Tagged: Ross Smith

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

North East business leaders call for closer ties between schools and industry as survey finds teens not ready for work

More than one in three businesses who took on North East school leavers rated their recruits as unprepared for work, a new survey has found.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which is part of the Department for Business, asked organisations who took on 17 to 18-year-olds how they felt their new employees shaped up.

More than one in three employers in this region said the teens were “poor” or “very poor” – almost 20% more than the national average, and placing Newcastle and Sunderland behind the likes of Liverpool and Manchester.

When the question was asked of 16-year-old recruits, the proportion of dissatisfied firms rose to 38% in Newcastle.

A lack of experience of working life was the top reason cited by the city’s employers as the quality lacking from their 17 to 18 year old workers.

> Huh ?  They’ve just left school ! How much experience do you expect them to have ?

That was followed by a poor attitude or personality, and a lack of the required skills.

> Lack of skillls ? Well, aren’t you supposed to teach them those skills ?

Poor attitude or personality ? Yeah, are you really the best judge of that, Mr Boss ? Not on the available evidence…

In response both the North East Chamber of Commerce and regional representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses renewed calls for greater links between industry and schools.

“There’s been a real debate for a long while about work readiness, and not just about school leavers, but about people leaving colleges as well,” said Ted Salmon, chairman of the FSB in the North East.

“Sometimes basic things are lacking – it’s not just about maths and English, but about the ability to interact with people, to write business letters or emails, and to get to work on time.

“And we can debate over what subjects are right to help people into work – but it needs to be part of a wider debate between business and education over how we can encourage more interaction.”

> What they really want is a conveyor-belt of disposable, low-wage slaves that already have all the skills even though they don’t know what job they might be doing.

Mr Salmon expressed concern at the apparent difficulties of speaking to schools in a non enterprise day context, with teachers nervous that closer ties with business could mean extra work for themselves or their pupils on top of the usual curriculum.

“Half the battle is showing teachers how what they already do can relate to business,” said Mr Salmon, “and just to even start that is so difficult because there are so many league tables and exam pressures.

“But when you go in and see the children on an enterprise day you see how switched on they are by it – so we need to break down that barrier and the frustrating lack of communication between schools and business.”

> Perhaps some teachers can see all too clearly where its all leading…

NECC director of policy, Ross Smith, agreed. “Links between education and business are essential to ensure we are producing young people who are ready to fill roles within the North East labour market and are comfortable in the working environment,” he said.

> 16-hour a week cleaning jobs ? Zero-hour contracts ? That seems to be mainly what’s on offer in my job searches within the North East labour market.

“Likewise, we must take the fear out of employing, training or simply giving experience to young people. According to our own 2014 Workforce Survey, businesses see this as costly, time-consuming and restrictive – this must be addressed.

> Or they could see it as an investment in the future. They always used to. But now, of course, its anything for a quick profit, including the workforce.

“A great deal of progress has been made in recent years, but we must continue to work hard if we are to make significant in-roads into addressing regional youth unemployment and potential skills shortages in key sectors in our region.”

> No, a great deal of progress has not been made – we’ve gone backwards, so that now everyone is expected to be fully trained before they start the job.

NECC’s own 2014 Workforce Survey actually painted a bleaker picture of what the region’s firms think of teenagers, with almost three quarters of employers reporting that sixth formers and college leavers were unprepared for work.

> Probably not as bleak a picture as what teenagers think of employers !

Just over half also complained that graduates were not ready – with the main reason given being a lack of work experience.

> Because they’ve just left school ! Good grief, it makes you wonder about the idiots running these companies… or perhaps not.

However, almost a third of the businesses surveyed admitted they don’t offer work experience placements to school pupils, with many saying that placements were too costly and time consuming, or that the requirements set by schools and colleges were too restrictive.

However 52% said they current offer apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year-olds .

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Dec 2014

Budget will only widen north-south divide

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today claimed George Osborne’s fifth budget would only widen the north-south divide.

 

She believes  Osborne’s statement demonstrated the Coalition Government is “out of touch” with people in the constituency.

She said: “He tried to say that the economy is turning around, but households in South Shields who have seen their wages fall while prices rise month after month will see right through him.

“It’s clear whose side the Chancellor is on. Wages in London’s banking sector are rising nearly five times faster than the national average, and even then he won’t rule out tax cuts for the top earners. Meanwhile, those on low incomes are continuing to see their living standards fall.”

Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, labelled the budget a “gimmick”.

He said: “The budget was classic ‘smoke and mirrors’, full of pre-election gimmicks. They announced that they would cut inheritance tax for emergency service workers killed in duty – but this only applies to those leaving more than £325,000, so it is difficult to calculate how many would actually benefit.”

Coun Malcolm said new support to build 200,000 new homes was “simply nowhere near enough to resolve the housing crisis facing this country”.

The budget received a more positive response from a senior member of the borough’s business community.

Julie Lightfoot, managing director of South Shields-based Solar Solve Ltd, said: “As a local family-owned business who exports 85 per cent of our turnover, it’s encouraging that the Government is supporting British manufacturers by introducing a £7bn package to cut energy bills

“Although we aren’t an intensive energy user, every little saving helps, although we’ll have to wait and see what the actual savings will be. However, it’s nice to know that half of the firms that will benefit the most by cuts in manufacturing costs are in the north of England.”

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said: “This is a government that has pushed down living standards to such an extent it has left working people £1,600 a year worse off.

“Osborne and the Tories only stand up for the privileged few.”

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “The Chancellor should have had the courage of his convictions and stood by his support of a £7 minimum wage. Moving to the Living Wage is the best way to raise tax revenue and put money into people’s pockets. It would boost consumer confidence and increase spending in local shops and businesses.”

North East Chamber of Commerce policy director Ross Smith said: “This was a sensible budget, and the conditions within which North East businesses can continue their strong contribution to UK growth have been strengthened by these announcements.”

Source – Shields Gazette,  21 March 2014

The Budget: George Osborne told to focus on North East

he Chancellor has been told his Budget today must address the North East’s unemployment record.

Businesses, house builders and unions have said the Government needs to start growing all parts of the UK economy, not just the South, and urged George Osborne to use his Budget to tackle the number of people out of work in the region.

At 10%, the region’s unemployment rate stands as the highest in the UK, remaining around that level even as unemployment falls in large parts of the rest of the country.

The North East Chamber of Commerce has already written to the Treasury calling for a renewed focus on tackling job creation in all parts of the UK.

Policy director Ross Smith said: “We have seen the recovery really accelerate over the past year. We now need to see measures that will sustain this for the longer term and make it better balanced – not a series of pre-election gimmicks.

“North East businesses are making a huge contribution to that recovery, but doing so within an economic system that is still skewed towards the South East. We need to see measures that will capitalise on the region’s export success, energy expertise and capacity for growth.

“That includes taking better account of the regional implications of taxes such as fuel duty and air passenger duty, better balanced delivery of infrastructure, and greater scope to ensure skills training matches the labour market needs in this region.”

The need for a regional focus was repeated by Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the Northern TUC.

She said: “Most people in the North East aren’t experiencing a real recovery and in fact for many here it’s getting worse, with unemployment for women rising 20% in the last year alone.

“We need a Budget focused on creating more North East jobs, with better quality work alongside with fairer pay. Ministers should end their ideologically obsession with cuts and privatisations to public services and focus much more on a thought-out approach to developing the economy, particularly in regions like ours.

“When eight out of 10 private sector jobs are being created in London it’s clear the current plan isn’t working and the economy is still geared towards London and the South East at the expense of everywhere else.

“There is a consensus across the region about what we need to do, so I’d urge the Chancellor to hand us the economic tools, powers and investment needed to enable us to contribute to regional success and balanced national growth.”

Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes said house building was a key way of kickstarting the North East. He said: “What we need is a tax break to incentivise house building on brownfield development sites – this would help deal with the chronic shortage of housing and make it financially viable for construction companies to take on more apprenticeships.

> Would it ?  Or are we just talking about more housing that the majority of us couldn’t afford even if we are working ?

“The Government has announced their intention on building a New Town at Ebbsfleet, but a tax break like this would help us rebuild areas like Scotswood and Walker Old Towns.”

And the North East-based Home Group has also had its say, calling on the Government to force through better use of public land, making it easier for firms to build.

The affordable housing group called for the creation of special Housing Zones in which, like the business-led enterprise zones, incentives would be offered to kick start the building process.

Source – Newcastle Journal,  19 March 2014

Warning over cuts to public sector workforce in the North East

The North East could be set to suffer from the biggest cut in the public sector workforce for more than half a century, an influential think tank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the public sector outside the NHS and schools could see a 40% cut in its workforce over the next five years if those areas continue to be protected by Government.

Those cuts would disproportionately fall on regions like the North East with high levels of public sector employment, the IFS report says.

The report says the North East is almost “breaking even” with private sector jobs being created to replace lost jobs in the public sector.

But there are fears that further cuts could have a knock-on effect for small businesses.

Luke Sibieta, researcher with the IFS, said the percentage of workforce in the public sector was largest in the North East and smallest in London, the West Midlands and the South East.

The IFS also found private employment rose by more in every region than public employment has fallen since the start of the decade – apart from the North East.

He said: “In every region the private sector is growing more quickly than the public sector but the North East is interesting. In the North East, the private sector just about matched the public sector, whereas in most regions the private sector is by far outstripping the public sector.

“We won’t know exactly what impact this will have until we see what the job losses are.”

The study shows how 26% of people in employment in the North East work for the public sector – a figure 3% higher than the national average and thought to be the reason why the region has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Ted Salmon, FSB North East Regional Chairman, said: “There’s no doubt that the private sector in the North East is growing and we can’t see any reason why this should diminish over the next few years. Our members across the region are reporting increased confidence and are more optimistic for the future. This should see an increase in business investment and more taking on staff to meet ambitious growth plans.

“The cuts to staffing in the public sector will have an impact on businesses, especially in areas like retail where there will be less discretionary spend. It could also have an impact on small businesses supplying the public sector as relationships built up will be lost and smaller contracts get amalgamated into bigger proposals.”

Ross Smith, head of policy for the NECC, said: “If you look at a whole series of economic projections then it does point to the need for quite significant cuts in public spending and what we need is some real honesty about where they are going to fall so businesses can prepare and plan.

“Businesses here have shown real resilience and we are confident that we can face up to the challenges.

“At the moment we are seeing significant employment growth and that is testament to the strong performance of our businesses because that growth has not come from the public sector.

“The public sector is a big customer of businesses in the North East. It will make a big difference to them if it is a case of turning off the tap overnight but if it is a proper plan then businesses will have a chance to adapt.”

Source – Newcastle Journal   15 Feb 2014