Tag Archives: hours

Lower than sewage: liar Johnson is still making poorest NHS workers pay ‘immigrant surcharge’

Cleaning up: people who can least afford it are being charged for NHS treatment, despite being the ones who keep hospital beds clean and equipment available.

Could there be a better demonstration of what a detestable liar Boris Johnson is?

He said his government would end a £624 “surcharge” it demanded from immigrant NHS workers for their own healthcare treatment. He lied.

In fact, the charge has continued to be applied – to the poorest workers; those least able to afford it.

The fee is still levied on staff who take a different job within six months – lower-paid cleaners, porters and carers, especially those on the zero-hours contracts the Tories have been keen to force into the workplace.

Perhaps most damning of all is the fact that ministers have had to cheek to suggest that these staff – who are on the lowest pay possible – need an “incentive” to continue working.

Typical Tory thinking – Johnson reckons everybody is as lazy as he is!

In fact, people on low incomes – especially those on zero-hours contracts – already have an incentive to work. It’s called “survival”.

Apart from a tiny minority for whom a zero-hours contract works because it fits into their own lifestyle – people who already have enough money to live on – nobody would take up such a job if it wasn’t the best they could get.

Zero-hours jobs offer no sick pay or holiday pay; and the wages are the lowest employers can get away with offering.

And, of course, they are designed to facilitate termination on short notice.

So we see a situation in which Boris Johnson claimed he was ending an unfair charge on people who have worked tirelessly to save us all from Covid-19…

… when instead he was continuing to inflict it on the people who most deserved to have it lifted.

Remember when Nye Bevan said Tories were lower than vermin?

If he were around today, no doubt he would admit that he overpraised them.

I feel sure he would agree with me that Johnson is lower than sewage.

Source: Boris Johnson accused of ‘cynical broken promise’ as some foreign NHS and care staff still pay surcharge | The Independent

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Coronavirus: zero-hours workers sacked en masse despite Tory government promises

Rishi Sunak: his promises to employees are turning out to be worthless.

Another Tory coronavirus promise bites the dust.

Rishi Sunak promised that zero-hours workers would be covered by his promise to pay 80 per cent of employee wages, as long as they were on PAYE.

But his promise depended on employers signing up to the deal, and many haven’t.

Instead, the Department for Work and Pensions has been swamped with new claims for Universal Credit.

The reason?

Rishi Sunak said on Friday that workers on zero-hours contracts would be covered, as long as they were paid through PAYE. But many of these workers have simply been let go en masse in any case. Self-employed workers, who are not on PAYE, are not covered at all and will have to claim benefits if their work dries up and no new government measures are enacted.

There’s no two ways around it. The Tories promised people would be protected; the Tories lied.

Source: Sacked by text message: Zero-hours contract workers laid off because of coronavirus’ impact | The Independent

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Where are the sanctions for employers failing to offer additional hours?

'Daftie' Duncan Smith before a previous hearing of the Work and Pensions committee.

‘Daftie’ Duncan Smith before a previous hearing of the Work and Pensions committee.

It’s a valid question.

More than a year ago, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told us “In work conditionality” within the Universal Credit system could encourage part-time workers and the low-paid to seek additional hours.

But it seems nothing is being done to “encourage” employers to provide the extra work.

So what, exactly, did Duncan Smith think he was playing at?

It seems we may soon find out, because Disability Studies specialist and disability activist Samuel Miller has written to the Secretary-in-a-State and his employment minister, Priti Patel, to find out whether employers will face sanctions for refusing  to offer part-time and low-paid workers additional hours.

“My field of interest is disability,” wrote Mr Miller. “If the British government is truly interested in increasing employment opportunities for the disabled, why doesn’t it follow the U.S. example and compel businesses to significantly increase the number of people with disabilities that they employ?

“The U.S. rule requires most federal contractors to ensure that people with disabilities account for at least 7 percent of workers within each job group in their workforce.

“While officials at the U.S. Department of Labor say they are not establishing a firm hiring quota for contractors, they do expect that businesses servicing the government will work toward achieving the target. Contractors that fail to meet the goal and do not show sufficient effort toward reaching the 7 percent threshold could lose their contracts under the new rule.

“Disability advocates say the added pressure on federal contractors will go a long way—and, in my opinion, Britain should follow suit.”

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Childcare changes threatened by underfunding, charity says – BBC News

Who do you believe? The Conservatives – as reported here:

Childcare providers in England say the system is at “breaking point” due to underfunding and a plan to double free provision could lead to “meltdown”.

That warning – from industry body the Pre-School Learning Alliance – comes as ministers say trials of the new scheme are being brought forward to 2016.

The current allowance of 570 hours a year for three and four-year-olds will be doubled for working parents.

The government says it is committed to increasing funding.

Or this man:

150601 chomsky privatisation

Source: Childcare changes threatened by underfunding, charity says – BBC News

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Is Iain Duncan Smith legalising breach of contract?

Iain 'Daftie' Duncan Smith before a previous hearing of the Work and Pensions committee.

Iain ‘Daftie’ Duncan Smith before a previous hearing of the Work and Pensions committee.

Here’s something mentioned during Iain Duncan Smith’s session before the Commons Work and Pensions committee last week, that doesn’t seem to have enjoyed enough attention: It seems Daftie Duncan Smith wants to legalise breach of contract.

He reckons part-time workers should be sanctioned off their top-up benefits if they refuse extra hours offered by their employer.

The sanctions would apply under the Universal Credit system – which is never going to work anyway – so perhaps this is an inconsequential matter, but it is disturbing that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions understands so little about contracts of employment that he thinks this is a reasonable way to behave.

He told the Work and Pensions committee: “That is being investigated, as to whether we can now work to in-work sanctions – in other words, conditionality – so people get an opportunity to move up the hours if they can, and if they don’t wish to do that, we will see whether or not that system of conditionality works.”

Perhaps he doesn’t realise that some people are only able to work a certain number of hours per week, and that any increase means they will not be able to continue in the job. Perhaps he doesn’t realise that this will make them unemployed, and his “conditionality” prank means that they would be sanctioned off being able to claim benefits for a period of time after that, meaning they would be doubly punished for a situation that was not their fault.

Perhaps he doesn’t care. Yes, that seems more likely.

He certainly doesn’t understand contract law. When two parties enter into a contract of employment, it is a binding agreement on both of them – and if it is not honoured by either party – for example, if the employer tells the employee that their hours of work will be extended, rather than negotiating a change in the contract that is agreeable to both – then that party is said to be in breach of that contract.

And does this not open HM Revenue and Customs up to a potential explosion of Income Tax and National Insurance fraud?

Look at the situation Vox Political reported recently, in which a JSA claimant interviewed for a job lasting 22.5 hours per week and then had to turn it down when managers tried to increase the hours to 40; the employer told the Job Centre and he was sanctioned.

He had his benefit reinstated when he reported the employer for potential tax evasion and then told JSA decision makers what he had done, making it clear that he did not see why his benefit should be docked for refusing to take part in an illegal act.

Did Daftie consider this? Or did he think it would be okay because his government wants to reduce the amount of Income Tax it receives anyway, in order to justify cutting public services or selling them off to fatcat tax-avoiding businesspeople?

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Conservatives: Exploiting hardworking people

140214intern

Exploitation: The logo on the cups says, “Conservatives – for the privileged few” – and the intern carrying them isn’t included.

“We’re all in it together” are we, George?

The Conservative Party represents “fairness”, “for hardworking people”, does it, David?

It seems not – if we are to judge the Conservative Party by its actions, rather than its words.

Yesterday a website focusing on graduate careers blew the full-time whistle on these deceptions, exposing how the Tories have been briefing MPs and candidates on ways to avoid paying the minimum wage by exploiting the perceived differences between volunteers, interns and paid employees.

The article on Graduate Fog said a memo circulated to Party members was advising them to start calling their unpaid interns ‘campaign volunteers’, in order to evade “potential hostile questioning” about exploitative business practices.

The Conservative Party has denied doing anything wrong by providing advice on ways its members may avoid paying the minimum wage.

It would have been better for the Party spokesperson to deny that Conservatives have been wrongly recruiting people as employees – under the umbrella title of ‘interns’ (which means nothing in UK law), while treating them – for payment purposes – as volunteers.

But that was impossible because it is exactly what has been happening – as the memo makes clear.

Look – here it is:

140214interns1

140214interns2

Graduate Fog kindly published it for us all to examine.

The part that blows the gaff is a “suggested template reply” for “hostile questioning” about the issue of “recruiting unpaid interns”.

Clearly, this is what Conservative chiefs want to avoid.

Clearly they would not have gone to the effort of circulating a memo if NOBODY was “recruiting unpaid interns”.

So there is a clear implication that some Conservative Party MPs and prospective Parliamentary candidates, in fact, have been “recruiting unpaid interns” – and illegally exploiting them by demanding that they carry out the duties of employees.

The tone is clear from the get-go: The Conservative Party is running scared.

Members are told that people working in an unpaid capacity are no longer to be described as ‘interns’ – they are ‘campaign volunteers’ from now on because, that way, there is no obligation to pay them.

Conservatives are advised not to pay anything at all to these ‘volunteers’ – even expenses – as this could lead to them being classed as ‘workers’ and establishing ‘mutuality of obligation’. This would be equivalent to payment for services rendered – and the ‘volunteer’ would therefore be classed as a ‘worker’, requiring payment for services rendered, at the minimum wage or higher.

From now on, the memo states, recruitment adverts should be “appropriately worded” – meaning there must be nothing resembling a “formal job description”. This means references to “work”, “worker”, “hours” of work, “tasks” the ‘Volunteer’ will be “expected” to perform, and “expenses” are all out.

Instead, Party members are advised to use words like “volunteering”, “volunteer”, “campaigning administration”, and “help” – and to describe functions carried out by the “volunteer” as “the kind of activities it would be great to get some help with”.

This advice would not be necessary if Conservative Party MPs and prospective Parliamentary candidates had not been illegally “recruiting unpaid interns”.

For the interns themselves, this should be terrific news: There can be no requirement for them to turn up to work, and no disciplinary measures may be taken against them if they don’t. They may come and go as they please and do not have to conform to any set working hours. Nor may they be expected to perform any specified duties.

If the Tories want people to do that kind of work, they can pay for it like everybody else.

… although the minimum wage probably won’t be enough.

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The Coalition is creating serious problems and distracting you with phantoms

140124earnings

According to the beauty industry, women must now start deodorising under their breasts.

I kid you not – it was in The Guardian.

Columnist Jill Filipovic hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “I can already hear your objections: ‘But the area under my boobs doesn’t stink!’ or ‘What kind of marketing genius not only came up with the term “swoob,” but actually thought half the world’s population might be dumb enough to buy into it?’ or simply, ‘This is a dumb product aimed at inventing an insecurity and then claiming to cure it.’

“You would be correct on all three points.

“In fact, inventing problems with women’s bodies and then offering a cure – if you pay up – is the primary purpose of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry.”

The simple fact is that you don’t really need to worry about smells down there – a good old soapy flannel will cure any such problems.

That’s not the point, though. The aim is to get you thinking about it and devoting your energy to it, rather than to other matters.

Now let’s translate that to politics.

We already know that all the scaremongering about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants storming the country from January 1 was a crock. That bastion of good statistics, The Now Show, told us last week that the total number of Bulgarian immigrants in the last couple of weeks was “around two dozen so far”, according to their ambassador. In the first three months after our borders were opened to Croatians, 174 turned up.

Yet the government wanted you to believe they would flood our immigration service in their millions, “taking benefits and yet simultaneously also taking all the jobs”.

My use of language such as “storming” and “flood” is not accidental. By far the more serious threat to the UK in the early days of 2014 was the weather – and, guess what, not only was the government unprepared for the ferocity of the storms that swept our islands, the Coalition was in fact in the process of cutting funding for flood defence.

This would have gone unnoticed if the weather had behaved itself, because we would all have been distracted by the single Romanian immigrant who was ensnared by Keith Vaz in a ring of TV cameras at Heathrow Airport.

Now the Tories are telling us that our take-home pay is finally on the rise for all but the top 10 per cent of earners, with the rest of us seeing our wages rise by at least 2.5 per cent.

The government made its claims (up) by taking into account only cuts to income tax and national insurance, using data leading up to April last year, according to the BBC News website.

This kind of nonsense is easily overcome – New Statesman published the above chart, showing the real effect of changes to weekly income for people in various income groups, and also provided the reason for the government’s mistake (if that’s what it was).

“The data used … takes no account of the large benefit cuts introduced by the coalition, such as the real-terms cut in child benefit, the uprating of benefits in line with CPI inflation rather than RPI, and the cuts to tax credits,” writes the Statesman‘s George Eaton.”

He also pointed out that other major cuts such as the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, and the 10 per cent cut in council tax support were introduced after April 2013 and were not included in the Coalition figures.

Once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that almost all families are worse off – and the Coalition also appears to have forgotten the five million low-paid workers who don’t earn enough to benefit from the increase in the personal allowance.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock compounded the mistake in an exchange on Twitter with Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Asked why his analysis “ignores more than four million people in work (the self-employed)”, Mr Hancock tweeted: “Analysis based on ONS ASHE survey of household earnings data”.

Wrong – as Mr Portes was quick to show: “Don’t you know the difference between household and individual earnings?”

Apparently not. ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) is a survey of employed individuals using their National Insurance numbers – not of households or the self-employed.

So the Coalition – and particularly the Tories – were trying to make us all feel good about the amount we earn.

That’s the distraction. What are we supposed to be ignoring?

Would it be David Cameron’s attempt to bribe councils into allowing shale gas companies to frack their land? Councils that back fracking will get to keep all the business rates collected from the schemes – rather than the usual 50 per cent.

He has also claimed that fracking can boost the economy and encourage businesses into the country, in a further bid to talk down dissent.

Or is it the growing threat of a rise in interest rates, which may be triggered when official unemployment figures – which have been fiddled by increased sanctions on jobseekers, rigged reassessments of benefit claimants, a new scheme to increase the number of people and time spent on Workfare, and the fake economic upturn created by George Osborne’s housing bubble – drop to seven per cent?

It seems possible that the government – especially the Tory part of it – would want to keep people from considering the implications of an interest rate rise that is based on false figures.

As Vox Political commenter Jonathan Wilson wrote yesterday: “If the BOE bases its decisions on incorrect manipulated data that presents a false ‘good news’ analysis then potentially it could do something based on it that would have catastrophic consequences.

“For example if its unemployment rate test is reached, and wages were going up by X per cent against a Y per cent inflation rate which predicted that an interest rate rise of Z per cent would have no general effect and not impact on house prices nor significantly increase repossessions (when X per cent is over-inflated by the top 1 per cent of earners, Y per cent is unrealistically low due to, say, the 50 quid green reduction and/or shops massively discounting to inflate purchases/turnover and not profit) and when it does, instead of tapping on the breaks lightly it slams the gears into reverse while still traveling forward… repossessions go up hugely, house prices suffer a major downward re-evaluation (due to tens of thousands of repossessions hitting the auction rooms) debt rates hit the roof, people stop buying white goods and make do with last year’s iPad/phone/tv/sofa, major retail goes tits up, Amazon goes to the wall, the delivery market and post collapses… etc etc.

“And all because the government fiddled the figures.”

Perhaps Mr Cameron doesn’t want us thinking about that when we could be deodorising our breasts instead.

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Clueless Cameron – as tired as his policies?

Tired old Tory: Is this David Cameron or Ken Clarke? [Picture: BBC, augmented with help by Ian Davies]

Tired old Tory: Is this David Cameron or Ken Clarke? [Picture: BBC, augmented with help from Ian Davies]

David Tennant’s outstanding run as the title character in Doctor Who began by ending the career of fictional Prime Minister Harriet Jones with just six words to an aide: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

The character had been PM for a very short time but had made serious errors of judgement. In that respect – and that alone – she is the David Cameron of the Doctor Who universe.

Cameron and his cronies are currently wheeling out a succession of policies that they want us to believe are new. The latest of these, according to the BBC News website, involves extended opening hours for local doctors.

That’s right – he’ll be piloting a £50 million scheme in nine areas of England where surgeries will be able to bid for funding to open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

Perhaps he’s hoping that our memories have suffered rapid ill-health recently, because this is nothing but an old Labour scheme, painted blue.

Labour offered GP practices extra money to open later in the evening and on weekends, and most surgeries tried it out – until lack of demand meant funding was reduced and hours cut back.

Many surgeries still offer out-of-hours appointments – so it seems unlikely that there is any need for Cameron’s version at all…

… unless he is considering making an appointment for himself. Look at the image. Don’t you think he looks tired?

Other policies introduced during the Tory conference include the indefinite extension of Workfare for the long-term unemployed, which is nothing more than an underhanded plot to make it seem that joblessness has dropped, allowing the Bank of England to raise interest rates, as this blog revealed yesterday.

And the much-touted but low-paying married tax allowance turned out to be even lower-paying for the low-waged who are already receiving help through tax credits, which are due to be phased out in favour of Universal Credit, paid to people whose incomes are low after tax. Their higher after-tax income means their UC will drop by £130, making them just £70 per year better-off.

Meanwhile, the ‘free school meals’ policy unveiled by Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats has also left a nasty taste in peoples’ mouths. It turns out that the number of people receiving such help is about the only indicator of low-income households available to school authorities, and is part of how schools show regulators that SAT results are not their only priority – they are doing their best in areas where parents are out of work. Losing that marker means schools in challenging circumstances will be unable to demonstrate their situation and will suffer as a result.

That leaves just the new tax on plastic bags in England, which is an idea the Coalition stole from the much-maligned Labour Welsh Government – another Labour idea the Tories have adopted (and this should serve as a warning sign for Labour: When Tories adopt your policies, you have drifted much too far to the right of the political spectrum).

Clearly the strain – of trying to dream up new policies that will make his party look good – has taken its toll on clueless Cameron.

Don’t you think he looks tired?

Cameron would enslave you – that is his ‘compassionate Conservatism’

This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter's charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you're stupid enough to vote for it.

This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter’s charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you’re stupid enough to vote for it. Are you?

It seems certain people are starting to think in some extremely self-defeating ways – opening themselves up to exploitation by our government of millionaires.

Look at this, from a Facebook thread started by a person asking when it became normal for working people to be asked to do 14-hour shifts. He said it seemed that companies were cutting down on staff and doubling everyone’s hours up, because it is cheaper, and voiced the opinion that making anyone work that long is barbaric.

In response, another person wrote: “A job is a job. I’d do anything to get one. Even if it was 14 hours a day… No one wants to hire complainers. There’s plenty of people who would work for pennies.” Worst of all (because it shows a lack of awareness that is staggering: “I’d rather keep my family fed, clothed and warm than worry about me.”

This person clearly did not understand that they were buying into a situation in which employers can reduce pay and increase hours as they please, exploiting workers to the limits of their endurance, because “there’s plenty of people who would work for pennies”. Not only is were they accepting the conditioned helplessness against which this blog warned in early 2012 (Stand up, you slaves! – published in Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times, available now in print and as an ebook), but this is exactly the sort of treatment the Human Rights Act, the minimum wage and the European Working Time Directive were set up to prevent.

The Conservative Party would abolish all of them. Only today, David Cameron said Britain needs to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Just think about that. The Prime Minister of the UK wants to remove the human rights of its citizens. If ever there was a reason not to vote Conservative, it’s that.

He’s arguing that abolition is necessary to make it impossible for “people who are a threat to our national security, or who come to Britain and commit serious crimes” to “cite their human rights when they are clearly wholly unconcerned for the human rights of others”.

This is a legitimate concern but it does not require the scrapping of a law that protects people from exploitation in many, many other ways. Besides, concern over this single issue may be addressed by amending the legislation (admittedly not a simple matter as it would involve negotiations with Europe, and this is unpalatable for Conservatives as it suits their purposes for the EU to appear unreasonable).

Do you want the Human Rights Act scrapped?

This would legalise “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (although not torture itself, which would still rank as an assault offence against a person), including poor working conditions.

It would legalise servitude and forced labour – which would be handy for Conservatives who have been forcing jobseekers into such situations for several years, contrary to article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (which the UK Human Rights Act ratifies in British law).

You would lose the right to a fair trial. Coalition plans, under inJustice Minister Chris Grayling, mean you are likely to lose this right anyway, but the UK would be in contravention of the HRA and the European Convention if it puts these plans through and the Act is not repealed.

There is an article regarding retroactivity – nobody may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time it took place. It is a matter of debate whether this could be used to combat the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that was brought in so hastily in March, to retroactively legalise the government’s Workfare/Work Programme schemes (the kind of forced labour that the Act also seeks to prevent). Thousands of people were owed millions of pounds in illegally-removed benefit before the Act was passed. It meant that this money would not have to be paid. Isn’t that punishing somebody for an act that was not criminal when it took place?

You would lose your right to privacy in your family life, home and correspondence. Again, this would be useful for a government that wants to poke around your emails, as Theresa May wants with her snooper’s charter.

You – and I – would lose the right to freedom of expression. We would no longer be allowed to hold opinions, receive and transmit information and ideas, that run against the wishes of the government of the day. This blog would be banned.

(Actually, some of you may think this is a good idea – but do you really want the government to tell you what to think? Do you want people to be imprisoned, or heavily fined, for holding a different opinion?)

You would lose the right to free assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. So any congregation of a large group of people would be illegal, and groups of workers would lose any legal right to have their collective interests represented in an organised way to management. This opens the door to exploitation in a big way.

The prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status would be lost – meaning, for example, that nobody could object to the so-called ‘racist vans’ that were patrolling London recently, telling Conservative voters that the government was being tough on illegal immigrants.

There are others. It is worth looking up the Act, and the Convention, just to see exactly what protections they provide – and what the Conservatives want to take away from you.

They say they would produce a ‘Bill of Rights’ protecting the freedoms they want to keep. These would naturally include only those rights they believe would not interfere with their plans to render you powerless, with no right of redress against their exploitation of you.

Think about it hard.

Are you really so stupid that you’ll let a proven liar distract you, just because he has honey on his forked tongue (as a far better writer once put it)?

I don’t think you are.