The Real Benefit Cheats Are The Employers Who Are Milking The System
Cameron wants to curb in-work benefits. No wonder: just £8bn on benefits goes to the unemployed, while an estimated £76bn, according to James Ferguson of Money Week, goes to people who are working. The government says this shouldn’t be happening. Cameron insists employers should be paying wages people can live on – which, funnily enough, is the sort of thing unions say, although they no longer have any power to make it happen.
It’s what Labour says, too, now the party is out of power. When it was in power, it avoided confrontation with employers offering poverty wages, and with the unions, by kindly offering to make up the difference between the minimum wage and a living wage via the benefits system.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The Tories excoriate Labour because Labour accepted the Conservative idea that employers should be freed from the burden of social responsibility. Labour spent a lot of money on protecting employers from such irksome duties. The Conservatives still don’t want to impose such irksome duties, but don’t want to stump up for the hefty bill that ensues from failing to do so either.
Just one of the woeful consequences of Labour’s drive to support employers by supplementing employees is that it makes the figures look like the Department of Work and Pensions is showering taxpayers’ money on the feckless, when it is actually showering taxpayers’ money on businesses.
Union members staged a protest in Newcastle today against low pay on construction sites.
The demonstration was organised by UCATT and is part of a national campaign demanding a living wage of £7.85 an hour – £9.15 in London – for its members in the building industry.
In Newcastle it targeted the employment agency Hayes Specialist Recruitment Ltd in Mosley Street which, it says, supplies construction workers at rates as low as £7.28 an hour.
Denis Doody, Regional Secretary for UCATT, said:
“The blight of low pay in the construction industry is despicable. Companies are making huge profits, while workers are forced to work long hours in highly physically demanding roles, in all weathers, for peanuts.
“Companies expect workers to work long hours and then at the end of a gruelling week they don’t pay them enough to live on. Until construction companies start ensuring a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work we will keep exposing their greed.”
UCATT says it is concerned that on some adverts Hays Recruitment insists that candidates for jobs must supply their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The union says this is contrary to the law which clearly states that this should be supplied by the employer, who has a duty to ensure it is adequate for the job, properly fitting and the worker has been properly trained.
Mr Doody added: “Agencies need to be brought to book on their legal requirements regarding safety in the construction industry. Thousands of workers are injured every year and a major factor is companies that ignore and bend safety rules.”
A Hays spokesperson commented:
“We take our responsibility to meet our requirements with regards to the pay and health and safety of our workers very seriously.
“Pay rates are determined by employers in line with the industry, legislation and the local market.
“We work closely with our clients and have strict processes in place to ensure that we comply with the necessary legislations.
“We are unable to comment further on specific vacancies.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Jun 2015
Hartlepool Borough Council says it does not support zero-hour contracts in principle – and is encouraging its contractors to take the same stance.
The council has considered six key principles, proposed by Putting Hartlepool First, around improving terms for workers on the contracts.
Councillors for the party said they are incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce, and make it hard for workers to plan their budgets,
A wider review of the council’s use of the contracts is also ongoing, and is due to be completed by October.
There are currently 22 Hartlepool council workers employed on zero-hour contracts but that number is expected to fall.
But it says they may sometimes be the best way of meeting the authority’s needs.
The council’s stance is to be included in its pay policy, and will state:
“The council does not generally support the use of zero-hours contracts.
“However, there may be circumstances where the use of zero-hour contracts is the most effective and efficient way of meeting the council’s needs, and the assistant chief executive (or nominees) will determine when this applies.
“Where employees are employed on a zero-hours contract they are employed on a fixed or permanent basis, are entitled to request a review of their contracted hours at any time after six months in post and are not prevented from working for other employees.”
Contractors employed by the council will be required to pay workers the National Minimum Wage and also encouraged to pay the council’s Living Wage.
With regard to the use of zero-hours contracts, the council policy states contractors will avoid using them.
A report said some council employees work relatively small hours a year either with or without zero hour contracts.
“This type of working pattern would enable employees to be offered a fixed term or permanent contracts ultimately further reducing the number of zero-hour contracts across the council.”
The council will also write to its contractors highlighting its policy. But the council added zero-hour contracts may be the best option where regular hours cannot be guaranteed such as for teachers of courses that only run if there are enough people.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 14 Apr 2015
The Green Party today launched ‘For the Common Good’, the Party’s 2015 General Election Manifesto (1), which sets out a bold, ambitious plan for a fairer society and safer planet.
The manifesto focuses on the Greens’ commitment to restoring and extending public services and tackling climate change.
Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and only the Greens are determined to tackle it by taking serious action to limit our emissions at home and fighting for a fair global deal that secures humanity’s shared future. The Green Party will invest up to £80billion over the next Parliament in renewable generation and energy efficiency.
Real action on climate change will create jobs, reduce energy bills and make life better for ordinary people.
The Green Party stands for a fair economy that works for all and will end austerity and restore the public sector, creating over one million good jobs that pay the Living Wage. The Green Party will introduce a Wealth Tax on the top 1%, a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the banks and crack down on tax dodging to raise £75billion a year by 2019.
The Green Party will take back our health service by reversing the creeping privatisation of our NHS and increasing health spending by £12billion a year. Healthcare must be publicly funded and free at the point of use.
The manifesto was launched by Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader of England and Wales, and Caroline Lucas, who was elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion in 2010.
“Austerity has failed and we need a peaceful political revolution to get rid of it.
“Our manifesto is an unashamedly bold plan to create a more equal, more democratic society while healing the planet from the effects of an unstable, unsustainable economy.
“This manifesto presents the Green Party’s genuine alternative to our tired, business-as-usual politics. We desperately need a more equal society and the policies we announce today pave the way towards a brighter, fairer future for all.”
“We urgently need real leadership when it comes to tackling climate change – and that’s what our manifesto delivers.
“From ending the scandal of cold homes to investing in a public transport system that puts the public first, our plans will make a positive difference to people’s lives, create new jobs and help protect our environment.
“We have put investing in a greener future at the heart of our manifesto and only Green MPs will demand Parliament delivers change that reflects the scale of the climate problem.”
A Labour government would tackle the root causes of the increase in the use of food banks across the UK, with the party to pledge that they “can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society”.
Shadow ministers will promise to solve jobcentre benefit delays, halt the proliferation of benefit sanctions, and address low pay in a five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people forced to turn to food banks.
They will cite Trussell Trust statistics showing that nearly a million people used food banks in 2013-14, figures that are generally assumed to underestimate the number of people who went hungry as a result of food insecurity over the period.
Labour will promise a cross-government approach to end what it calls the “chaos of food policy” under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and will say that a Labour administration will make tackling food bank dependency a specific ministerial responsibility.
A target would be set to reduce the number of people who cite delays in benefits being processed as the prime reason for using food banks. Benefits typically take around 16 working days to process, although backlogs mean many disability benefit claimants have waited for several months.
Studies have shown that benefit sanctions – when payments are stopped for alleged rule infringements – are the prime reason for between 10% and 30% of food bank users being referred for food aid.
Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.
It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.
The plan is a clear statement from Labour that it considers welfare reforms to be the biggest single driver of food bank use, a connection the government has always strenuously denied.
The shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, Maria Eagle, will say in a visit to a London food bank on Wednesday:
“The Tories’ attitude to the relentless rise in hunger in Britain speaks volumes for who they stand up for. They refuse to accept any responsibility for it, despite the fact their policies are making it worse.
“Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”
Numerous studies by charities and academics in the past 18 months have linked welfare reform, austerity and the shrinking of the welfare safety net to the rise in poverty and food bank use. Food banks were practically unknown in the UK five years ago, when the coalition was formed.
However, ministers have insisted there is no robust evidence that social security policy has triggered the rise in food bank use. The welfare minister, Lord Freud, argued that food bank use had expanded because charity food parcels were “free”.
The Trussell Trust, which runs 420 food banks across the UK, is committed to reducing the number of people needing to use them, but its policy is to keep a “safety net” service in place in each major town.
Source – The Guardian, 25 Mar 2015
The Archbishop of York, who chaired the Living Wage Commission, has defended parish churches paying below the minimum hourly rate.
Speaking during a visit to the North-East, Dr John Sentamu said churches that could afford to pay the Living Wage, currently £7.85 an hour outside London, should do so, but rejected suggestions it should be made mandatory.
The Church of England was criticised recently for advertising jobs at sub-Living Wage levels, a number of bishops having just backed the campaign. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the revelation was “embarrassing”.
Speaking in Durham yesterday , Dr Sentamu said:
“Where people are capable of paying the Living Wage, they should do it.
“In my diocese, we do. In my office, we do. Many other church groups do. I believe the FT 100 index ought to be.
“But there are some small businesses where if that became mandatory, they may go under.”
Whenit was suggested the Anglican Church was neither small nor new, the Archbishop said:
“Every Parochial Church Council is a charity in its own right. Every cathedral is a charity in its own right. People talk about the church as if it’s one huge organisation. No, every church has its own governance.
“If you can’t, tell your employees why you’re delaying and when you hope to arrive at a Living Wage.”
Dr Sentamu was speaking after delivering the annual Borderlands Lecture at Durham University.
He told a 150-strong audience at St John’s College that more employers should pay the Living Wage, to support the working poor not “well paid people like me”.
In a wide ranging 45-minute address, he railed against resource, economic, political, social and community injustice, saying society was at a moral, economic and spiritual crossroads and in need of moral, economic and social transformation.
Dr Sentamu also spoke of the “barbarity” of Islamic State, saying they were “using God as a weapon of mass destruction”.
> Well, that’s an accusation that could never be levelled against Christianity….
We all bear some collective responsibility for crime, he said, and instead of asking what law has been broken, who broke it and what they deserve, the justice system should ask: who has been hurt, what are their needs and who is obliged to meet their needs.
> Perhaps the Archbish might like to bend the ear of a certain Iain Duncan Smith on that point…
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Mar 2014
More than a third of Hartlepool workers do not earn enough to live on, according to new research.
Figures from the TUC show 34.7 per cent of people in the town are paid less than the living wage – defined as the minimum hourly rate needed for workers to provide for themselves and their family.
And Hartlepool is the worst place in the region for the number of women earning less than the living wage, with 46.7 per cent of female workers taking home less than the minimum £7.85 an hour.
TUC analysis shows nationally one in five jobs nationwide pays under the living wage – leaving more than five million people on less than subsistence pay.
In the North East, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency tops the list of living wage blackspots, followed by Hartlepool, Berwick, Newcastle North and North West Durham.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:
“In-work poverty is getting worse and it is proof the economy might well work for millionaires at the top, but does nothing to help people on low pay.”
Mr Wright raised the issue of pay inequality in a Commons debate last week in his role as Shadow Minister for Industry, and referred to Hartlepool.
“Almost a quarter of North East workers and nearly half of all part-time staff are not being paid a living wage,” he told MPs.
“It is striking that the people most likely to be in poverty in Britain in the 21st Century are those in work. No-one can honestly suggest that the economy is working well or as productively as it could be when that is the case.
“This country will not achieve our vision of a highly-skilled, well-paid and innovative work force, ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are enjoyed by all in work, if we continue down the present path.
“The taxpayer is having to subsidise, through tax credits and other parts of the welfare state, the failure of many firms to pay a decent wage.”
Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau manager Joe Michna said the centre was dealing with the consequences of low wages.
“These figures come as no surprise,” he said.
“Certainly a large number of our clients, particularly those struggling with their daily needs, would be below what is defined as the living wage.
“We get a lot of people who are on the minimum wage and others who are just above it.”
Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat said:
“These figures show that huge numbers of working people in the North East are struggling to bring home a wage they can live off.
“Extending the living wage is a vital step towards tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty in parts of the North East – and Britain as a whole.
“Working families have experienced the biggest squeeze on their living standards since Victorian times, and these living wage figures show that women are disproportionately affected.
“Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom, and the government’s mantra about ‘making work pay’ is completely out of touch with reality.
“The number of living wage employers is growing rapidly and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it.
“But we need to see a far wider commitment to pay the living wage from government, employers and modern wages councils – to drive up productivity and set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 23 Feb 2015
Almost a quarter of all North-East workers – and nearly a half of part-time staff – are not being paid a living wage, new research shows.
Local authorities in the region are facing fresh calls to pay employees and contractors more after a study by the GMB revealed that 23.4 per cent of North-East jobs paid less than the living wage.
Jobs held by women – 29.9 per cent – and part-time roles – 46.8 per cent – were disproportionately affected, the report based on data from the Office for National Statistics showed.
The living wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK.
In November 2014 the national living wage increased to £7.85 per hour outside London.
GMB is publishing the figures to mark the launch of its 2015 campaign to get every local authority signed up to the living wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far made the move, up from 103 a year ago.
So far only two authorities in the North-East – Newcastle and South Tyneside – have implemented or committed to implement the living wage.
In North Yorkshire, two councils – York and Scarborough – have taken the step.
Billy Coates, GMB regional secretary for the North-East, said:
“No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the living wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors.
“There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.
“The living wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits.”
In the North-East, Hartlepool has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 34.7 per cent, followed by Redcar and Cleveland – 30 per cent – and Middlesbrough and Northumberland, both 26.8 per cent.
At regional level, the East Midlands has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 24.7 per cent.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Feb 2015
Food poverty is no longer being seen as a welfare issue as those who suffer from it have got so used to turning to charities for help.
In a report, North East academic Dr Jane Midgley said the huge increase in foodbanks run by the voluntary sector has blurred the lines as to who should be caring for the vulnerable and the needy.
She said a squeeze on incomes, benefit sanctions and rocketing utility bills are the drivers of foodbank use, but people instead see their local council as ‘uncaring’ and ‘part of the problem’.
Dr Midgley, whose research formed part of the Feeding Britain report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK, urged councils to show support for those facing the misery of food poverty and called for more clarity over the root causes of the phenomenon.
“We are increasingly finding that charities, rather than the state, are supporting people in need who cannot afford to feed themselves.
“While we need to recognise the effort this takes and the difference it makes to peoples lives, the boundaries of this responsibility are far from clear.
“Food poverty is not seen as a welfare issue and because of the way charities and voluntary sector organisations have stepped in, people no longer see local government and the public sector as a source of support.”
Foodbank use exploded in 2014. The Trussell Trust said between April and September 2014, more than 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead , Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks.
That works out at 4,289 people a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.
“We are now not just at a critical juncture for how we respond to the issue of food poverty, but also what this means for local policy makers,” Dr Midgley added.
“They need to be able to show, in a difficult financial climate, that they still care and want people who live within their towns and cities to live well and flourish.”
The Feeding Britain report warned that North families are just one unexpected bill away from food poverty. It said the living wage and speedier benefit payments must form part of the solution.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said he had “no indication” people were turning on councils and said staff were supportive of people facing the misery of food poverty.
“We are one of the richest nations in the world and yet we are seeing some of the most terrible cases of poverty in years due to the huge financial pressures being put on hard-working families.
> I do wish politicians would refrain from parrotting hard-working families on issues like this. It implies that those not working for whatever reasion are lazy, and before we know where we are we’re back to the concept of deserving and undeserving poor.
“We are living in a society where rising costs and relentless government cuts across the country are creating much tougher living conditions. Here in South Tyneside we are doing all we can to try and support and protect people who are experiencing the greatest hardship.
“As a council we have committed to the phased introduction of the Living Wage for Council workers from April 2015. This should help people on some of the lowest wages and we hope that other businesses will be able to look to do the same.”
Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, said Coalition ministers were to blame for the rise in foodbanks.
“You can’t sack half a million public sector workers or employ people on exploitative zero hours contracts and expect there to be anything other than a calamitous outcome.
“While ministers enjoy Christmas this week far too many of our people will be struggling, literally, on the breadline. It’s time to stop penalising the poor for the failures of the richest in society.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Jan 2015
South Tyneside Council has confirmed plans to introduce the national “living wage” for around 1,000 staff.
A meeting of borough council last night saw members agree to move forward with the phased implementation of the Living Wage.
From April, the local authority will delete spinal column points 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the national government pay scale, so that no employee will be paid less than £7.29p per hour.
Following the implementation of phase one, the council will then look towards the implementation of the full national living wage rate (outside London) of £7.85 per hour.
Coun Ed Malcolm, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation at South Tyneside Council, said:
“We are working towards permanently protecting our lowest paid workers for the future.
“This is not about giving staff pay supplement which could be taken away at any point – this is about making significant, lasting changes to our salary structure. Staff affected will not only benefit from the extra money in their wages but also from additional benefits like increased pension provision.
“As a council we are committed to the social justice agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.
“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living. However it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ongoing Government budget cuts and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”
The council set up an Independent Wage Commission in June last year to examine the benefits and challenges of adopting a living wage in South Tyneside, which found that a living wage would make a positive contribution to reducing poverty and promoting well-being among low paid workers.
It also said that affordability would be a challenge in the current economic climate, with South Tyneside hit by Government funding reductions.
Coun Malcolm added:
“Of course we would have liked to implement the full living wage with immediate effect but given the unprecedented cuts imposed on the authority we have had to take a prudent approach.
“When we have further information on our future funding, we will sit down with our trade union colleagues to consider the affordability of implementing the full Living Wage from 2016 with a view to eliminating low pay across the council’s workforce.”
Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University and chair of South Tyneside’s Independent Living Wage Commission said:
“South Tyneside Council’s support for the Independent Commission’s recommendation to introduce a Living Wage will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in South Tyneside.
“In recommending its introduction, the Commission were convinced that increasing the income of the lowest paid employees would make an important contribution to reducing the scale of in-work poverty, have a positive impact on the life chances of families, young people and women and, by increasing local spending power, also boost the local economy in South Tyneside.
“The council are to be commended for their support of such an important initiative.”
Latest figures show that nearly a quarter of all workers in South Tyneside are paid below the living wage.
The living wage is set independently, updated annually, and is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK.
Source – Shields Gazette, 05 Dec 2014