Fair Work Commission

The Unions21 Fair Work Commission will bring together new ideas on how we reduce unfairness in the workplace and improve the offer to British workers.


Running from November 2012 to March 2013 the inquiry will be guided by Commissioners Sue Ferns (Chair of Unions21), Lesley Mercer (President of the TUC), Manuel Cortes (General Secretary of TSSA), Carl Roper (TUC National Organiser), Lord John Monks (A member of the Unions21 Board of Directors) and Byron Taylor (TULO National Trade Union Liaison Officer). The Vice-Chairs are the members of the Unions21 steering committee including the Commission’s Secretary Dan Whittle.


To submit evidence to the Commission take the survey by clicking here. Or email your input on the questions below to dwhittle@atl.org.uk. The written evidence gathering ends on 10th January 2013.


1) How can we break down barriers to fairness in the workplace?

2) In what ways can workplaces be made more family friendly?

3) In what ways can work be made more secure?

4) In what ways can we make pay fairer?

5) How can we make every job part of a career?

6) How can fair work contribute to good economic performance and successful modern business?


Please specify if you want your evidence to be public or private. You may be called for the Commission’s oral hearings in January.


News from the Commission is published below.

UK workers would vote to stay part of Europe

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.

Fair Work Commission has highlighted widespread public support for reps on boards

A poll by Survation for the Unions21 Fair Work Commission has highlighted widespread public support for legally guaranteed employee board representatives.


The poll revealed that 76% of UK employees and 89% of trade union members are in favour of workforce representatives sitting on company boards of directors, with only 6% of respondents opposed to the idea.


Those employees who voted Labour in 2010 were the most favourably disposed, with 85% in support, followed by Liberal Democrat voters with 81% and Conservative voters with 70%.


The most popular proportion was 10-20% of board seats, with over half of all respondents (53%) saying they would support 10% or 20% of seats on company boards being reserved by law for workforce representatives.


Only 7% of employees were opposed to legally reserving any seats for workforce representatives.


This news comes after a period of considerable political interest in improving corporate governance and making companies more accountable to their various stakeholders.


All three party leaders have spoken in the last 18 months about the need to move towards more ‘responsible capitalism’ and a ‘John Lewis Economy’, and both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have expressed support for the idea of workers sitting on remuneration committees, but as of yet there has been little in the way of concrete action in this area.


Unions21 Chair Sue Ferns said:

“This polling data confirms there is a strong appetite to do business differently. It adds weight to the initial findings of the Workplace Employment Relations Survey showing an association between involvement in decision-making and commitment to the organisation. Everyone would benefit from a change in approach, as is already evident from good practice elsewhere in Europe.”


Speaking about the results at a meeting of the Compass Progressive Alliance at TUC Congress House this morning, Unions21 Director Dan Whittle said:

“At the CBI conference in November Sir Roger Carr said big business had forgotten to fair. Consensus has broken out across age groups, genders and political persuasions that to help repair the damage we need more boardroom accountability. Alongside union collective bargaining, new ways to promote employee voice need to be considered – with worker reps on boards a tried, tested and popular example.”


Survation Chief Executive, Damian Lyons Lowe, commented on the findings saying “with over three quarters of the UK’s workforce supporting the idea of employee board representatives, including a clear majority of the voters for all three main parties, this appears to be an idea whose time has come. There has been lots of talking about possible ways to improve corporate accountability over the last few years, and there is clearly now an appetite among the general public to see words translated into action.”


Survation polled 1,004 workers in full and part time employment between 1st – 4th February 2013.

Living Wage attracts customers at Christmas

Embargo Thursday 00.01


Despite the better headline numbers in Wednesday’s job figures, UK average weekly year over year earnings at 1.8% remain significantly below CPI inflation (2.7%) – a real-terms wages cut for millions of workers.


In a new poll of 1,163 people in full and part time work, performed by Survation as part of the Unions21 Fair Work Commission 71% of UK employees – 21 Million workers – report that their wages have fallen in real terms over the last two years.


The poll also found that three quarters of working people (74%) would be more likely to buy products or services from a company that pays its workforce the Living Wage rather than the Minimum Wage.


Director of Unions21 Dan Whittle said: “There is still time left before Christmas for employers to increase the pay of their workers on Minimum Wage to the Living Wage – the evidence is that for those that do this will provide a real boost to business.”


“The Unions21 Fair Work Commission identified unfair pay as the top barrier to fairness, 1 in 5 working people made it their priority. Our polling shows people want pay rises at the bottom and pay restraint at the top to make pay fairer.”


Other results from the survey:

-83% of working people think the current Minimum Wage isn’t enough to meet Living Costs

-71% of UK employees – 21 Million workers – report that their wages have fallen in real terms over the last two years

-A quarter of workers say the decisions as to ‘who is paid what’ in their workplace are unfair.

-71% would support a cap on bonuses at double total base salary


Full data tables can be downloaded here.

Outside the box: Unions could help provide credit life-line for companies too

As discussed previously on UnionHome, Unite is mounting a challenge to payday lenders with high interest rates, with plans to establish a nationwide credit union network.


But how about the idea of unions working with peer to peer lenders, not excluding those that provide credit to small businesses?


Crowd funding describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, to support a wide variety of activities including businesses. Like banks, but better.


Lancashire County Council is looking to reinvest money into businesses through a partnership with crowd funder Funding Circle.


As the Bridging and Commercial website reports:Lancashire’s 52,000 small businesses are responsible for more than 50 per cent of local private sector employment. A recent study by Funding Circle indicated the potential economic boost that could be unlocked through better access to finance and 42 per cent of small businesses in the North West stated that they would increase staff numbers if they could obtain finance. 


By supporting crowd funding politically and financially, unions would be indirectly supporting their members and creating jobs should businesses be able to take out loans. And as an article on the problems faced by American food company Hostess wryly points out – union members could have a say in the running of a business, including ensuring fair work practices,  if they part funded it.


Dan Whittle writes in a personal capacity

John Park joins Fair Work Commission

John Park, policy and strategy director of the union Community, has joined the Unions21 Fair Work Commission as a Commissioner.


John brings a wealth of experience to the Commission including his work to promote fair pay through his Living Wage (Scotland) Bill, which had the backing of trade unions and child poverty campaigners.

New poll reveals extent of unfair power relationship in the workplace

Unions21 Press Release Embargoed 0000 Friday 7 December


Underemployment and lack of job security could be breeding disempowerment.


A poll by Survation for the Unions21 Fair Work Commission has revealed that 72% of British workers feel that employers have more power than employees, with average employees feeling that employers have more than twice as much power in the workplace as they do.


The poll also highlighted significant concern among employees that this unequal power relationship is being abused by their employers; when asked what they considered the top issue that unions need to concentrate on improving, “Protection from bad employers” was rated top, listed by 27% of respondents.


The main causes of this imbalance seem to be a rise in part-time over full-time work and lack of job security due to high unemployment, both of which give employers leverage to exploit their workers. “Job security” was rated the second most important issue for unions to address, by 26% of respondents, with pay issues close behind on 24.6%. Meanwhile 16% of part-time workers said that they felt employees had “no power” at all in the workplace compared to 10% among full-time workers.


Changing work patterns during the recession mean more people are in part-time work. The number of people in full-time jobs has fallen, while the number in part-time employment has increased. A quarter of those in part-time roles saying they want to work longer each week, official figures show.


Over half of all respondents, 56%, feel that issues of unfairness were more often avoided than acknowledged and resolved in their workplace.


Full data tables are available here.


Commenting on the polling Sue Ferns, Chair of Unions21 said: “The majority of part-time workers are women, who often feel undervalued at all levels of the labour market. Unions know only too well that despite protection in law, in practice women working part-time continue to be less favourably treated at work. Many are working well below their potential and still face outdated attitudes that hold back their career development.”


Commenting on the data Dan Whittle, Director of Unions21 said: “”These figures suggest that the rise of part-time and insecure work is breeding a feeling of powerlessness among working people. As part of our Fair Work Commission we’ll be looking at ways to right the power imbalance including by extending collective bargaining and union influence. Exploitation is more likely ifBritain doesn’t sort out this power problem.”


“What’s very worrying is that more than 1 in 10 don’t feel they have any power at all.”


“Most working people think issues of unfairness aren’t being acknowledged and resolved in their workplace. This should concern business: Unfair treatment breeds disengagement and poor productivity, putting the recovery at risk. Employees should feel empowered to raise and resolve unfairness – in too many workplaces that’s not happening. It’s a case of fairness forgotten in UK Plc.”


Damian Lyons Lowe, Chief Executive of Survation who conducted the poll said “in a time of economic uncertainty a clear 72% of full time and 77% of part-time employees in this survey (and therefore most of theUK’s workforce) indicate they feel their employers hold the balance of power in their workplace.  In addition, relating to what unions should focus on improving for their members, “protection from bad employers” and “job security” were ranked higher than pay – with the difference being even more noticeable for those working part-time – indicating theUK’s workforce is under some considerable strain.”


Anyone is welcome to submit their views to the Fair Work Commission at: www.fairworkcommission.co.uk



Notes to Editors

*   This press release is embargoed until: 0000 Friday 7 December
*   If you wish to reproduce this press release in full on your website, please link back to the original source: www.fairworkcommission.co.uk
*  Unions21 is a research and policy organisation funded by a network of 21 unions. The official blog of Unions21 is at: www.unionhome.org.uk. The Fair Work Commission is bringing together unions, academics and other organisations to create new ideas around the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘fair’ work. www.fairworkcommission.co.uk

Unions21 Press Enquiries

Dan Whittle

Tel: 07747026406

Email: dwhittle@atl.org.uk

A case of casualisation

One of the core questions of the Fair Work Commission is: How do we make work more secure?


The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has said that it is wrong that in easyjet, a profitable company, there should be such an extensive use of contract pilots.


Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s General Secretary, said: ‘easyJet pilots are of course pleased at the company’s performance which has been delivered through the combined effort of all staff from top to bottom.


‘The travesty is that more and more of those pilots at the bottom are employed on casual and zero-hour contracts through middlemen and employment agencies, who have no job security and who carry huge personal debts incurred because they also have to pay for their own training. Some have to service debts of £1,400 per month on a salary of just £1,600 per month.  BALPA refuses to turn our backs on these pilots .


‘We want to see success in airlines and we want to work positively with employers to achieve it, but exploitation of casual labour is not the answer to the competitive trading environment and we will be using all means at our disposal to challenge easyJet management to stop it. Our message is simple -  if it’s an easyjet plane it should be flown by easyJet pilots.’

‘Fairness Forgotten’ in Business

At the CBI conference on Monday 19 November 2012 the Head of the CBI said big business had ‘forgot’ to be fair. 

Sir Roger Carr said businesses had to do more to act as roles models and repair their reputation in society after years of ‘bad behaviour’. It had been a case of ‘fairness forgotten’ in a number of sectors.

Read more here.