Tagged: Neil Foster

Figures reveal 28,000 of people in the North East on zero hour contracts for their main job

A total of 28,000 North East workers are on zero hour contracts for their main job.

The figure amounts to 2.3%, or one in 43, of the region’s workforce. However campaigners say it could be much higher.

According to the Office for National Statistics, nationally the number stands at 697,000 which represents a 100,000 leap in the past 12 months.

And because workers often have more than one job, the number of employment contracts offering no minimum hours rose from 1.4m to 1.8m in that time.

The ONS said the near 30% UK increase might not be as a result of a surge in zero hours contracts being offered but due more to increasing recognition of the contracts by staff when asked by researchers about their employment terms.

 However the government has been accused of allowing a low-pay culture to grow unchecked by fair pay campaigners, the trade unions and the Labour party.

Neil Foster, policy and campaigns officer for the Northern TUC, said:

“When we’ve been campaigning on quality employment issues we find that a lot of people who are on a zero hour contract aren’t even aware that they are on them.

“Work from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has indicated the number of people with no guaranteed hours could be several times higher than others have traditionally picked up.

“Zero hours contracts are not defined in law and while this might be problematic for the statisticians they prove even more of a headache for the workers employed through this form of work.”

The ONS figures revealed people on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time.

More than 34% of people on “zero-hours contracts” are aged 16 to 24, a figure in the North East that looks set to rise.

And 34% of people on them want more hours though, according to the ONS, this could be linked to a higher proportion of “zero-hours contract” jobs being part-time.

Some of Britain’s largest employers offer zero-hours contracts including JD Wetherspoon, Burger King, McDonald’s and Sports Direct owned by Newcastle United’s billionaire boss Mike Ashley.

Even Buckingham Palace has offered the contracts to staff working in the summer when the Queen’s main residence is open to the public.

Mr Foster added:

“Many people on these contracts need and want more hours and greater certainty but instead find themselves at the beck and call of employers and in quite a vulnerable situation.

“Working people need to be able to look forward to the future and a real economic recovery relies on greater confidence – but zero hours contracts simply don’t provide that.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015

Underemployed North East people want to work more hours

> ….or, at least, they may not want to but they need to in ordef to survive.

The North East has seen the sharpest rise in the country of underemployed people since the recession.

Thousands in the region are trapped in low paid or part-time jobs where they struggle to get by, unions say.

And figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that 11.5% of those asked in 2013 wanted to work extra hours to gain more money compared to just 7.8% in 2008 – the biggest rise in the UK.

On average, each underemployed worker would like to work an extra 11.3 hours per week.

Business chiefs have today expressed concern at the figures, saying underemployed people can be almost as vulnerable as the unemployed when it comes to getting into financial difficulty.

> Really ? Who’d have guessed ?

Neil Foster, policy and campaigns officer for the Northern TUC, said:

“Six years after the global financial crisis, the lack of hours remains a major issue for one in nine workers in the North East.

“Average pay has not kept up with the cost of living in recent years and so increasingly people are looking to make it up through extra shifts and overtime, which as these figures show is not always available for everyone in our region.

“A prolonged shortage of work can cause hardship, reliance of high cost credit and greater financial difficulties as a result.”

Interestingly, the North East also had the second highest proportion of overemployed people – people who want to work fewer hours for less money.

As many as 9.5% of workers from the region said they were overemployed. However this is down from 2008 when the figure was 10%.

On average, in 2014, each overemployed worker would like to work 11.2 fewer hours than they currently do.

> Who were they ? Newcastle United and Sunderland footballers perhaps ?

Mr Foster added:

“Elsewhere some people want a different work-life balance with more time for things outside of work.

“The average worker in the North East puts in almost seven hours a week of unpaid overtime every week and reducing that would be a start.

> Unpaid overtime ? If you work overtime you should be paid for it or refuse to do it. Unfortunately too many people will meekly knuckle down. Now do you see why allowing the trade unions to be neutured was such a bad thing ?

“It could be that traditionally full-time professions are not pro-actively offering as much flexibility or that workers feel over-stretched.

“Such is the current level of job insecurity that many employees are worried about even raising the issue with their manager.

“Employers should look to create a climate where workers can talk honestly and confidently about what they want from their job.

“People’s lives are increasingly complex and it may well be more flexible working provides welcome opportunities for others and a happier and higher performing workforce overall.”

North East Chamber of Commerce director of policy, Ross Smith, said problems in the labour market remain despite improvements in headline employment figures.

“Both the North East unemployment and employment rates have improved faster or as fast as any other region and we have record numbers in work which is great news,” he said.

> We still have the highest unemployment, so that;s not saying much.

However, these figures emphasise that we still have problems in our labour market.

“The high numbers reporting both over- and under-employment hints at the mismatch between many of the jobs on offer in the North East and the skills of people looking for work.

> So unemployed person, if you haven’t got the message yet – it’s your fault. You should have the right skills. It’s obviously not up to the company to actually teach you the job, god forbid !

“We badly need to address this to help businesses take advantage of the growth opportunities on offer, and for more local people to benefit fully from the economic recovery.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Jan 2015

Twice as many jobs lost in North East than forecast and more to come

Almost twice as many public sector jobs have been lost across the North-East under the Government’s cuts than originally forecast, claims the TUC.

And the union organisation is warning of more to come, with councils facing further cuts in the new financial year.

It was revealed last week that Hartlepool Borough Council is to get £8.3million less in the financial year 2015/16 than in the previous 12 months.

The TUC says analysis of the latest figures show there are 59,000 fewer public sector jobs in the North-East than when the coalition came to power in 2010 – almost twice the figure originally predicted when Chancellor George Osborne outlined the planned cuts immediately after the election.

The TUC says Office of National Statistics data reveals the region’s public sector has contracted by an average 1,157 public sector jobs per month since June 2010.

And with more than seven months’ data still to be collected before the end of this parliament, the Northern TUC is predicting the loss of at least 8,000 more public sector jobs in the region.

Northern TUC policy and campaigns officer Neil Foster said:

“The loss of 59,000 jobs from the public sector has been terrible news for services in the region and for the individuals affected. But it has also harmed our region’s recovery and contributed a deterioration of the quality of jobs.

“The cuts have been even deeper here than many expected because the coalition has made bigger reductions to funding for councils in poorer areas in the north than to more affluent parts of southern England. The North-East continues to have the highest unemployment in the UK and double the rate of the South East of England.

“Only a small proportion of private sector jobs created have been full-time, secure or well paid, which is one of the reason why income tax receipts have fallen this last year.

“Women make up two thirds of public sector workers, and so it is not a surprise that the number of women out of work in the North-East has risen by a quarter in the last two years as more and more redundancies have been made. Rather than appreciate the failure of taking such an extreme and damaging path, the Chancellor announced earlier this month that he wants to see even more cuts in the future, which would be devastating for us here.”

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  29 Dec 2014

Suprise ! North East missing out on jobs despite economic recovery

The North East is missing out on jobs despite the economic recovery, union bosses said today.

The Trades Union Congress said the region was one of four where the likelihood of being in work has fallen since 2010 despite the recent upturn in business.

Union officials say jobseekers in the region have not benefited from better trading conditions in other parts of the country.

The other areas affected are the North West, the West Midlands, and the South East while all other regions have shown a better jobs market.

Figures released this morning by the TUC and based on information from the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey said the North East had an employment rate of 67.3% last year. The figure compares to 67.9% in 2010 – a drop of 0.6%.

The reduction compares to increases in most areas including Yorkshire at 2.4% and London at 1.6%.

Neil Foster, Northern TUC Policy and Campaigns Officer, said the figures showed inconsistency across the regions.

He said: “This study shows that under the previous Labour government the North East was catching up with the rest of the country before the global financial crash hit hard in 2008.

> From personal experience, there’s some truth in that – I got more work between 2000 and 2008 than in all the preceeding decade – all short-term work admittedly (longest 7 months, shortest 3 months) but there was at least an anticipation of things improving. Then it all went pear-shaped again…

“However under the Coalition we have gone into reverse and we’re now seeing the bulk of new jobs created in the south so it’s even harder to find work in the North East.

> As noted in another post recently, a survey of all online jobs reported in Financial Times last Summer showed that London and the South East  accounted for 46 per cent of UK vacancies, compared with just 3.3 per cent in the North East.

Of that 3.3%, many are part-time, temporary, zero-hour contracts or commission-based non-jobs – not much good for us unreasonable people who want, or at least need,  full-time, permanent work

“The Northern TUC warned Coalition ministers in 2010 that this could happen if they dismantled Regional Development Agencies with the significant powers, budget and support they possessed.

“Going forward, we need a devolved industrial strategy that gives our region the tools to build a real recovery that can draw on our significant strengths and benefit people in need of work here.”

TUC General secretary Frances O’Grady said the figures were part of a survey looking at employment in the regions over 20 years.

She said: “Despite the return of growth the chance of having a job has actually fallen in much of England since 2010.

“Whilst it’s great that jobs are created in London and the South East, stronger job creation is needed throughout the country.”

> Government policy :  fund those areas likely to return Tory candidates in the next election. The rest  can rot.

It’s not even a new policy – the Thatcher government actually considered cutting city’s like Liverpool adrift to sink or…well, sink probably.

The figures were released ahead of new jobless statistics this week.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 20 Jan 2014

Right Wing Think Tank Recommends Lower Wages For North East

Right wing “think tank” Policy Exchange (PE) – described by the Daily Telegraph as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right” –  wants pay to be cut for public sector workers in the North East (and Merseyside, and the South West), pointing to research claiming that taxpayer-funded jobs in the region  pay as much as 3200 pounds more than their equivalents in the private sector.

(As usual I have problems with terms like “as much as 3200”, which probably means a few lucky people do, but the majority get nowhere near. But policies like this will always quote the highest figure earned by the minority, rather than the far lower one that is the lot of the majority. Just something to bear in mind…)

What the PE has in its sights is regional pay policies. Matthew Oakley, head of economics and social policy at PE : “Nationalised pay negotiation is not fit for purpose for the modern public sector. It is bad for the economy and bad for public services. While the unions should still have a strong role in the future, we should move to a system  where local public sector employers can decide how to negotiate salaries with employees in order to reflect the realities of their labour market.”

Which I translate as something like – employers tell employees ” lots of unemployment out there – either you accept lower wages or we find someone who will.”

Incidentally, could this be the same Matthew Oakley who was recently described by The Void as ” Britain’s biggest scrounger” ?   It certainly could.

Matthew Oakley has previously authored a paper on welfare reform which includes not only a demand for a greater use of sanctions for part workers, but astonishingly even pre-emptive benefit sanctions for people on fixed term contracts.  Oakley believes that these workers should be stripped of any entitlement to benefits at all if Jobcentre staff decide that they weren’t doing enough to find work even before they lost their job.

So impressed was Iain Duncan Smith with this swivel-eyed nonsense that he gave Oakley a non-job on the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) – the body whose job it is to scrutinise social security reforms..  This means he is now paid  £256.80 a day of tax payer’s cash to provide so-called expert opinions on policies he helped create.

Prior to working at the Policy Exchange, Oakley was in another  tax payer funded non-job at the Treasury where he worked on a white paper outlining proposals for Universal Credit.  Now Iain Duncan Smith is to shovel yet more of our money into his grubby pockets by asking him to carry out what is laughingly called an ‘independent review’ of benefit sanctions.

Whilst over two million people are desperate for any job, Oakley now has three – and two of them at our expense.

Full article – http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/policy-exchange-clown-in-charge-of-sanctions-review/

Nice work if you can get it !

But as pointed out by Neil Foster, head of policy  at the Northern TUC : “PE still fail to compare like with like since many of the jobs in the public sector  simply don’t exist in the private sector  and vice versa.

“They lost the argument on regional pay and I’d advise them to move on to other areas of research such as looking at the wealth at the top that has gone up during austerity, rather than arguing North East nurses, midwives, teachers and school cooks are overpaid.”

You might think that what all this proves is that the wages of private sector workers are being kept low by unscruprulous employers, and that rather than reducing the pay of the public sector, we should instead be raising the wages of the private sector.

Alternatively, you might think that if we should have lower regional wages, we should also have lower regional outgoings – lower power bills, food prices, transport, etc.  But “pay more, get less” is the unofficial motto of organizations like PE and the neo-liberal forces they serve.

You might also like to bear in mind that a study for the GMB union shows 631,000 public sector jobs have been lost since the Coalition came to power in 2010,
and the union predicts that fresh cuts being eyed by Tory Chancellor George Osborne will take that figure over a million before the next election in May 2015.

GMB national officer Brian Strutton said: “These statistics show the devastating effect of this Government’s austerity cuts on total public sector employment. Some parts of the country that are most dependent on the public sector to support their local economies have been hardest hit.The tragedy is that the worse is yet to come.

“The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for net total public sector job losses during the lifetime of this Parliament means that the prospect for the next two years could be up to a further 400,000 job losses.”

Still, as we’ve often been told, the private sector will take up the slack and replace all those lost public sector jobs, albeit for lower wages.

It doesn’t seem to be happening. Isn’t that strange ?

You don’t think they might have been lying to us, do you ?