The AWB is set to be abolished if the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill gains Royal Assent in its present form.
Labour has tabled the following motion:
That this House notes that the Agricultural Wages Board was set up in 1948 to provide a fair wage and skills structure for agricultural workers; recognises that it is used as a benchmark for other employment in the food industry and that it was the only wages council not to be scrapped in the 1980s; further notes that around a quarter of agricultural workers live in tied accommodation and that casual seasonal workers may move around the country; regrets that the Welsh Government’s wish to retain the AWB has been ignored by the UK Government; condemns the Government for its abolition of the AWB, which took place after just 4 weeks consultation and will take £260 million out of the rural economy over the next 10 years, lead to a race to the bottom on wages in rural areas, reduce living standards and impoverish rural workers, exacerbating social deprivation and harming social inclusion; further regrets that Honourable Members could not debate this issue as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill; and calls on the Government to drop its plans to abolish the AWB.
The Twitter hashtag for this afternoon’s debate is #ruralwages Read More…
On Easter Sunday I spoke at the NASUWT conference in Bournemouth at a fringe meeting on austerity, here’s my speech:
Thanks for opportunity to speak. I’ve been coming to the conference for a few years and it’s great to be able to speak as Unions21 celebrates 20 years of serving the union movement.
Frances O’Grady talking about us at our conference earlier this month said: “I always like to think of Unions21 as the trade union movement’s answer to the TaxPayers’ Alliance – but with less money and more brains.” – which we appreciated.
And the support of NASUWT has always been appreciated through the years.
I’ve been asked to talk about how austerity has impacted on young people.
So: Unions21 as an organisation is 20 – what’s it like to be a 20-year-old person in austerity Britain? And can unions provide credible hope for young people?
I’m going to use some polling conducted last month by Survation for Unions21 of 1000 working people to help describe what it feels like to be a young worker and also present some of a report that was written previously for Unions21 by Professor Melanie Simms on young workers in the recession.
The two main effects of austerity I’ll concentrate on are unemployment and the decline in standards of living, but I also want to bring in some related effects around reduced training and opportunities.
Some of these issues are clear social issues and there’s also issues for unions to organise around too.
We’re currently in the first phase of Labour’s policy review. Jon Cruddas, who is co-ordinating the review, spoke at the Unions21 conference earlier this month and said that there is a stronger framework for joint policy work between Labour and the unions than in many years.
He said it is significant for unions that the review is putting front and centre issues of economic and industrial democracy, vocational skills and apprenticeships and the notion of a modern industrial policy. Read More…
The High Pay Centre, an independent, non-partisan think-tank researching issues of corporate governance and executive leadership, is currently undertaking a programme of work looking at workplace relationships, employee morale and productivity, in partnership with the Unions21 Fair Work Commission.
They would like to conduct a series of focus groups with trade union members, discussing attitudes towards their employers and senior management, how this shapes working habits; and what workplace relationships say about society as a whole. Focus groups are taking place as follows:
- London: Wednesday March 20 5pm, TUC
- Bristol: Tuesday March 26 5pm, Thompsons Solicitors
- Birmingham: Friday April 26 5pm, NASUWT
All responses will be treated with complete confidentiality and all participants will receive £20 payent as thanks for taking part. Please contact Luke Hildyard, Head of Research at the High Pay Centre, for further information via firstname.lastname@example.org
The UK’s current tax gap – the shortfall resulting from fraud, error, non-payment and artificial avoidance schemes – is estimated by HM Treasury to be at least £32 billion per annum, which means that every adult pays an additional £1,000 per year in taxes.
Progress toward closing the tax gap was helped by the Coalition decision taken at the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review to invest £917m in compliance, and a further £150million in Budget 2012.
In its fully costed submission to next week’s Budget, the Association for Revenues and Customs – the trade union representing tax officials – says a further investment of £312 million in HMRC will deliver additional revenues to UK plc of more than £8 billion, a return on investment of more than 26 to 1. Read More…
In a speech to the Unions21 conference today, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, has challenged the Labour Party to introduce policies to reduce growing wage inequality.
Frances said that this should include a return to wages councils that could set legally enforced minimum wages in different sectors. They would involve union, employer and expert members, and could go significantly higher than the national minimum wage in sectors able to absorb the costs.
“We need action to boost wages for low to medium earners.
“The minimum wage must be made just that – with proper enforcement and real punishment for those who break its rules. And we must welcome Labour’s new commitment to get tough.
“And we should also go back to expecting it to increase above both wage and price inflation each year.
“We should also use the power of public policy to spread the living wage. It should be made a floor across the public sector, and we should use the power of procurement to spread the living wage in those who expect to do business with, or receive aid from, the public sector.
“As a former member of the Low Pay Commission I think there’s a gap. It’s never easy setting the same legal minimum for every workplace. And one big issue is that it is obvious that there are many sectors that could easily absorb a higher minimum wage but get the same floor as genuinely hard-pressed companies.
“That is why it was so disappointing to see the landed gentry out in force in the House of Lords this week to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board – something even Mrs Thatcher shied away from.
“Instead we should not just bring back a wage floor in agriculture, but look at renewed wages councils for other sectors too. Just like the minimum wage they would involve employer, union and expert voices.
“But rather than considering the whole economy they would look at the precise details of particular sectors where it is clearly possible to do better than a national minimum. Indeed I am sure some could easily achieve, or even do better, than the living wage.”
Embargoed 0000 08 MARCH 2013
Polling undertaken by Unions21 – and published today (Friday) to coincide with its 20th anniversary conference – suggests that in any future referendum on the EU, UK workers would vote to stay part of Europe.
Of the full and part-time employees questioned by Survation as part of the Unions21 Fair Work Commission, 45% said they would vote to stay in the EU compared to 41% who indicated they would vote to leave.
Writing in the Fair Work Commission’s first report, to be launched at the conference at the TUC’s Congress House later today, TUC President Lesley Mercer says:
“Social Europe has provided working people with more equality, more protection from redundancy, and more information about what’s happening at their workplace, as well as a shorter working week and paid holidays. Any move to repatriate powers can only be but a smokescreen to take these EU rights away from working people, and make them work longer hours for less pay.”
When asked how they might feel about losing some of these rights should the UK government leave the EU or renegotiate the terms of our membership, almost three-quarters (74%) of those questioned said they would be either very concerned or somewhat concerned at such a move. Just 26% were either somewhat unconcerned or very unconcerned at the potential loss of the workplace rights.
Commenting on the survey, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady – who is also speaking at the Unions21 conference – said: “Europe has given us many rights at work but if the Prime Minister gets his way and repatriates workplace rights like flexible working, limits on excessive working hours and paid holidays, these could soon disappear.
“The danger is that just as this government has already made it easier for employers to sack people and more difficult for wronged employees to get justice, so will the many workplace rights which started out in Europe be in jeopardy if we leave the EU or our terms of membership are changed.”
The poll findings suggest that the British workforce is less Eurosceptic than the public at large –a previous Survation poll (06/01/13) found only 36% of the general public would vote to keep Britain in the EU, compared to 54% who would want to leave.
The study also found that the UK’s workforce have concerns over their employment rights. Three quarters (74%) of respondents were worried that rules regarding anti-discrimination, working hours and parental leave would be affected if Britain left the EU.
Backing this up, when asked about what unions should be focusing their attention on, survey respondents cited protection against bad employers and job security as the most important function for unions, alongside concerns about pay.
Long Beach could be a name we come to know well over the coming days.
The International Transport Workers Federation is keeping the vessel under observation after it reportedly loaded at the Mitsui-UGC terminal at the port of Vancouver, Washington State, USA, where unionised dock workers are currently locked out.
The ITF is keeping the port under close watch. Following the Long Beach incident it will be contacting the vessel’s owners and crew and explaining the situation at the port and what action seafarers are expected to take and not to take in these circumstances – in line with the solidarity clause in their collective bargaining agreement. The vessel’s next stop is Nagoyain Japan, where it is expected to arrive on March 23.
Commenting on plans announced in Brussels that bankers’ bonuses are to be capped across Europe, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
‘For all their tough talk on bonuses, the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London are today standing up for the cosy pre-crash arrangements in the City, when bankers pocketed billions of pounds of undeserved bonuses and reckless decisions brought us to the brink of financial ruin.
‘But ordinary people, who have been made to pay for the folly of bankers, have longer memories and will not tolerate a return to the pre-crash status quo.
‘The EU is absolutely right to push ahead with its bonus cap, and the UK government should start siding with the interests of the electorate and the wider economy, rather than the rich and powerful elite in the City.’
Unions21 polling has shown 67% of Conservative voting employees would support a move to cap bonuses at double base salary (72.8% of Labour voting employees).
As part of union action to highlight concerns, two models dressed in high fashion clothes crafted out of packaging materials parade outside the main entrance of Somerset House. Credit: Alastair Fyfe
The Communication Workers Union is helping to hold logistics giant Deutsche Post DHL to account. While the company paraded its wares at London Fashion Week today, unions challenged it over its ongoing abuse of employees’ rights.
DHL is a major sponsor of London Fashion Week and provides logistics for the high-profile annual event. However, its treatment of staff is less than glamorous, argues CWU, UNI Global Union and the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation), which are fighting for DHL workers’ rights.
CWU is deeply concerned over the way the company behaves in some of the countries in which it operates. In Turkey, for example, DHL has sacked over 20 workers after they opted to join a trade union. A case against the company is currently open with the German government. In recent years DHL has used lie detectors against workers in Colombia, Panama and South Africa. It has used agency workers in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India to do the same work as permanent employees but with lower wages and no job security. One of its companies was fined after using students, who thought they were travelling to the USA on a cultural exchange to staff a factory.
CWU General Secretary, Billy Hayes, commented: “DHL is a leading global post and logistics company and should be setting high standards in all it does. As a key sponsor of London Fashion Week it basks in the glamorous flashlights of catwalk fashion and celebrity beauty, yet the way it treats many of its staff is ugly. The company’s public image does not match the reality experienced by its workforce and we urge it to have a makeover to improve employee rights.”
Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union General Secretary stated: “An ethical and sustainable fashion industry must include all parts of the supply chain. DHL as part of that supply chain, needs to clean up its act and respect workers rights in Turkey and around the world”.
Ingo Marowsky, ITF Global Head – Supply Chain and Logistics added: “While DHL struts its stuff on the world fashion stage, we will be making sure the darker side of its operation is on parade too.”