Great news for Britain’s worst bosses

The TUC has today slammed new laws that will force employees to pay upfront fees if they want to pursue a sexual harassment or race discrimination complaint against their employer.


From today it will cost someone £1,200 if they want to take their boss to an employment tribunal hearing for sexually harassing them. Worker’s facing racist abuse will also face the same barriers to justice, says the TUC.


The Evening Standard reports that protests will be held today and that employment lawyers predict “chaos”. Andy Prendergast, of the GMB says in the Independent: ‘The imposition of such fees represents the latest in a number of attacks on employment rights by the Govt. The charging of £1,200 effectively means many workers will lose any chance they had to seek redress if they are poorly treated.’ 


Meanwhile, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business Chuka Umunna has said on Twitter that the attack on employee rights shows the Government “want to win a global race to the bottom, not the global race to the top which we strive for.”

Ed’s Speech on Unions & Labour

Speaking on Labour Party reform this morning, Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband said:


“I do not want any individual to be paying money to the Labour Party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so. Individual Trade Union members should choose to join Labour through the affiliation fee, not be automatically affiliated.”


“I have asked Ray Collins, former General Secretary of the Labour Party, to lead work on how to make this a reality.”


“We will have a new code of conduct for those seeking parliamentary selection.”


“We will also urgently agree new spending limits for Parliamentary selections to include for the first time all spending by outside organisations. And the same goes for future selections to the European Parliament and future leadership contests.”


“The Labour Party will establish standard constituency agreements with each trade union so that nobody can allege that individuals are being put under pressure at local level.”


“I repeat my offer that as part of a comprehensive set of changes we should set a cap on donations from individuals, businesses and Trade Unions.”


“I propose for the next London Mayoral election Labour will have a primary for our candidate selection.”


Unions21 supporter union Usdaw has welcomed Ed Miliband’s speech which they have said is a decisive move to clarify the trade union link with the Labour Party and ensure that the relationship is clear to their members and the wider general public. In a statement, the union said “Ed Miliband proposes fundamental changes and we look forward to the extensive discussions that will now take place to work out the detail of the proposals.” Read More…

Unions respond to the Chancellor’s public spending announcement

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding in the House of Commons to the Spending Review statement, said:

The Chancellor spoke for over 50 minutes – but not once did he mention the real reason for this Spending Review today: his comprehensive failure on living standards, growth and on the deficit too.

Prices rising faster than wages. Families worse off. Long-term unemployment up.
Welfare spending soaring.  The economy flatlining. The slowest recovery for over 100 years. And the result of this failure? For all the Budget boasts, borrowing last year not down but up. Not balancing the books as he promised, but in 2015 a deficit of £96 billion. More borrowing to pay for his economic failure.

That is why this Chancellor has been forced to come to the House today and to make more cuts to our public services.


Commenting on the spending review, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“Today’s spending review reveals the true extent of the Government’s failure.  The Chancellor has got it horribly wrong – despite all the promises, the austerity measures and cuts, he still hasn’t got the country out of recession.  We are still in the slowest economic recovery in 100 years and yet all we get from this Chancellor is more of the same.

“The Government is losing grip on economic reality if they continue travelling down the same path, expecting to arrive at a different destination.  They need a plan B and they need it now.

“The idea that the NHS is being ring-fenced would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.  We’ve all paid into the NHS and we expect it to be there to deliver when we need it.

“How can anyone believe the Chancellor on unemployment because the figures do not add up. Despite the best efforts of the private sector any jobs being created are part-time, low wage and do not replace the hundreds and thousands of public sector jobs that have been lost. There are 2.5m people out of work, 1m are young and that is a shocking statistic.

“Instead of more cuts and austerity what the country desperately needs is an economic boost to stimulate jobs, growth and spending.“


Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, said: “The scale of cuts announced today for 2015/16, on top of those already being delivered in this Parliament, will result in many departmental budgets having been cut by a third.


“Additionally, removing pay progression without ensuring civil servants get the real rate for the job will end up causing lower morale and a faster exodus of talent.  This cannot be a viable approach for a Government focusing on reform, fairness and growth.


“Many public servants have seen their incomes fall by around 20% under this Government and the widening pay gap between the civil service and private sector is already making it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the best people, as was recognised by last week’s National Audit Office report.


“For the Government to have reform, growth and fairness in its policy delivery, civil servants need reform, growth and fairness in their employment.  This means a new approach to reward instead of arbitrary caps and cuts; resourcing that matches civil service jobs and training to the priorities the Government wants to deliver; and recognition of the role the civil service plays at the heart of society, rather than simply as a means to reduce the deficit.


“The Chancellor’s announcement today does nothing to address these long-standing problems and simplistically tries to portray public sector pay as a burden to be cut, rather than a means to motivate and recruit those that are tasked with delivering ever greater reform with ever reducing resources.”


Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said “I predict another 70,000 local council jobs will go in these cuts on top of the 420,000 that have already gone. This will take total number of jobs lost in local government to nearly half a million since the election in 2010.


This is more than half of the entire public sector job losses. This has coincided with a three year pay freeze. It really has been a dire time for local government under the coalition.


Council services have already been decimated as a result 26% cuts to local authority budgets and the freeze on council tax.


This further reduction will mean the average council having to find another £30m in savings at a time when local communities need more support than ever. Councils are coping by cutting services but they should really be saying ‘enough is enough’. Transferring money from other budgets to local councils is a “smoke and mirrors” exercised and does no change these cuts which are down 10% on a like for like basis.


Things like the £10bn backlog of pothole repairs blighting our roads and the £20bn funding gap for care for the elderly. This means the elderly are left to struggle isolated at home with fewer services or put in chronically underfunded care homes. These are the legacy of council cuts and there are many more examples.


The Chancellors sideswipe at public sector workers by questioning their pay progression also reveals a lack of understanding about pay systems.


People begin at a starter rate of pay and through experience progress to the rate for the job, typically after five years. If anything, public sector workers are actually underpaid for too long and should accelerate much more quickly to the rate for the job. Furthermore, performance related pay systems have been widely shown not to work.


This is just another unpleasant dig at public sector workers who have already been made scapegoats for problems they had nothing to do with.”

Ed Balls on Labour’s spending plans: Room to increase borrowing to fund projects such as housebuilding to boost economic growth

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls has made a speech setting out how the Labour opposition can turn things around on growth and living standards at the same time as dealing with the deficit in a fairer way than under the Tories.


Speaking at Thomson Reuters Ed Balls said: “As far as capital spending is concerned, it certainly does make economic sense now, as the IMF has urged, to bring forward capital spending to support growth and invest in our long-term infrastructure – creating jobs now, bringing long-term returns and taking advantage of very low interest rates.


“And for the future, we need to invest in the homes, transport and infrastructure Britain needs and ensure a recovery made by the many. Of course, here too we will only set our plans for investing in Britain’s future in the light of the economic circumstances at the time, and the needs of economic growth, informed by the findings of the Armitt review into Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs.”


The speech gives trade unions space to make the case for what the changed spending priorities might be and what the level and nature of capital spending might be.


“…on infrastructure, how should we set priorities within rail spending, and between rail investment, trunk roads, expanding airport capacity, delivering super-fast broadband across the whole country, modernising our energy infrastructure and improving our flood defences?These are some of the questions our zero-based spending review will ask.”


Rather than commiting to Tory spending limits, Ed has put forward a distinct approach to the economy.

My speech to the Prospect Big Pay Debate

I took part in a debate on pay at a Prospect union learning at work day in Harwell.


Here’s the transcript of my speech:


Thanks for having me here.


For a quick intro to Unions21: Frances O’Grady talking about us at our conference earlier this year 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.” – so you get the idea.
We’re concerned with everything to do with unions. Pay is a key aspect. The ‘trade union premium’ – the fact trade union members receive higher wages – remains central to the union offer.
But there’s wider issues in the current economic circumstances than that ever present ‘premium’.


So I want to ask today – Can we dare to dream of Fair Pay?

Read More…

MPs will today debate the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB)

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…

We will say “Never Again” again

On Easter Sunday I spoke at the NASUWT conference in Bournemouth at a fringe meeting on austerity, here’s my speech:

young workers publication

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.

Read More…

Where are we in Labour’s policy review?

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…

Take part in research on workplace relationships: London, Bristol, Birmingham

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

Investment in HMRC will deliver a return of more than 26 to 1

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…