Tag Archives: workforce

May says she’ll fine greedy bosses who betray their workers – and nobody believes it

[Image: Daily Mirror.]

How do you like this load of old nonsense from Theresa May?

Irresponsible company bosses who “line their own pockets” while failing to protect workers’ pension schemes are to be hit with huge fines, under plans to be announced by Theresa May’s government within weeks.

Writing in the Observer after a week which saw the collapse of Carillion, the construction and outsourcing giant, with a deficit in its pension scheme of up to £900m, the prime minister says her government will act urgently to stamp out “abuse”.

A total of 28,000 members of Carillion’s 13 pension schemes are facing a cut to their retirement funds.

Other measures being considered for inclusion in a white paper in March would give regulators new powers to block or place conditions on takeovers that are deemed to put pension schemes at risk. The regulator will also be given the power to request information about how companies run schemes.

Resurrecting a commitment with which she launched her premiership – to govern “not for a privileged few, but for every one of us” – May says that while governments should not get involved in day-to-day management of businesses, the state should act now “in favour of ordinary working people”.

The trouble is, we’ve heard it all before:

https://twitter.com/alexnunns/status/954843757572173825

Sky News doesn’t seem to think her word is worth much:

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams has pointed out that Mrs May had two previous opportunities to do the right thing – and didn’t:

And now?

It’s all true. Watch how this plays out and see if Mrs May does anything.


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How can we force politicians to do what they say?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

We need to talk about the culture of deception that is festering at the heart of the British political classes.

Every party is guilty of this to some degree – all of them. They have all made promises to the electorate and then, once in positions of power, they have done exactly whatever else they wanted.

On Tuesday, Patrick Mercer resigned as an MP rather than face suspension from the House of Commons over allegations that, rather than carrying out the will of his constituents, he had corruptly set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to life Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, after having been offered money to do so by undercover reporters.

His resignation came 11 months after he resigned from the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and this decision was made in the knowledge that a TV documentary was about to present the allegations to the country. Would he have taken these actions otherwise? It’s highly doubtful. Nobody resigns when they think they got away with it.

Nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that this allegedly corrupt MP managed to keep his seat in the Commons for 11 months after the allegations came out – that’s nearly one-fifth of a Parliamentary term when he was still drawing his taxpayer-funded salary. Is that reasonable?

Mercer is, of course, just one individual case. In the lifetime of this Parliament we have seen entire Parliamentary political parties turn on their electors in betrayal. It is to be hoped that nobody has forgotten Labour’s betrayal of the unemployed when it failed to oppose the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that retrospectively imposed penalties on people who refuse to take part in state-sponsored ‘slave labour’ schemes.

Labour’s front bench claimed it had negotiated important concessions, including an inquiry into the effectiveness of mandatory work activity – and when is that due to report? Around 30 Labour MPs are still entitled to hold their heads high, because they rebelled and voted against the legislation in any case.

Far worse is the behaviour of the Conservative Party, who promised that the National Health Service would be safe under a Tory government and then set in motion the wholesale upheaval that we have witnessed over the past few years, with funding squandered on reorganisation and privatisation of services that is intended to lead to the abolition of the publicly-funded health service in a few years’ time.

Pensions are going the same way; the Workplace Pension discourages employers from participation, meaning they are trying to push their workforces into taking up private schemes instead. Meanwhile the state pension has been ‘simplified’ in a way that means people have to work longer before receiving it. The intention is, eventually, to privatise pension provision altogether and ensure only those on higher pay can afford them.

And the Tories are busy abolishing the rest of the welfare state as well. The harsh regime of sanctions and slave-labour schemes run by the Department for Work and Pensions is intended to soften up the workforce – and potential workforce – for the introduction of privately-run schemes, into which you will be expected to pay to insure against the possibility of becoming jobless – the policies would provide your income during any such period (as long as you didn’t stay out of work for very long) instead of the government.

The problem with such proposals is that, if they are run along the same lines as certain health insurance schemes, they would be scams – as the conditions would be rigged to ensure that the companies running them never had to pay out. This is what we have learned from the fact that the criminal Unum Corporation has been advising the DWP on its policies.

And then, worst of all, we have the so-called Liberal Democrats, who promised to eradicate student fees in the run-up to the 2010 election and betrayed that pledge two months before the poll took place, in a backroom power-sharing deal with the Conservative Party.

The same organisation has gone on to support the Conservatives every step of the way to dismantling the welfare state and reducing the vast majority of the UK’s workforce to conditions we have not seen since the early 20th century at the latest.

Many of us have been dismayed at this apparent betrayal by an organisation that we all hoped would have put a brake on the more excessive Tory policies, but VP Facebook commenter John Elwyn Kimber has cast illumination on the reasons we were mistaken.

“19th-century Whiggery, ‘Orange’ or ‘Manchester’ Liberalism, call it what you like, was about the unfettered power of new money – hence identical to modern ‘Toryism’,” he wrote.

“Just as Eisenhower was the last civilised Republican president, traditional patrician Downton-Abbey-style Conservatism of the more socially-responsible sort finally departed British politics after the MacMillan government. Even the sitting-on-the-fence Heathites, the ‘Tory Wets’, were gleefully kicked out of the cabinet by Margaret Thatcher after the ‘Falklands election’ in 1983, with the exception of Whitelaw who was retained [though sidelined] as a sort of sop to the traditionalists.

“Since when, the political consensus has been for whiggery-pokery all the way up till now. So while the understanding of ‘Liberal’ by Lib Dem grass roots voters is a mid-twentieth-century one, all about tolerance and socially-progressive policies, it seems obvious that Clegg’s cabinet are only too happy to be rabid whigs nuzzled up to another lot of rabid whigs – the only difference is in the mood-music provided for the grass roots in each case.”

The message is that we were all deceived – again.

The problem is that there is almost nothing we can do about it that doesn’t take a lot of time – a commodity that is in short supply.

Historically, the UK does not carry a box on the ballot paper marked “None of the above”. This means there is no direct democratic way of refusing all the candidates for election to a particular constituency and demand better. Nor is there ever likely to be, because our corrupt politicians know that would be equivalent to turkeys voting for Christmas.

Alternatively, we can form new political parties and try to beat the corrupt old parties at their own game. The problem with this is one of traction; it takes new parties many years to gain enough recognition to become a serious force. UKIP is only beginning to gain such recognition now, after more than 20 years – and this is as a protest party against membership of the European Union. If that party’s supporters took a look at its other policies, they’d desert en masse.

Another possibility is similarly time-consuming: You actually join one of the main political parties and try to effect change from within. The problem here is that you would be fighting established members every step of the way. It has been done effectively in the past, though – look at the way Labour was transformed into New Labour by the influence of a few neoliberal infiltrators, and consider the damage that has done to the party’s reputation and effectiveness.

The worst option is the most popular: You do nothing. This is, of course, the wide and easy path to disaster – but so many people are feeling disaffected because of the barriers that the corrupt political classes have put up against democracy, that they honestly can’t see the point of voting.

This of course means our government will be elected by an ever-diminishing group of electors, and makes it all the more possible for our ever-more-elite group of corrupt politicians to argue for those who don’t vote to lose the right to take part in elections. You will be disenfranchised.

Then you really will have no power to change anything at all.

Is that what you want?

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Poverty: The situation’s bleak, but the future looks worse!

130617childpoverty

We all owe a debt of thanks to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for its work to reveal the depth of poverty in British society today.

The Foundation’s latest report reveals that – even by standards that have slipped since the Coalition government came into office – in-work poverty has galloped ahead of that suffered by those in workless and retired families – proving once and for all that, under the Tories and Liberal Democrats, work doesn’t pay!

But the situation is actually worse than the figures suggest, because the poverty line is always 60 per cent of average (median) income – and incomes in the UK have been dropping. Some say the average is now seven per cent lower than in 2010; others say nearly 10 per cent.

This means that, if we add in the people in working families who would be below the poverty line if it had remained at, say, 2008 levels, another two million people would be considered to be in poverty. These people are no better-off than they were before the poverty level slipped; they can’t buy more than they could before – in fact, their money goes a lot less far because inflation, even at 2.7 per cent, has hugely outstripped pay increases.

Add in the number of workless and retired families who are also in poverty – 6.3 million – and we have 15 million people in poverty in the UK today. That’s a quarter of the population of the seventh largest economy in the world.

And George Osborne wants us to congratulate him for his achievements over the past three years. Well done, George. You have conclusively proved that you are the worst Chancellor in British history – heading up the worst government in British history.

Let’s look at some of his successes:

The fall in average incomes in the last two years alone has wiped out all the gains made by Labour in the previous decade – and George has another year and a half to put people in even more serious trouble.

Worse still, incomes for the poorest 10 per cent of the population have been falling since 2004/5, because the neoliberal New Labour government did not protect them. These are the people for whom the four ‘D’s – debt, destitution, desperation and despair – will hit hardest.

The proportion of low-paid jobs increased in 2012. Remember that, when the government tells you that more people are in work than ever before. They are not telling you that these jobs keep people in poverty. They are not telling you the fact that, under the Coalition, work most certainly does not pay.

Among those in work, the number paid less than the living wage rose from 4.6 million to five million in 2012. This means 400,000 more working people are having to claim benefits to make ends meet. Work does not pay. The five million figure is one-sixth of the total workforce and includes two million people who had never previously claimed.

Meanwhile, those in benefit are being pushed into very deep poverty by sanctions, the effect of overlapping changes to social security benefits – which the government has again and again refused to measure, and the falling value of benefits due to the Chancellor’s one per cent uprating cap.

More sanction referrals were made on the unemployed between 2010 and 2012 than there are people currently claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (1.6 million, against 1.48 million claimants) – and 800,000 benefit stoppages or reductions were approved. This impacts on the government’s jobless figures, which do not include the number of jobseekers under sanction. Think about it – 800,000 is more than half the number that official figures show are out of work. Also, we know that Workfare is being stepped up, in order to fiddle the figures even more seriously.

The Bedroom Tax and council tax benefit cuts have hit 400,000 families, of whom around 267,000 families were already in poverty.

It is in this context that Iain Duncan Smith feebly attempted to distract attention away from the damning facts by telling the Telegraph that 50 families were each earning around £70,000 in benefits before his benefit cap (the £26,000-per-year, not the one per cent uprating limit) was brought in.

While this may be a shocking figure for some people, he did not provide the full details. How many people are we discussing, per family? Will the cap push them below the poverty line? Considering the facts laid out above, would a job relieve poverty for these families – or make it worse?

Smith – or ‘RTU’, as we call him here (it stands for ‘Returned To Unit’, a reference to his dismal Army career) – has yet again insisted that his diabolical changes are making the system “fair”. Anybody who repeats an assertion such as this, as often as he has, knows that nobody believes it.

Today, he is due to go before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to account for his persistent interference with the statistics. Expect bluster and bravado but do not expect the facts.

For example, he will never admit how many people have died from the poverty caused by his assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance.

That figure alone could bring down this government.

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This Royal Mail privatisation will harm us all

End of an institution: We can all wave goodbye to friendly Postman Pat; the new post-privatisation Royal Mail will be run according to strict for-profit rules and rural areas in particular are likely to suffer.

End of an institution: We can all wave goodbye to friendly Postman Pat; the new post-privatisation Royal Mail will be run according to strict for-profit rules and rural areas in particular are likely to suffer.

Is anybody happy that the Royal Mail is to be privatised?

Personally, I see no cause for celebration. Polls show that 70 per cent of the public are against privatisation – no matter which political party they support – and 96 per cent of the workforce don’t want it either, despite being offered shares in the new company. They’re not stupid. They know that workers in other privatised services have not been able to keep their shares. Will they be able to take the shares with them if they leave?

And what will happen to workforce terms and conditions?

Other people buying shares will have to pay at least £750 to get the smallest stake in the new company – that puts the sell-off well out of the reach of most people in these depressed times. It is a privatisation for financiers, lawyers and accountants. They won’t want to share the profit pot with staff – and profits are at a record high of £400 million per year.

Meanwhile, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government recently nationalised the Royal Mail’s pension fund obligations (its debt) so that taxpayers across the country will have to pay for it. The privatisation means any profits will go to those who can afford to buy the shares. This is bad business. Don’t these two political parties always claim they are the experts when it comes to money? It seems a strange claim to make in the light of such reckless endangerment of public funds.

What of the future? We have seen where privatisation leads, with the flotation of the railways, the energy and water companies on the stock exchange – shares have ended up in the hands of foreign multinationals who have pushed prices up and up, while providing ever-poorer services, and the companies concerned have continued to demand money from the government for any investment; this is because all the profits go to shareholders, who then feel justified in granting huge pay packets to their chief officers.

So the taxpayer continues shelling out for these so-called private utilities while the new owners have the time of their lives at our expense. The workers – and the service – suffer.

This is a change that will affect everyone. I hope everyone remembers who inflicted it on us, when they come to vote at the general election in 2015.

A tale of two plans

Both the Labour Party and the Conservatives have unveiled new plans to revive the UK economy, in the wake of last week’s deeply unimpressive Cabinet reshuffle. Let’s take a look at them.

Labour is offering us the impressively-titled ‘Pre-distribution’ – a system which asks employers to pay their staff more money in wages, in order to eliminate the need for the government to take higher taxes and then redistribute the wealth, thereby lessening the huge differences between the benefits enjoyed by the very wealthy and the privations suffered by the very poor.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, announcing the policy, called for firms to be responsible in their attitude to wages, and to focus on the long-term.

He said it would require a major shift in philosophy for the Labour Party, as many redistribution options – for example, increasing tax credits – will not be possible when Labour next returns to power, although redistribution of tax wealth will always be necessary.

He said pre-distribution – a term he has taken from US economist Jacob Hacker – is about lifting the UK away from being a low-wage economy, because this has made us unable to pay our way in the world. We must have higher wages – and therefore our workforce needs higher skills.

In fact, this is just an impressive title for something Labour has already spent a considerable period supporting – the ‘Living Wage’. The idea is that, while the minimum wage went some way towards lifting people out of poverty, it did not finish the job.

Consider workers who do 29 hours a week on minimum wage. They do not qualify for tax credits and the amount they earn may not cover their outgoings. How do they survive?

Under the current government, the only choice is to borrow, if they don’t have savings. So they go to richer family members and ask for a handout (a humiliating experience, made worse if a person is working full-time) or, much worse, they go to loan sharks.

Recent reports have indicated that people working full-time – 37 or more hours a week – are still not earning enough to cover their overheads and are having to do the same.

The current system therefore makes it possible for people to get into phenomenal amounts of debt, and we know that debt is what caused the global credit crisis of 2008. As more and more people go overdrawn, banks will fall into trouble. The amounts might not be as much – individually – but cumulatively they become a problem.

Also, consider the working atmosphere created by the current attitude to wages. Employers have enjoyed wage increases that have multiplied their earnings by – what is it – eight and a half times over the last 30 years. Employees have seen theirs rise by something like 27 per cent – less than the rate of inflation. Therefore their earnings have dropped in real terms, and that’s why we see the problems I have outlined above.

As a result of this, workers become demoralised. What’s the point of going to work for a business where the bosses make out like bandits and the people who actually create the wealth are treated like dirt? As a result, productivity slumps. Of course it does. Where’s the incentive to produce high-quality work at high speed? This leads to a drop in sales as orders fall off due to dissatisfaction. If the trend continues, the company fails. I have seen this happen to a major employer in the town where I live. It has been forced to remodel itself, cutting back and back, but still fell into receivership and may now be under its second new owner within 10 years. The problem for managers is they never decide to cut back on the source of the problem – poor managers who take too much of the profit; they always cut down the workforce, reducing their chance of profitability still further.

This is also what happened with my last employer – a newspaper company that is struggling because it is top-heavy. I left because bosses ignore my advice and went ahead with a plan that I knew would harm sales of the edition where I worked. Sure enough, within a few months it had merged with another edition. The solution from management? Cut down on anything other than management. Ridiculous.

And, by the way, British industrialists: A saving is not a profit. If you cut back one year in order to keep your head above water, what do you do when it doesn’t carry over into the next?

Labour’s alternative would pay workers enough money to have something left over, after they have covered their costs. They will have spending power. This means they will be able to buy more, invest more – they will have breathing space, and a sense of personal worth. From that will come a sense of pride in their work and a feeling that they are valued by their bosses. Productivity improves, as does the quality of the product. Orders increase. The company flourishes and is able to employ more workers. The cycle of growth then repeats itself.

Isn’t that better?

The plan also shows up the Conservatives’ lie that cutting benefits will ‘make work pay’. Forcing people off of a benefit system that doesn’t pay their costs and into a job that doesn’t pay their costs is no solution at all and any Tory who spouts this nonsense in the media is to be mocked and targeted for unseating at the next election (in my opinion).

In contrast, the Conservatives have announced that home owners will be allowed to build large conservatories and extensions without needing planning permission. The Tories hope a home improvements boom will stimulate the economy.

Don’t laugh; they’re serious.

They haven’t realised that this will only benefit those who, firstly, own their houses; secondly, have enough spare cash to pay for what has been described as a “large” extension to their dwelling and; thirdly, want one. Apparently there are around 200,000 applications a year – that’s a drop in the ocean when you live in a country of more than 60 million.

The relaxation of planning rules will only last until 2015, because the Tories want to persuade homeowners to get on and build these extensions as soon as possible – again, failing to realise that we are in the middle of a time of fiscal austerity, which they are enforcing, and we simply don’t have the cash.

Therefore, the solution proposed by the government is for private individuals to borrow more, in order to fund the scheme and pay the builders. Isn’t that what the Tories have been mocking Labour for proposing on a national level – even though Labour isn’t currently proposing that?

Also, what about the 20 per cent VAT that goes on home improvements?

And what about the increased aggro between neighbours, as our quiet leafy suburbs get turned back into construction sites?

So the choice seems to be: Pay workers more, see increased long-term productivity and less concern over debt; or get homeowners to put themselves in debt by borrowing to pay for home improvements they probably don’t need and create a short-term boost in the construction industry.

Which one gets your vote?

Suicide rate is now the strongest indicator of unemployment

Iain Duncan Smith has been crowing about the private sector after the official unemployment figure dropped from 8.2 to 8 per cent of the workforce.

He reckons we should take our hats off to private sector employers for providing the new work. Well he would, wouldn’t he?

His attitude conforms with the narrative the Tories have been trying to build since 2010, that the private sector would rush in to fill the jobs gap left behind after the Coalition cut the public sector to ribbons – providing decent, gainful employment for the masses.

That story went straight into the circular file when the economy flatlined, right after George Osborne took charge – and resurrecting it now seems a desperate act, especially in the light of the facts.

Firstly, the Olympics have distorted the figures. We don’t know how many employers took on extra hands in advance of the games, so we don’t know how many of those jobs will go again, now that the major event is over. We do know that businesses suffered losses during the games because an expected influx of consumers did not materialise; how will that affect future figures?

Second, the number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job hit a record high of 1.42 million – the most since records began in 1992.

Third, the unemployment rate actually rose in around half of the British regions. This supports the claim that the Olympics distorted the figures, and points to a continuing downward trend.

Finally, if Mr Smith wants a more accurate monitor of unemployment, he should look at the suicide rate – according to a new report by the British Medical Journal.

It found that the suicide rate among men rose by 1.4 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in unemployment.   This means that between 2008-2010, 846 more men ended their life than would normally have been expected; the corresponding number for women was an extra 155 suicides.   On average, male unemployment rose by 25.6 per cent in each of those years, while the male suicide rate rose by 3.6 per cent each year. When male employment rates rose briefly in 2010, the suicide rate dropped slightly.

We already know that an average of 32 people per week are dying as a result of Mr Smith’s brutalities against the disabled; now we know that more than 1,000 have been driven to kill themselves because of the government’s unemployment policy.

Meanwhile, among those who do have jobs, we know that average wages now only last 21 days in the month, meaning that workers have to dip into their savings, ask family for funds, or go to loan sharks for help – increasing the national debt problem and creating a trend that could lead to even more suicides.

I notice Iain Duncan Smith, promoter of the private sector, hasn’t got anything to say about that.