“You are one of many and not merely a bystander”

We march and we protest on the hoof – but do we change anything?

 

It is a mainstay of trade union activity and it is an activity we willingly engage in where a government, or some other institution, refuses to listen, engage, negotiate or modify their stance on a direction or policy that we do not agree with.

 

The question is not so much whether a march has any value, moreover do we really think that a mass protest will change anything or have value?

 

The march in Manchester on the 29th was without doubt a success. It was about the future for the NHS but this did not stop many more pressure and protest groups coming on board to express their opinions on a very wide range of issues. I was struck by how many ‘fringe’ elements joined us and at one point did wonder if their presence would water down the key message. But to think this is to miss the point. The small but vociferous pressure groups have just as much right to protest as the rest of us. The fact that we have the numbers and the organisation helps them to make their mark on the political spectrum and the fact they are present illustrates that discontent with the government is far deeper than just a bunch of ‘Tradies’ venting their spleen about the NHS.

 

But leaving the composition of the march aside, why do we march and why do we think that it is necessary to do so? Are we merely participating in a group hug or are we serious that by taking to the streets we will begin to see change but realistically, we accept that we are preaching to the converted. At one point in the March I noticed a person on the sidewalk holding a placard that listed all the things that were wrong with this government. The placard was aimed at the marches. But why show this to us?  We know what is wrong, we know why we are traipsing through Manchester- turn around and show the sign to the people passing by and bemused by our presence.  It is they who need to be educated and asked to think.

 

There is a certain element of togetherness about marching and this is more than just a group hug. It is an expression that we are passionate about our beliefs and we are willing to give up our time to publically express our opinions. Marching often comes at a time when frustration is high and campaign fatigue has begun to set in so that our participation with other like minded people reinvigorates our resolve and gives us a necessary boost to not give in or become complacent.

 

The mass display of banners and other paraphernalia of protest and the diversity of engagement are uplifting and few would argue that it is not. But the central question is ‘does a March change anything?’

 

The answer to this is ‘maybe’ but not ‘yes’. A mass protest is never the game changer that many of us hope that it will be. It is one of many means in our arsenal that we use to promote our cause and our beliefs.  Even the press cannot ignore us despite the sad fact that they prefer a March that is controversial to one that is peaceful and the politicians will praise us, condemn us or try to ignore us depending on where they stand in the political arena.

 

If you are marching for a cause or a belief, you are there because you have opinions and can say that you were willing to be a part of a process for change,  you are one of many and not merely a bystander.

Privacy: one law for bankers, another for seven million trade union members

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The UnionHome Thompsons Solicitors Blog

 

I am not easily surprised by the double standards of this government, but even I was taken aback by its brazen hypocrisy a few days ago when it invoked ‘protection of personal privacy’ to oppose a European Union cap on bankers bonuses.

 

The government gets all protective about bankers having to disclose details to the EU of their vast rewards but when it comes to the privacy of more than seven million union members whose names, addresses and personal correspondence it wants powers to access they are not just less fussy, they don’t care.

 

Part 3 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill gives the government’s Certification Officer – and potentially hundreds of his staff and contractors – scope to require unions to hand over membership records and private correspondence.

 

The government is over-riding the right to privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights for millions of union members – while at the same time invoking the very same right to defend a handful of bankers.

 

If we needed any more evidence of this being a government for the few and not the many, this could hardly make it clearer.

 

This harmless-sounding legislation on trade union ‘administration’ is being rushed through Parliament after a cursory consultation over the summer, riding roughshod over trade union concerns.

 

For years now, unions have had to submit annual membership returns to the government’s Certification Officer (CO).  It’s been open and transparent, giving union members the right to check the records and complain to the CO if something is wrong – and no one has since 2004.

 

Under this Bill, the government wants to intrude much further by:

  • Requiring unions with more than 10,000 members to appoint an Assurer from among ‘qualified independent persons’ as named or defined by the Government
  • Requiring unions to submit an annual ‘Membership Audit Certificate’ (prepared, in the case of those with more than 10,000 members,  by an Assurer)
  • Giving the Assurer the right to access membership records and require union officers to provide information.
  • Giving the CO and CO staff and CO inspectors and Assurers powers to require production of documents and to make copies of them, including individual membership records and private correspondence from ‘anyone who appears…to be in possession of them’ if there is ‘good reason to do so’.

 

If the bill goes through, literally hundreds of state personnel and contractors will have the power to access the personal information of more than seven million union members.

 

The TUC has said: “It is not the business of the State to know who is or who is not a trade union member, and where they live”.

 

But the government is invoking article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to over-ride data protection laws.

 

That article says the right to privacy can be limited only by ‘the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’

 

By implication, the government is saying trade unions are a threat to all these things – and therefore it is okay to do what they propose.

 

The Bill has come from business secretary Vince Cable’s department, yet again displaying a shocking lack of liberalism from a Liberal Democrat minister – and a complete disregard for internationally recognised privacy and trade union rights.

 

I hope everyone who values the right to privacy and freedom of association will lobby their MPs to defeat this legislation.  For more information: Click here

 

 

What direction for Labour and the unions?

The Labour Party in Britain is at a crossroads in its relationship with its 15 affiliated unions (comprising some 3m affiliated unions members). A little known Westminster parliamentary constituency in Scotland– Falkirk West – became the fault line for what could comprise another few nails in the coffin of the historic party of labour that once was the party for labour.

 

Unite union, the biggest union in Britain and biggest affiliated Labour union, adopted a political strategy two years under its new general secretary, Len McCluskey, of trying to win back influence for itself and the union movement. Given that the parliamentary Labour Party, and not the annual conference or national executive, is the key locus of power within Labour, Unite naturally sought to get its activists selected as prospective candidates in safe Labour seats for the May 2015 general election. The method was to recruit new members to Labour and then win the vote for the selections.

 

It targeted some forty seats and was well on the way to securing the prospective candidature in Falkirk West until someone cried foul and accused the union of signing up new members without their consent. The Tories smelt blood and hounded Labour leader, Ed Miliband, as being in thrall to – and under control of – the unions. Within weeks, Miliband announced he was going to change the nature of the union-Labour link, requiring affiliated members to opt-in (rather than opt out as is the case currently). Subsequently, no wrong doing was found on the part of Unite and the two suspended activists were re-instated as full party members.

 

To have a political fund, all unions are required by law to hold decadal ballots and under affiliated union policies, the 15 unions ask members to pay the political levy of which a proportion is used to affiliate a certain number of members to Labour. With the withering of union activism and membership participation, this is far from a perfect system. But it does, nonetheless, mean that union members can act collectively to try to influence the historic party of labour. To opt-in would atomise those members that did and reduce any collective clout they might have.

 

Given that the affiliated unions are the one remaining organised source for social democracy in Labour, to remove their influence in this way would make Labour like theUSDemocratic party, namely, a free floating liberal party with no tangible association with the organised working class.

 

Criticism of Miliband from most of the unions was vehement. Most of all, they called his response ‘dog whistle politics’ and suggested he’d be better to concentrate upon battling the Coalition government over making workers pay the cost of the crisis of neo-liberalism (through the austerity programme) as well as them not gaining any of the fruits of the return of (limited) economic growth. Indeed, a few like Unison told Miliband that he faced an ‘Australian’ meltdown like that of thee ALP if he continued to misdirect his fire on the unions and not the government.

 

For the time being, the unions seem to have won out. The union-party reform was debated for only 30 minutes at this year’s Labour party conference and Miliband made a leader’s speech that was broadly welcomed where he fleshed out some of the content of his ‘one nation’ perspective. But it is a case of battle deferred not battle over for a special spring 2014 conference will debate the commission Miliband has set up under a former chair of the Labour party.

 

Ironically, when it comes to this special conference, Unite might be the one save Miliband’s bacon. It has been the least critical of the unions and, indeed, went so far as to welcome Miliband’s proposals as an opportunity to debate the union-Labour link. Much will depend upon the internal politics of this particular union.

 

So far only the siren voices of a few unions have argued for the setting up of a new party of Labour. The most prominent is the RMT transport union which was expelled from Labour nearly a decade ago for supporting the Scottish Socialist Party.

 

Consequently, unions still remain between ‘a rock and a hard place’ in terms of their political voice. For some of the big affiliated unions Miliband has not offered the clear alternative to the Coalition that they wish – it’s been a case of ‘austerity-lite’, namely, being for cuts albeit of a lesser size than the Coaliton’s.

 

Yet none are prepared to make the break that the RMT urges them to do. They fear it is cold outside Labour – better to be inside the tent albeit unhappy than to be outside it and better to be in the corridors of power even if they have no influence there.

 

This means that the alternative of a new party of labour has never gained the momentum or credibility that it needs to become a viable option for the currently affiliated unions. It is possible they may feel spurred into doing something if Miliband get his way next spring at the special confernence. But equally well, it might be another case of battle deferred if Miliband thinks that this battle will do more harm than good in the run up to the 2015 general election and the unions warm a bit more to him with the fleshing of ‘one nation-ism’.

 

Gregor Gall is professor of industrial relations at the University of Bradford.

Has Labour got what it takes?

As the party faithful assemble in Brighton for a stick of rock, a pint and a group hug, the press have taken a more than passing interest in the uttering’s of Ed and Ed.

 

 Sandwiched between the Lib Dems and the Tories next week, Labour can upstage the Liberals, [not that hard at the best of times] and undermine the Tories; or so one would hope.

 

But the problem is that so far they have failed to do either. A succession of policies that look less thought out by the minute and statements that interviewers have delighted in shooting down does nothing to encourage the casual observer to view Labour as the party in waiting; moreover it could be seen that it is the party that is wanting.

 

Whereas we would have hoped for ground breaking policies that have that ‘wow factor’ we have had statements that are more designed to improve the Tory angle than change the mood music. Even statements like ‘we will repeal the Health and social care bill’ to save the NHS send shivers down the spine. Not because this half baked bill needs to be lost in the mist of time along with the Poll tax, but because you have to wonder what they will have in its place. It was the Blair administration that introduced Foundation status for trusts with Milburn at the helm and it was Hutton as Secretary for State for Health that paved the way for the independent sector. And the less we say about PFI in health and elsewhere the better. Even this leaves aside the concept of ‘patient choice’ that the Tories leapt on to champion further moves for private intervention.

 

But the concern does not end here. More money for parents, scrapping the one room policy and having all of this open to scrutiny in the hope that the Tories will play ball, leaves you to wonder what it is Labour can or will achieve if they want to be seen as the true alternative when much of what they have said so far is based on hope and a promise.

 

It is all very well Ed [Miliband] saying that it will all be all right on the night of the election because it is then that we will have the detail,  when the electorate want to know what they are signing up to now and not bread today and jam tomorrow. There is the real danger that come the national election the voter will go for the devil they know then the devil they cannot trust or understand.

 

But there is another concern that appears to be outside the radar of Labour and its spin doctors.

 

Since the election there has been a large number of new voters and by the time we hit the starting blocks for the next round of electioneering we will have had a load more.

 

Many of these voters will, we hope, be keen to know what the parties will do to give them a future.  To give them the comfort that they will work, receive a pension, an income and a quality of life. In short ‘what is in it for them?’  So far there is not a lot to see and many of the party politico’s on all sides are assiduously designing policies that will improve or affect the middle classes whilst throwing a few crumbs to the poor.

 

Labour has something to offer but the problem is that if it is not brave enough to be bold and instead assumes that by making statements that they hope will appease the masses this will win them plaudits. It will not.

Wales shows way on blacklisting – but it’s a different story from Westminster

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The Weekly Thompsons Solicitors Blog

 

This week saw the governments in Westminster and Cardiff taking sharply contrasting positions on trade union rights.

 

As the Welsh Government announced measures to tackle blacklisting of trade unionists, Conservatives and Lib Dems in the House of Commons voted through measures that threaten the right to privacy of more than seven million union members.

 

The Welsh Government’s stance on blacklisting is in stark contrast to the coalition’s plans to give itself – and unspecified numbers of unelected government officials – unprecedented powers to require trade unions to hand over members’ personal details.

 

Part 3 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, currently being rushed through Westminster, would mean the Certification Officer, his staff and appointees can require trade unions hand over individual membership records and personal correspondence. More than seven million people could be affected.

 

It’s a spiteful piece of anti-union red tape from a government that’s meant to be opposed to red tape.  And it’s a chilling intrusion on privacy with serious implications for freedom of association, which is a fundamental right in the UK and throughout the democratic world.

 

People join trade unions for all sorts of reasons but mostly for protection – trade unionised workplaces are recognised as safer workplaces for example – but it should be up to them and a private matter. As the TUC has put it: ‘it is not the business of the State to know who is or is not a trade union member, and where they live’.

 

The Welsh Government is tackling blacklisting by issuing guidance that, in bids for public sector contracts, companies that have denied employment opportunities because of trade union membership or activity should be excluded.

 

This is a breath of fresh air compared to the attitude of Tory and Lib Dem MPs in the House of Commons this week, who voted down Labour amendments to the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill that would have limited or qualified government intrusion powers.

 

At a time when we know blacklisting is a reality, we should be looking at an enforcement authority and laws that makes blacklisting a criminal offence across the UK – but instead we have this unprecedented and radical intrusion into people’s lives with no evidence as to why it’s necessary.

 

Thompsons Solicitors is working with trade unions, MPs and civil liberties groups to defend the right to privacy of union members and freedom of association, in line with international law.

Read the Thompsons response to the Bill consultation here

The Snakes and ladders labour market facing older job seekers

Chris BallThe employment stats were released this week, and have added better news on employment to Monday’s “Growth is back” headlines. If this is true, what kind of upturn is it and what will the impact be on jobs and work?

 

On one hand there is now good evidence of rising job opportunities. In the period from May to July 2013 overall employment was up while unemployment numbers (measured by both the Labour Force Survey and claimant numbers) were down.

 

So yes, job opportunities are rising – there were 80,000 more people in work in broad 16 to 64 age range in the last quarter. This brought the total employed up to 29.84 million and resulted in 24,000 fewer unemployed. But unemployment will be too high for a while yet. With 7.7 per cent unemployment we are still above the Bank of England’s own target of 7.0 per cent.

 

Moreover, youth unemployment continues to rise – there were 9,000 more young people out of work in May to July than in the previous three months. Nearly a million younger people unemployed is a shocking picture.

 

Job vacancies reportedly are on the up (there were 531,000 for June to August 2013, up 7,000 from March to May) but what kinds of jobs is the question? Our labour market already has shortages of key skills but this doesn’t seem to be where the growth is.

 

The journey back to work for the unemployed is as hazardous as a real life game of snakes and ladders however. For every handy ladder leading to the promised uplands of a decent job, there is a dirty great snake waiting to gobble up the intrepid jobseeker. Certainly we seem a long way from a “you’ve never had it so good” style election campaign for the Conservatives in 2015.

 

The TUC reckons that a worker putting in 40 hours a week is £30.30 a week worse off than in 2008 after inflation has been taken into account. Studies have shown that four in every five jobs created since 2010 are in low paid sectors, so we are not seeing much of a feel-good factor at present.

 

If the economy really is picking up, expect to hear more about the skills problem however – and the fact that almost two million more people (mostly in work) are living in Britain than in 2008, as a result of migration. Many continue to come in response to our skills shortages though it would be good to see more of the unemployed (older and younger alike) given a chance to train for the jobs on offer.

 

The economy is strongly polarized in different ways – not least between public and private sectors. The recovery is unmistakably being led in the private sector.

 

While private sector employment rose by 114,000 in the three months to June 2013, public sector employment fell by 34,000 during the same period.

 

Given that a key source of economic resilience over the past few years has been in the rising numbers of self-employed and part-time workers, it may be surprising that both of these categories of workers have declined in the recent period. (Numbers of self employed fell by 27,000, whilst part-time working was down by 15,000.) So are these reductions in part-time and self-employment good or bad news? It is hard to say. One interpretation is that these forms of working were always most common among people who had little real choice. They (or many of them) took part-time work or ventured out into self-employment, whilst deep down yearning for ordinary full-time jobs with predictable pay. Given a choice many would revert to more standard working. Self-employment may offer advantages but in a recession people are more exposed to the uncertainties that go with the territory.

 

TAEN of course will be commenting as usual on the position of the older worker and jobseeker. There will be many in the media who refuse to spin their story as anything other than the inexorable rise of the older, state pension age plus, worker, but there is another side that remains largely neglected.

 

I spoke to a BBC journalist last week about this – she wasn’t really interested. The story about the continuing struggle of the much larger number of people in their fifties who need and want to work is ignored in favour of a simplistic celebration of burgeoning “oldie” workers. (They make great pictures, don’t you see?)

 

Yes, the number of people over 65 in work is indeed rising (by 3,000 in the May to July period) and it achieved and has remained over one million since then. But interestingly, all the increase was accounted for by men aged over 65. Where are the increasing numbers of older women? How much are we reading about their struggles?

 

They are getting used to working beyond the old female SPA of 60 probably, or just quitting to take up caring roles for older and younger family members. Whatever, we should take on board that the experience of older workers and jobseekers in the recession requires a gendered interpretation.

 

This story about older workers really demands attention to the fifty plus age range if the news is to be other than entertainment. The fifty plus age group in work increased by 95,000 in the three months to the end of July and now totals 7.72 million, yet both its contribution and unemployment travails had far less comment than the “one million 65 plus workers” headlines of a few months ago.

 

Long term unemployment continues to bedevil this age group – there are a total of 194,000 long term (12 months plus) unemployed fifty plus workers reported in this week’s figures – the highest proportion in any age group. No less than 46.7 per cent of those who are without jobs in the fifty plus age group are now counted as long term unemployed.

 

Another angle is provided by the redundancy figures. Although the overall number of redundancies in the UK fell in the second quarter of 2013 to its lowest level (123,000) since the first quarter of 2011, the number of people aged fifty plus who were made redundant (49,000) was the highest since the third quarter of 2009.

 

Is the continuing decline in public sector jobs making this skew inevitable because of its higher representation among mature and older staff? It seems a plausible explanation.

 

Also, it might be surmised that older workers are the most obvious “winners” in voluntary redundancy exercises because of their longer service and therefore higher redundancy payments. They could be simply offering themselves as volunteers for redundancy, ready to go and take the money.

 

Some will argue that older people are being “leant on” to leave. This may also be true, though the element voting with their feet in any redundancy exercise, should not be underestimated. People over 50 represented no less than 40 per cent of those made redundant in the second quarter of 2013. With 7.2 per cent of the workforce in the age range 50 to 64 facing redundancy, they were by far the most endangered age cohort. The number heading for the exit doors is little short of a flood.

 

Fortunately, many of these older redundant workers are showing a high level of resilience. Nearly three out of 10 who were successful in finding jobs after redundancy had secured those new jobs by 13 weeks after redundancy. This suggests a “get up and go” attitude that may avoid many of the problems seen in the 1980s when a dramatic spike in long term worklessness was seen among older men made redundant.

 

As I have said, we don’t know too much about the quality of the jobs they are taking but my fear is that some of the decline in part-time and self employed work done by older people will be traded in for other forms of insecurity – zero hours contracts being the obvious example.

 

If long term unemployment (and its greater risks) is the biggest snake on the board for the older person in today’s labour market, it is encouraging that at least some of them are managing to find handy ladders to get them out of danger, but for all that, finding and retaining work at fifty plus remains a hazardous business.

 

Chris Ball is Chief Executive of TAEN – The Age and Employment Network. Unions may affiliate to TAEN and a new individual membership offer is now available for £10 a year. Organisation members and individual supporter members receive information free and concessions on TAEN events. See www.taen.org.uk

TUC lodges complaint against abuse of ‘Swedish derogation’ contracts

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The ‘zero hours’ contract has a twin with a strange name. ‘Swedish derogation’ contracts are now increasingly being used by employers to avoid employing agency workers on the same pay as permanent staff.

 

The two types of contract are part of a common strategy of creating an army of second class workers – or to use the employers’ euphemism: a ‘flexible’ labour market.

 

The TUC says the tens of thousands of agency workers on these contracts are paid less than permanent staff – even though they are working in the same place and doing the same job.

 

It is calling for the contracts to be banned and has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission against the UK government for failing to implement the EU Temporary and Agency Workers Directive properly.

 

Under the regulations implementing the directive, agency workers are entitled to the same pay and conditions as permanent staff doing the same job after 12 weeks.

 

However, the TUC says agencies are avoiding this by employing workers on Swedish derogation contracts that allow them not to pay the worker the same rate as long as they directly employ the individual and guarantee to pay them for at least four weeks when they are between assignments.

 

In Sweden, where these contracts originate, workers still receive equal pay once in post and 90 per cent of normal pay between assignments.

 

However, in the UK, workers have no equal pay rights and are paid either half as much as they received in their last assignment or minimum wage rates between assignments.

 

Although the directive said that countries must prevent the misuse of Swedish derogation contracts, the TUC says it has evidence that the UK government has failed to provide adequate protection.

 

Agency working in the UK has increased by 15 per cent since the recession, and around one in six agency workers is now on these contracts. They are used regularly in call centres, food production, logistics firms and parts of manufacturing.

 

It’s yet another sorry tale of employers being adept at by-passing European directives – and the Government conniving with them.

 

Click on the image to access the full Thompsons Labour and European Law Review

 

The Labour Party should pay more attention to the needs of people in non-affiliated unions

Hugh Lanning was deputy general secretary of PCS until June 2013, below is his article from the most recent edition of the Unions21 journal Forefront, which can be downloaded here.

 

ALL THE publicity in the wake of the selection row in Falkirk has focused on Unite, trade unions and money. Although an important debate, it ignores the reality that most of the trade union movement is not affiliated to the Labour Party.

 

As, until recently, a senior official in PCS — a major non-affiliated union — and an ‘out’ Labour Party member, I had occasion to raise with the party its relations with non-affiliated unions — or rather the lack of them.

 

Of the 58 unions in the TUC, 28 have political funds and just 14 are party affiliated. Most of these decisions are historical rather than political. The affiliated unions are primarily those with traditional blue-collar origins, which established the party or affiliated before World War II. The non-affiliated unions, in the main, are the professional and public sector unions that emerged after the war. Many have created political funds in response to legislative pressure, but use this resource to carry out campaigning rather than to affiliate.

 

Other political organisations target and focus resources on organising within these unions, but the Labour Party does not. In fact, the party has never had a strategy about its relations with what is now the largest part of the trade union movement. Yet these non-affiliates number among their membership many Labour Party members, activists and supporters.

 

People in unions such as NUT, UCU, PCS and Prospect represent upwards of 25% of the identifiable individual union members within the Labour Party and, in reality, probably more. Non-affiliates also represent millions of voters who work and believe in public services. Many are low paid, women and a significant proportion are black. Others are professional public servants. Given the nature of the work they do, many are also active in civil society organisations. Put this way, it is strange that they have not become a target group for Labour.

 

Why not? Obviously the Labour Party is mindful of the relationship with Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (TULO) unions. What is the point of affiliating if you can get the service and access for free? Further, there are no organised structures for developing a relationship with non-affiliated unions, except through the TUC.

 

Non-affiliated unions will, of necessity, have a more distant relationship with the party. But they have much to contribute and are keen to influence. This is a well organised constituency that any potential Labour government can ill-afford to ignore.

 

Given the changes in the trade union movement and the growth of broader social movements, the Labour Party will have to learn to work with organisations not tied by loyalty or affiliation. Whatever happens in the future about the funding of political parties, the number of identifiable affiliated members within unions is likely to continue to decline.

 

The challenge for the Labour Party is to develop new ways of communicating and organising within this climate.

 

It will be critical to identify issues on which it can campaign together with, or at least in parallel to, trade unionists. This can best be done by trying to identify common areas of concern — growth, jobs and tax justice are obvious examples of areas of overlap, if not total agreement.

 

In both private and public sector workplaces there is a climate of fear and insecurity.

 

The pressure during the political conference season will be the demand to repeal all antitrade union laws. A better framework would be to focus on the workplace and identify how the rights and lives of all workers can be improved.

 

Ironically, identifying solutions that will work for all unions, not just a ‘Warwick 3’ deal with those that are affiliated, could produce better results for everybody.

 

Responsible employers should follow the lead on holiday pay

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The weekly Thompsons Solicitors blog

 

Recent news that John Lewis will be handing its 69,000 employees a one-off payment to backdate incorrect holiday pay should serve as an example to other employers to get their houses in order.

 

Following a review of its holiday pay policies, the John Lewis partnership is paying its staff an extra £40 million for holidays taken since 2006.

 

The review was triggered by developing case law on working time. It concluded that their calculations about what their employees should receive while on leave have been wrong by excluding additions such as premiums for working on Sundays or bank holidays.

 

The major judgment on the issue was a Thompsons case – BA v Williams. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that holiday pay of pilots should include allowances on top of their basic salary, which were included in their overall pay.

 

To date, most employers have failed to take heed of this case and are continuing to calculate payments for holiday leave using basic pay.

 

But, at a recent Birmingham Employment Tribunal, the judgment in another Thompsons case – Neal v Freightliner – re-emphasised that normal remuneration – including premiums - should be paid, based on European case law and Williams.

 

The John Lewis example should prompt other employers to address this issue. But if they don’t, the Williams and Neal cases mean they will inevitably lose if they are challenged at employment tribunals.

 

Trade unions can now rely on two recent and authoritative judgments when pressing for members to get their full holiday pay entitlements.

 

Click on the image to access the full Thompsons Labour and European Law Review

We Own It: Why we need a Public Service Users Bill

Cat Hobbs, Founder, We Own It

In 2013 the coalition government pushed ahead with plans to privatise ever more of our public services, taking aim at key British institutions like the Royal Mail, the NHS and the search-and-rescue service as well as announcing plans to re-privatise RBS.

 

Increasingly, this doesn’t look like an evidence-based approach. While private companies like G4S keep letting us down, the public ownership option – for example in the case of East Coast rail – offers a real, practical, successful alternative that has strong public support.

 

We Own It is calling for a Public Service Users Bill to protect and promote the high quality, accountable services that we all need. The people who use public services must have a look-in when it comes to how our public services are run.

 

We welcome Labour’s commitment to applying Freedom of Information legislation to private companies running public services. The party needs to go further, by requiring that private companies also share performance and financial data, and giving the public a right to recall them when they do a bad job.

 

The public should be consulted before any service is privatised or outsourced. Local and national government should be required to look at public ownership as the default option before contracting out, and as a value for money benchmark when they do contract out. Organisations with a social purpose – the public sector but also genuine mutuals, cooperatives, social enterprises and charities – should be prioritised above private companies in the tendering process.

 

We Own It is a new organisation for everyone who wants public services to be run for people not profit. We are a voice for public service users who want public services that are owned by us and accountable to us. The drive to privatise everything has gone too far. Join us to discuss how Labour can help redress the balance.

 

For information about the We Own It joint fringe event at Labour Party Conference with Unions21 click here.

 

Unions21 is not party political and does not support any political faction or policy, but promotes trade unions and their aims by engaging across the political spectrum on relevant issues.

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