrested at all…

And Bez brought anti Fracking protestors vegan beer!

Stewart Lee does one of the most left-field deconstructions of the Tory party I’ve come across…

Depression has been radicalised

The planet may be fucked – but shareholders had a brief honeymoon period!

 1922379_10152365370658623_1300953795_n

And according to NASA the only way to save humanity is Communism!

Thomas Barlow

 

I’m With Bob

kamsandhu —  March 18, 2014 — 1 Comment

By Thomas Barlow

So I was going to try and do a tongue-in-cheek, satirical remembrance of Bob Crow that lauded his achievements whilst chastising his enemies in a humorous way, but Mark Steele beat me to that – and unfortunately he is just far better than me in every department. So instead let me launch into a straight, good old tub thumping tirade against his detractors, who hypocritically came out to mourn his death this week.

The amount of stick he got for ridiculous things like daring to have a holiday (A holiday?! IN BRAZIL?! How f***ing dare he?!) may well have been a contributory factor to his sudden and unfortunate passing, so let Boris and the other thoughtless reactionaries shut their traps and consider Bob’s true worth for a moment. I am going to use a phrase that is unpopular because of it’s bland Marxist connotations, but it is true to say that he was a true working class militant. Tony Benn’s passing is a tragedy and he was truly principled and fine person, but when it comes to organising and standing alongside the majority of people (what we used to call the working class), Bob delivered results.

It is dangerous and wrong to mythologise one person so I shall try to refrain from doing so.  It can only be hoped that the RMT carry on in the vein of form they have with Bob, and knowing many of the members, I think it is a safe bet that they will continue. But what Bob represented was not just a straight talking, working class, Millwall fan. He represented success.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

When I make arguments for unionisation nowadays I always ask the following questions; ‘Do you like your weekends mate?  Your lunch breaks?  8 hour days? Nearer pay equality for men and women? Holidays?  Not being killed at work?Not seeing your kids working 16 hour shifts for a pittance? Hell, what about the vote for the majority of people, the Welfare state and a good deal of our civil liberties?’

‘Because you can thank the unions for that, and most importantly, all the people within them, who for 150 years were ridiculed, oppressed, beaten and killed for daring to be in one.’

Thanks to the RMT and Bob I could go further. ‘Do you think everyone has to have their pay slashed?  Lose jobs with no notice?  Work zero hour contracts?  Do unpaid internships?  The RMT crews don’t!’

Unbelievably this is one of the things that irritated some people the most about Bob and the RMT.  ‘We all get shafted in the private sector, why should they get better conditions?’

Well firstly, we probably shouldn’t keep supporting privatisation if the only thing guaranteed from it is a good shafting for the majority of people who work in that sector.

More importantly though, whilst people are right to bemoan the shafting they get at their work places, the solution isn’t to hope everyone else gets corn-holed equally roughly. It is like asking to be the whip hand on a plantation, who gets to beat the others before taking your own stripes across the back. It is the mentality of miserable oppression, and shows our innate inability to celebrate improvement for each other.

This is how we lose, and yet Bob showed us how we can win.  We want a living wage.  We can strike.  We want real contracts.  We can strike.  We want civil liberties, working healthcare and social care and genuine prospects for a lost generation. We can strike.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it is not as easy as all that.

There is more than enough wrong with the unions, with their super mergers, their obsequiousness to the Labour party and their moronic and cowardly representation of our struggles. But the Unions are what we make them, any social struggle is.

We cannot expect those above us to do things for us, we have to do it ourselves.

I am sure Bob would not mind me saying that it wasn’t him who won the negotiations and struggles for his members.  It was the members who won them, united, militant and ready to take the flak.  And Bob was there with them, every step of the way.

So if we get together, and we look at all the tactics available to us to cause trouble for the elite, and we are prepared to use them, regardless of the violence and abuse that will be chucked at us, we can have more than holidays and the vote – we could actually win a life worth living.

It’s what Bob would have wanted.

Image: Sabcat

Image: Sabcat

Corporate benefits is a feature which aims to cast light on how big businesses and companies receive benefits and gain profit from welfare policy. Whilst the media have been quick to name and shame the benefit cheats that make up 0.7% of all claimants, they have been quiet on the ways in which corporations profit handsomely from our ‘bloated’ welfare system.

In the last article, we spoke about Workfare – a series of schemes set up by government which hand companies a free workforce, paid unfairly (and unlawfully when referring to laws on the minimum wage) at a cost to the taxpayer and other workers.

This time, we look at Working Tax Credits.

Image: taxcredits.net

Image: taxcredits.net

Working Tax Credits are a means tested benefit for those on low incomes. Essentially, they top up low pay. Working Tax Credits were introduced in the UK in 2003, as a way of encouraging people to take on low paid work. Last year, £14bn was spent on such credits, and as the government pull back welfare spending in all other areas, the solution to saving money here is rarely tackled.

Despite the Working Tax Credit being a huge help to those on low income, it does not address the subject of low pay. And far from the credit being used to help top up the pay of employees of small companies and start up businesses, it now subsidises the pay of employees from huge corporate conglomerates who’s profits are in the billions.

Huge supermarket chains, clothes stores and other companies now have thousands of employees who claim Working Tax Credits. This calls into question the helpfulness of the policy, as what seems to be materialising is a culture of low pay amongst large companies who are aware that the state will pick up the bill.

Whilst the introduction of the minimum wage was meant to protect against the low pay issue, the wage has not increased in line with inflation for years and is running behind at a rate of 10-12%. Thus, the minimum wage is not performing the action of a minimum standard of living. This is why we have recently seen the Living Wage being pressed for in news and media.

Image: citizensuk.org

Image: citizensuk.org

The Living Wage is a rate set according to the basic cost of living in the UK and it recently rose to £7.65 per hour in the UK and £8.80 in London. Companies may take on the Living Wage on a voluntary basis, but as the gap between the minimum wage, inflation and the cost of living increases, the need for the Living Wage is becoming ever more important to those on low pay.

Ed Miliband recently promised a temporary tax break to companies who begin using the Living Wage, if Labour are elected in 2015, and while the momentum for this pay is increasing and positive, legislation is the real power that can change the conditions of all on low pay.

Working Tax Credits, whilst seemingly helping out the low paid worker, is allowing companies – who can afford to pay a living wage – the ability to underpay employees with the knowledge that the welfare system is at hand, and for these companies the tax credit is subsidising profit and avoiding the issue of low pay. Working Tax Credits should only be awarded to those working for small businesses who are trying to grow, as a support to both the worker and the business, if used at all.

Around 20% of welfare spending goes to in-work tax credits, and if the government are serious about cutting welfare spending then it is about time they asked large companies to pay fairly for staff, and put an end to a culture where companies reap the benefits and profits from low paid employees and our welfare system.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

In the second part of our interview with Giselle Cory – senior research and policy analyst from the Resolution Foundation, we talk about how long the economy will take to recover, and what support there is and should be for those on lower and middle incomes.

The Telegraph

The Telegraph

I think it was Danny Alexander who said that austerity needed to continue until 2020. How long do you think it will take for people to feel the economy has recovered? 

“I couldn’t say a number, because there are too many uncertainties, but I will say a while. We did some modelling which looked at how incomes are likely to change over the next decade or so. And we saw that given the hit that incomes have taken, both from the components that are made from earnings from work – because of that very poor earnings growth I talked about earlier, and because of the hit that non-work income i.e. benefit income whether it be tax credits, child credit or out of work benefit, those have all taken a hit as well. So if you combine those two elements and layer on top the fact that we’ve had inflation running higher than growth in either of those things, you see that actually the pre-recession peak will not be reached again for at least another decade or so. So that’s looking like at least 10 years of families feeling like they’re not as well off as they were before the recession hit, and that’s a very long time for people to be holding on.

“About 40%, of people we asked said that they didn’t think the political parties were doing enough to support a rise in their living standards or mitigate the fall.”

“Another thing I will say is that households are fairly confident about what it is they think will help their living standards. In some recent polling we did, I think large majority, about 40%, of people we asked said that they didn’t think the political parties were doing enough to support a rise in their living standards or mitigate the fall, and we also asked what it was that any politician, irrespective of the colour of their party, could do to help their living standards improve again. The top things were reduce bills – so price rises we’ve seen on things like water, basic amenities, food has been fairly overwhelming for people who’s wages aren’t increasing. Second thing is cutting taxes for low to middle income people, so we’ve seen a certain degree of that in things like the personal tax allowance rise, but families want more of that. And the third is promoting wage increases through whatever economic policy they can and we’ve seen that has not been something we’ve seen in the last couple of years.”

The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation for some years and so, in a way it has eroded what the minimum wage is for. Despite the living wage being implemented by some companies and employers, there is plenty left to do. How important is it to re-instate the minimum wage, which is now pretty far behind the price rises over the years?

Image: citizensuk.org

Image: citizensuk.org

“As you say we’ve seen a dip in the real terms value of the minimum wage which as you say hasn’t kept up with inflation and the minimum wage is very important as a wage floor. And though a very small proportion of the workforce are actually on the minimum wage, a significant proportion are just above it – so hovering at the £6.50 – £7.50 sort of mark. So it’s important that the wage floor reflects the costs that families are having to face and it’s a fair increase, whether that means changing the way it’s set, whether that means indexing it to some other metric of growth so that we know it grows in parallel to some broader indicator of economic growth. I think the details of that need to be fleshed out and in fact, we’re looking into that at the moment with an expert group, to work out how it should be best looked into. But one thing’s for sure, too many people are trapped on those very low wages that are too low to make work pay. The living wage is an excellent pseudo-floor, a voluntary floor for organisations that sign up to it, but the problem with that is there are always limits to a what voluntary action can do rather than something that’s supported through legislation.”

What would you ask the government to do now, to help the economy and help those on low to middle incomes?

“How long do you have? I think the biggest area to target is around low pay, so it is reviewing how the minimum wage is set. It is reviewing how we can embed the living wage better, it’s understanding how we can influence the labour market, influencing the growth specific industries in the UK so there are more medium and high paid jobs. Because what we have seen is a hollowing out as such, of the labour market, where there’s jobs at the bottom and jobs at the top but the jobs in the middle are disappearing, and that’s based in large part due to technological change, but a lot of other factors as well. There are a lot of things the government can do to support growth of those jobs in the middle, and that will have a consequent effect on people at the bottom and the ability of people at the bottom to progress up and increase their wages – that’s one of many things you can do about low pay.

“Secondly, I’d say for low income families, the cost of childcare can be completely restrictive in terms of their ability to work so you see that a lot of families have to pay to work if they are on the lowest incomes, and that’s obviously a terrible work incentive. So the support for childcare should be increased so that no family has to face that decision.”

George Osbourne recently announced that he would give families £1200 of childcare for families earning up to £300,00 (if each parent earns £150,000). Will that help? 

“The tax free voucher scheme, as you say £1200 per child, that will do some good for families who are eligible for it. However, though that goes very high up the income spectrum, it does not cover any family who is also receiving Universal Credit, and many low to middle income families with children will be receiving Universal Credit. For those families, they don’t benefit from the voucher scheme, which is equivalent to £1.5 billion worth of spending because it’s £750 million new money and £740 million old money that they’re taking from another scheme that’s being shut down.

“They don’t benefit from any of that £1.5 billion, but at the same time they are the earners who are on the lowest wages and therefore face the highest barrier to income because their wages simply can’t absorb heir childcare costs. So I think a much better way to spend the money, is to make sure the people who can be persuaded into work and can be helped into work – because a lot will say ‘I want to but childcare is a barrier’ – is that we focus whatever funds we can on childcare on these families, because it’s firstly, unlikely that higher income families would change their decision about work based on that support, and secondly, it’s unlikely that a large proportion of their income would be taken up by childcare. So we’re not changing their lives much. We’re helping them a little bit, but the life changing stuff is for the people on low incomes. The government have proposed £200 million of extra childcare for this group, but the problem is that £200 million doesn’t really go far enough. You either have to target a specific sub-group or everyone and it’s spread out amongst everyone and you lessen it’s bite significantly.

George Osborne delivering the Spending Review Image: The Telegrapg

George Osborne delivering the Spending Review Image: The Telegraph

“And in terms of your other question on what else do we do for this group, the other two big areas I talk about is prices. So as you said, this group faces costs higher than their wage increases, and they also face more severe levels of inflation than higher income people because what we know about low and middle income people is they spend a large proportion of their income on essentials and unfortunately it’s these essentials that have experienced the highest price increase. So they are effectively spending a large chunk of their money, and an increasing chunk, on things they can’t afford like they used to whilst their wages aren’t going up. So attempting to address things like rising water prices and energy prices is going to help this group a lot.

“In a vast majority of local authorities, you simply can’t afford private rented sector housing if you want to spend less than 35% of your income on housing, which is seen as the affordability definition. In a third of local authorities, private rented accommodation costs around a half of your income.”

“And the other area, that I think is dear to all of us, is housing. And we’re sitting in London, so it’s not news to anyone that housing is unaffordable but actually across the country it’s very difficult for people to get into housing. We’ve got three main types of housing in the UK. So you can own, you can rent or you can be in social rent – own, private rent or social rent. What we find with low to middle income people, they can’t own in most part because they can’t drum up the deposit, it’s a lot of money particularly in post-recession, and the ongoing costs of that mortgage would be quite demanding in comparison to the wages they receive. They can’t access social housing because they are not perceived to be vulnerable enough and stocks aren’t what they need to be. So they’re increasingly in the middle, in the private rented sector, which isn’t in itself a problem. However, given that rents in many areas absorb very high proportions of people’s income, given that renting doesn’t allow people the security of tenure that they’d like, particularly if you’ve just put your young child in school and you don’t want to have to move them out of school because your landlord puts your rent up. Private rented tenants also can’t make their house a home, people want to be able to put a picture up, paint a wall, so a lot of families don’t feel particularly comfortable in that sector, but don’t have a choice. So addressing the overall affordability of housing but also low and middle income families’ access to ownership, whether that be through shared ownership schemes, where you buy a bit and rent a bit, or full ownership is very important, and on the top of the priority list for a lot of low income people.”

Resolution Foundation

Resolution Foundation

Boris Johnson recently said that he was setting affordability at 80% of the private sector. What do you think about that figure? 

“It’s very high. We’ve looked at affordability of different tenure types and found that social rents, as they are, are bordering on the unaffordable already, so to look at affordable rent as 80% of private rent is pushing that rent way above current social rents, much closer to market rents, which we know at the moment are unaffordable. In a vast majority of local authorities, you simply can’t afford private rented sector housing if you want to spend less than 35% of your income on housing, which is seen as the affordability definition. In a third of local authorities, private rented accommodation costs around a half of your income. By anyone’s standards that’s a lot of money to pay, so if we’re pushing affordable rents up to that limit it’s simply going to be very, very difficult for families that can’t sustain that level of housing expenditure and as I mentioned before, they don’t have any choice. There’s no other options for them. So I think a lot of people are going to find it very tough.”

1) 4 million workers in Britain put under stress because they are unable to make ends meet

Research by the post office has revealed that over 4 million workers are unable to make their income stretch to the end of the month, causing health problems such as stress and sleepless nights.

Workers are forced to dip into overdrafts, credit cards or use pay day loans to get through each month. Due to a combination of pay freezes, rising rents, food, household bills and inflation, workers are unable to make their money stretch to the next pay day.

And these problems are set to deepen as welfare and benefit reforms see tax credits and child benefit reduced.

Image: timeshighereducation.co.uk

Image: timeshighereducation.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) ‘Botched’ attacks on welfare will cost £1.4bn

The failing welfare reforms brought in since the coalition have taken power will cost the taxpayer £1.4bn.

Policies and programmes have failed to meet targets, including the youth contract which missed it’s target by 92% and cost £457m in job seeker’s allowance. Failures of the work programme have cost £140m, and Universal Credit has cost £300m. The “fit to work” test, which is seeing huge numbers of decisions being overturned at appeal, will cost £287m.

Labour have condemned Iain Duncan Smith’s plans and implementation, commenting that his “cruelty” is only matched by his “incompetence.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Companies paying less than minimum wage will be names and shamed

The government has revealed plans to enforce the minimum wage requirement by making it easier to ‘name and shame’ companies who fail to comply.

When introduced in October, it will allow any company to be named should it break the law, whereas currently, the employer must owe £2000 to employees before being allowed to name them.

There were 730 companies found to be paying below the minimum wage in 2012/2013, and despite many complaints from employees in the years since the minimum wage was introduced in 1999, the numbers of employers prosecuted have been low.

The Telegraph

The Telegraph

Read more about this story here.

4) The Mass Sleep Out sees thousands join in protest across country, despite showers

The Mass Sleep Out, a protest against the bedroom tax and other welfare reforms, saw huge success as over 60 locations across the country took part despite the soggy Saturday showers.

In a bid to portray the consequences of devastating reforms, protestors camped out on the streets. See some of the photos here.

Image: tmso facebook

Image: tmso facebook

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Tomorrow is the start of a ‘Workfare Week of action’, against the scheme that employs free labour from those on benefits. 

Image: Scriptonite Daily

Image: Scriptonite Daily

Designed to coincide with the Workfare annual conference, the grassroots campaigners from Boycott Workfare – who have worked tirelessly to expose companies, inform people and encourage a boycott of the scheme –  plan to make some noise and raise awareness about the campaign.

A decent day’s work deserves a decent day’s wage. Big companies who have been involved in the scheme such as Argos, Poundland and M&S (now running their own version of the scheme for 2% of their staff) CAN afford to pay people to work for them.They should not use people in this way to bolster their profits. We do not want our young people to face months of free labour before pay, to enter the jobs market. We do not want those struggling already on benefits to be forced into labour and exploited. We do not want benefits that taxpayers provide to be used as the buffer for an industry of slave labour.

The scheme has already taken advantage of thousands of people. And, the DWP’s own findings showed that involvement in the scheme makes ‘no impact on the likelihood of being employed.’

Don’t let companies normalise this sort of practice. Make your voice heard.

See what is happening this week and find out more about Boycott Workfare here.

“Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.”

Boycott Workfare

A Boycott Workfare Protest earlier this year. Image: Johnny Void

A Boycott Workfare Protest earlier this year. Image: Johnny Void