Tagged: Northern TUC

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

A third of Hartlepool workers are ‘trapped in poverty’

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

Dave Prentis: Unison reps have more standing than Conservative MPs

A union chief claims his reps have more standing than the MPs calling for reform.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the country’s biggest trade union, Unison, slammed Tory plans to make striking harder . . . and said millions of paid up members give union chiefs more clout that politicians.

He was speaking as of the Northern TUC held a Public Services Alliance Emergency Summit in Newcastle over what unions brand a “constant assault on the public sector”.

David Cameron’s party wants to raise the strike ballot threshold to a 40% turnout, end a ban on using agency workers to cover strikers, impose a three-month time limit after a ballot for strike action to take place and curb picketing.

Today, a strike is valid if it achieves a simple majority.

Defenders of the proposals – which form part of the Tories’ election manifesto – say strikes with low turnout among supporters are not legitimate.

But Dave Prentis said his union has the backing of its 1.3 million members, adding: “As public sector workers, we need to be able to take many forms of action or employers will be able to do whatever they want to us.

“If we do get another five years of this coalition, public services will shrink back to 1930s levels and the trade unions will be hit more than anybody else.

“We represent 1.3 million public sector workers and I really do think that trade unions and their representatives have got more standing than the politicians putting forward these proposals.”

The union chief is lashing out after a long period of discontent which has seen dozens of strikes across the public sector over job losses and pay cuts.

He added the reforms put unions in an impossible position.

He said: : “Turnout is about 25% to 30% throughout the country but we do want to encourage people to vote.

“We spend millions of pounds sending out voting papers to home addresses when life is different now. You can vote electronically and in many different organisations you use email or mobile phone but we can’t do that.

“We are willing to fund a ballot box near workplaces to do a vote just like in a general election, but because of legislation we can’t do these things.

“The only means our members can vote is a postal ballot. This puts us in an impossible position.”

The Emergency Public Services Summit is being held at the Thistle County Hotel in Newcastle city centre on Saturday.

It is chaired by Clare Williams, chair of the Northern Public Services Alliance, and other speakers include Tyneside Labour MPs Dave Anderson and Chi Onwurah.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Jan 2015

Childcare costs in the North East ‘cancel out wages’

Working parents are being crippled by childcare costs with one in five North parents effectively working for nothing, figures today reveal.

New research suggests more than a third of parents in the region with children aged up to five say that one earner brings home less than £100 a month after childcare costs have been paid.

The typical amount brought home by the lower earner in a household is £212.50 after childcare and work costs have been taken into account.

Businesses have now called on the government to extend childcare support for parents with children aged one and two.

The CBI employers’ organisation said that this, and better paid jobs in the North East, would help raise family incomes and get more adults into work.

Regional head of the CBI, Dianne Sharp, said:

“In the aftermath of recession, more jobs were created in sectors with below median wages than jobs in sectors with above median wages.

> And who by ?  How many of these low wages were decided by CBI members ?

“Childcare costs will remain a problem if the region fails to provide higher skilled and better paid jobs.

“Work has to pay and it’s regrettable if childcare costs are preventing parents getting back into work.

“This means we need a long-term, coordinated commitment from government to provide affordable, accessible childcare for all so that parents who choose to can maintain contact with the labour market.

“Reducing the cost of childcare for parents is important, but so is increasing the flexibility of hours that it’s available for.

“As the UK’s labour market has developed, a 9-5 approach still predominates in childcare. Nurseries are increasingly offering 8-6, but we need to see more provision of wraparound care in schools through breakfast and afterschool clubs.”

According to the research, by insurer Aviva, about 34% of parents with children aged up to five said they used childcare to enable them to go back to work.

Of these, 48% use a paid for nursery, 33% use a school, 41% turn to grandparents and just 4% use a childminder.

Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said:

“There is a lot of pressure on women to return to work early because they feel their future career and earnings will be jeopardised if they don’t, but the affordability of childcare makes things incredibly difficult.

“Childcare bills can place a huge strain on many families’ finances and that is one of the reasons why the TUC believes Britain needs a pay rise.

“TUC analysis has shown that once inflation is considered the real value of the average full-time wages has fallen by £2,500 since 2010 and that understandably has consequences for more and more families, particularly with young children.

“These figures from Aviva show that over a third of parents in our region are effectively be working for next to nothing after their childcare costs are taking into account.

“It would be a tragic waste of talent in our region’s labour market to lose out on people who want to work but can no longer financially justify it.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Jan 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

‘Devastating’ number of North East people on zero-hours contracts

A “devastating” number of North East people are struggling to get by on a zero hours contract, a union has warned.

The TUC has published report which estimates there are 52,000 people – enough to fill Newcastle United’s home ground St James’ Park – in the region employed on the controversial contracts, something it says is “deeply damaging for society”.

The study, called The Decent Jobs Deficit, also reveals those on the casual contracts are earning around £300-a-week less than those on a permanent contract.

The report shows average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are just £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers.

The research also reveals that zero-hours workers are five times more likely not to qualify for sick pay as a result of their lower wages.

The TUC says 39% of zero-hours workers earn less than £111-a-week – the qualifying threshold for statutory sick pay – compared to 8% of permanent employees.

Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary of the Northern TUC, said:

We estimate over 52,000 North East workers are employed on zero hour contracts which is a devastating number of people experiencing insecurity, and lack of basic workplace rights such as sick pay.

“Research from our region shows that this type of work can be disastrous for family relationships as it increases pressure on people often in quite desperate situations with no alternative.

“Such exploitation by employers is deeply damaging to society and for the economy since insecure work limits access to basic goods and services such as renting a flat.

“The Coalition might claim we’re in recovery but one reason why income tax revenues are down last year is because too many new jobs are low paid, insecure and with insufficient hours. We need a strategy for decent jobs with fair pay and an alternative to exploitative zero hours contracts offering people rights and respect.”

The report comes as the TUC begins a week of campaigning.

A quarter of zero-hours workers work a full-time week and one in four (23%) work over 35 hours a week, compared to two-thirds (60%) of other employees.

One in three report having no regular amount of income and were nearly five times as likely to have differing amounts of weekly pay compared to staff with other kinds of work arrangements.

The report also reveals women on zero-hours contracts don’t make as much as their male counterparts, earning £32-a-week less, on average, than men employed on the same kind of contracts.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The growth of zero-hours contracts, along with other forms of precarious employment, is one of the main reasons why working people have seen their living standards worsen significantly in recent years.

“It is shocking that so many workers employed on these kind of contracts are on poverty pay and miss out on things that most of us take for granted like sick pay.

“While it is good to see employment is rising, if the UK doesn’t create more well-paid jobs with regular hours we will continue to have a two-tier workforce where many people are stuck in working poverty.

“The increase in casual labour also helps explain why income tax revenues are falling which is not only bad for our public finances but for society too. The lack of regular hours and income makes it difficult for households to pay bills and take on financial commitments such as rents and mortgages.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  15 Dec 2014

North East is suffering a pay fall as wage gap emerges

A widening pay gap between the region and the rest of the country has emerged, alongside a pay fall for the nation as a whole this year.

According to the Northern think tank, IPPR North, real wages have fallen in the past few years in the North-East and North Yorkshire, where workers are generally earning less than the national average.

Between 2009 and 2013 real annual wages have fallen three per cent in the North-East (£740) and five per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber (£1,249.)

Over the same period, the cost of living has risen sharply across the nation.

Social research charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) say the cost of goods and services has gone up 28 per cent since 2008.

Luke Raikes, a researcher with IPPR North said:

“Low pay is a severe and growing problem for both the North East and for Yorkshire and the Humber, as it is for the country as a whole.”

“Workers in the area earn less per hour: nationally the average wage is £13.13, but in North East it’s £12.14, and in Yorkshire and the Humber it’s £12.”

The news has come during Living Wage week, where it was revealed one in every four workers is earning less than the living wage in the region, which now stands at £7.85 an hour.

Most of the districts with the lowest average hourly gross pay were in rural North Yorkshire, which included the districts of Ryedale (£10.43) followed by Scarborough (£10.82) and Hambleton (£11.17).

In the North-East, the average hourly pay in Middlesbrough was the lowest, at £11.05 per hour and the highest was in Stockton-on-Tees, where it worked out at £13.29 per hour.

It comes as a report show a national pay fall. Wages have been “dragged down” this year because of changing trends in the workforce, including younger and less experienced employees, according to a new study.

> But surely changing trends in the workforce are caused by decisions made by  employers ?  If anyone is guilty of dragging down wages, its surely not the employees !

The Resolution Foundation think tank said a downward shift in the mix of occupations towards lower-paying jobs has prevented 2014 from being the year of the pay rise.

But some of this was due to increase employment; changes which led to reduced earnings growth include fewer managerial jobs, rising youth employment and increasing numbers of people starting a job.

> Or, as a comment to the original article pointed out :

It also appears to be due to a cultural change in companies pushing their luck with employees. They know there are less skilled jobs available allowing them to cut wages, implement pay freezes and cut benefits such as pensions. This is definitely the case with my employer. I cant see this changing in a hurry. My employers regularly state if you don’t like it, you know where the door is! Inflation continues, my wage increase doesn’t.

Source –  Northern Echo,  08 Nov 2014

Quarter of a million in North East are not paid living wage

A low pay epidemic is sweeping the North East, it is claimed, as new figures reveal one in four are paid below a living wage.

A report released today by KPMG estimates that well over a quarter of a million workers receive less than the £7.65 per hour experts say is needed for the basic cost of living in 2014.

The TUC claim that some businesses can afford to pay the living wage, calculated by Centre for Research in Social Policy, but are refusing to do so – and the regional economy is suffering as a result.

The North East Chamber of Commerce, however, says there has been progress and last week published a survey which shows 35% of firms increased workers’ pay above inflation last year.

Northern TUC Regional Secretary Beth Farhat called for a bigger commitment. She said:

“People deserve a fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

“But low pay is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in the North East. And it’s adding to the deficit because it means more spent on tax credits and less collected in tax.

“We have the wrong kind of recovery with the wrong kind of jobs – we need to create far more living wage jobs, with decent hours and permanent contracts.

“The fact is there are employers out there in our region who can afford to pay living wages, but aren’t.

“It is now time for all responsible employers to commit to adopting this standard, which enables workers to earn just enough to be able to live a decent life.”

Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, will speak at the Living Wage Summit at Newcastle’s Centre for Life on Thursday as part of a week of action on low wages by the TUC.

Newcastle City Council became the first to introduce a living wage and the authority boosted this to £7.55 in April, and South Tyneside has announced it is to follow suit. Councils in Gateshead, Northumberland and North Tyneside all set up working groups to explore the issue earlier this year.

Ms McKinnell, Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary, said:

“People in the North East are really struggling with the cost of living crisis and with around one in four workers in our region paid less than the living wage, more must be done to tackle the problem of low pay.

“Finding ways to support and encourage employers to pay the Living Wage is a major part of that.

“It is fantastic to see more businesses and Labour-run councils in our region seeing the benefits of adopting the Living Wage, but it is important that we continue to demonstrate the value, both to employers but also to our region as a whole.”

The Living Wage Summit will also hear from local authorities, trade unions, voluntary and community agencies, such as the Child Poverty Commission and employers.

Speakers include James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Vero from the Living Wage Foundation, Reverend Simon Mason and Matt Stripe, HR director for Nestle, who are a committed Living Wage employer.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  03 Nov 2014

NHS campaigners will recreate the Jarrow march

Health campaigners will retrace the steps of the original Jarrow Marchers as part of their fight to protect the NHS.

 Several hundred people are expected to take part in a mass rally outside Jarrow Town Hall on Saturday, August 16, before a group of NHS campaigners head off on the 300-mile march to London.

Evoking memories of the famous 1936 Jarrow Crusade, when 200 jobless men marched from the town to Westminster to demand work, the event is billed as The People’s March for the NHS, with health protesters aiming to cover up to 16 miles a day, reaching the capital on September 6.

The 999 Call for the NHS campaign has already won the support of various organisations, including the TUC.

> That’s ironic… with the original Jarrow Crusade, the TUC of the day circularised Trades Councils advising them not to help the marchers.  The Labour party also opposed it. And probably still would today.

Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said: “This march is being organized by a group of mums in Darlington, emulating the Jarrow March, but in aid of saving our NHS.

“I am helping them organize a rally in Jarrow on August 16, to set the march off.

“They have gained support from many organisations up and down the country, including trade unions.”

Rehana Azam, one of the rally organisers, said campaigners are opposed to many of the changes to the NHS introduced by the Social Care Act 2012.

She said: “We are opposed to what we see as the sell-off of the NHS by this Government,

“We aim to raise awareness about the issues and hope the rally in Jarrow will attract major media coverage.

> Given the recent media lack of enthusiasm about rallies of 50,000 people in London, perhaps best not to expect to much…

“There should be several hundred people massing outside Jarrow Town Hall on August 16, before the march sets off for London.

“We will be campaigning on the NHS and also against things like the bedroom tax.

“The plan is to have support from people like the Mayor of South Tyneside and there should be key NHS workers and trade unionists involved in the rally.

“About 1,500 have registered to take part in the march along the route, with about 50 people marching all the way.”

For more details, log on to www.999callfornhs.org.uk

> For the record, when the original Jarrow Crusade reached London, the Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Baldwin, refused to see any of the marchers’ representatives, claiming it would set a dangerous precedent.

Source – Shields Gazette, 26 June 2014