Tagged: Tesco

Tax credits cut – another step towards universal poverty

Business groups have warned David Cameron that he cannot expect companies to automatically raise wages to compensate for cuts in tax credits that are likely to be unveiled in the summer budget.

Industry organisations, including the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) and Institute of Directors (IoD), spoke out after Cameron gave a speech criticising what he claimed was a “welfare merry-go-round” and suggested higher pay should replace tax credits.

There has been speculation that Downing Street could unveil a plan to encourage companies to pay their workers more at the same time as the government announces £12bn of welfare cuts, including reductions to tax credits, next month.

Steve Hilton, Cameron’s former adviser, claimed in a Daily Mail article this week that it was a “complete travesty” that giant retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s are making billions of pounds in profits while they are “subsidised by the taxpayer so they can pay their workers a pittance”.

Full story :  http://northstar.boards.net/thread/149/credits-another-step-universal-poverty

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Hungry ‘freegan’ in court for taking discarded out-of-date food from Tesco

A man who ended up in court after he and his wife took worthless discarded food from a supermarket yard has revealed his desperate plight.

Paul Barker was seen sifting through out-of-date groceries at the back of Tesco in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham,  when the couple were caught on CCTV at midnight on January 5, Sunderland magistrates heard.

But after a judge said he could impose no financial penalty on the 39-year-old for his actions, Barker described his existence as “not really living at all.”

Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said Barker and wife Kerry, 29, were seen in the rear compound of the Hetton Road Tesco Express store, removing a pallet of food.

 When police arrived, Barker told officers the pair were hungry and they knew there would be waste food at the store.

However, Mrs Smith added that, although the items were to be thrown out, they were in a secure compound, adding that Tesco’s policy is not to give away discarded food.

Barker, of Caroline Street, Hetton admitted theft. He already has £300 in outstanding fines owing to the court.

Angus Westgarth, defending, said:

“At the time, they hadn’t had benefits or any money since December. It just seems that the state has failed them.

“They were told they would not get any benefits for a year from December. He is having to duck and dive to feed himself. Without a crystal ball I can see that this will continue to happen.

“He is trying to survive however he can. I think they call this way of living ‘freeganism’. They take waste food and consume it.

“They are managing to live as, I think, Social Services are paying some money for housing. Their children are living with grandparents because of the situation.”

District Judge Roger Elsey said:

“How are they expected to live?

“It seems to me the appropriate punishment for taking food which is of no value is an absolute discharge. I clearly can’t make any financial order.”

> Well done that judge !

Barker’s wife Kerry is due before magistrates this week, charged with the same offence.

Tesco Express in Hetton Road.

Waste food is stored  in the secure compound at the rear.

Tesco Express in Hetton Road.

Speaking at home after the case, Barker said:

“I do it because I need food, I’m not nicking for profit like most.

“You have to be careful with fish, but most out-of-date food you can eat, but things like bread might be slightly harder.

“They should give it to people who need it. But they don’t care, it’s just money making.

“It’s wrong, it’s horrible, it’s like not really living at all. It’s like being in jail. I’m banned from all the shops.”

Barker said he broke his back in a fall while working as a scaffolder and is out of work. He also used to work with young offenders after he got out of rehab, where he was treated for his addiction to crack and heroin, which he used for a third of his life.

He added that his wife has a degree in sociology, but was forced to give up her job at Durham County Council five years ago due to depression. The couple’s children, a four-year-old boy and two-year-old daughter are living with grandparents in Cumbria.

Tesco said that they do donate surplus food to people in need, through charity Fareshare and also redistribute food donated by their customers, to the Trussell Trust.

“Working with the charity FareShare, we have already distributed over three million meals worth of surplus food to people in need and we are working on ways to make sure more surplus food is donated in this way,” a spokesman said.

“It is not safe to take food from bins and that is why we work with charities to redistribute surplus food that is safe to eat to people who need it.

Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 May 2015

New Tesco Express store in Newcastle attracts 1,300 applications for just 16 jobs

A whopping 1,300 people applied for just 16 jobs at a new Tesco store set to open in the North East.

The Tesco Express on Barrack Road, in Newcastle, is due to open its doors to the public on April 14.

The supermarket has revealed that it received the large number of applications – which equates to around 81 bids per post – when it started its recruitment process.

Store manager Iain Anderson, who has worked at Tesco for nearly 15 years, said:

“I was thrilled by the response we received to our recruitment drive. There were so many great applicants which made the decision very tough when it came to selecting the successful 16.

“The positions that have been filled cover a range of roles, from customer assistants to cash office, stock control and bakers – so some very skilled roles for people who are brand new to the company.

“Although our Express stores are small in size, the job roles and responsibilities are huge with massive learning potential.

“It’s great that the roles are so popular and we’re grateful for so many people applying. Tesco is a great company to work for and I believe that our city centre location, opposite the stadium and under student accommodation, is a factor in so many people applying.”

> I think it might have something to do with how desperate things really are, rather than Tesco being a great place to work.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate in the North East has dropped to 7.7%. The rate, for the period November to January, compares to 9.1% for the previous quarter.

The number of jobless people has fallen to 99,000, from 118,000, while the figure for those in work has gone up 11,000 to 1,188,000.

However the North East still has the highest unemployment rate in the country, compared to an 5.6% average in England.

The British Retail Consortium says the sector has always been popular with those looking for work.

Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation, added:

“Retail is a leading employer offering numerous benefits to those with a range of skills. Three million people work in the retail industry and it has always been popular with jobseekers.”

The new Tesco Express will be launched with the presentation of £500 to The People’s Kitchen, a charity which helps to provide food and clothing to homeless people.

Mr Anderson said:

“We are delighted to be able to support The People’s Kitchen, as they do such wonderful work for the local community.

> Perhaps Tesco will be supplying them – fo free –  with all the out-of-date but still perfectly edible stuff they’ll otherwise bin.

Or  perhaps not…

“We are really pleased that they will be coming to launch the new store and join in the celebrations with us.

“My new team and I are looking forward to offering shoppers a clean bright and spacious new store with fast and friendly service.”

The shop will open seven days a week, from 6am until 12am, and will offer a free cash machine, self-service tills, Click & Collect, mobile phone top-up facilities, a National Lottery counter, as well as Costa Coffee and Krispy Kreme facilities.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Apr 2015

Food poverty under spotlight in South Tyneside

Measures needed to tackle food poverty across Britain are being scrutinised in South Tyneside today.

Members of an all-party Parliamentary inquiry team, including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, visited the town’s Churches Together Key Project, at St Mary’s Centre, last summer as part of a fact-finding exercise.

The team also held a discussion session at St Jude’s Church Hall at Rekendyke, South Shields, and visited the New Hope Food Bank, in the town’s Robinson Street.

They heard poignant personal accounts from young borough people forced to rely on food banks to survive, and they were told that more than 1,680 people in South Tyneside had visited food banks in 2013.

Everything the team learned in the borough has helped inform the recommendations they made to the Government on the extent of hunger across the country and the actions needed to address it.

Today Mrs Lewell-Buck and the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, are among those meeting at South Shields Town Hall to discuss the findings of the hard-hitting report.

The report identifies a clear link between the use of food banks and tougher restrictions on access to benefits.

> Like it wasn’t always obvious ?

It insists that, contrary to Government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need.

Among a raft of recommendations, the report calls for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits and make ends meet.

And it recommends a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says:

“We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said:

“We’ve had a great response to our report, and we’ve managed to get the Government to accept that some aspects of the benefits system aren’t working and are causing a lot of hardship.

“I think the Government’s priority needs to be dealing with low-paid and insecure work, as well as the harsh way benefit sanctions are being imposed.

> Yes, we all think so too. So are you actually going to do something about it ? Will your party, if they win the general election ?

“The group’s work doesn’t stop with the report, however. This is an ongoing mission to put an end to food poverty, and that is why I am holding today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for the group and for Shields.”

The Government is now considering the findings of the inquiry team.

A Government spokesman said:

“This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

“As a country, we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste.

“There is a moral argument, as well as a sustainability one, to ensure we make the best use of resources.”

SOME OF THE REPORT’S 77 RECOMMENDATIONS:

–  The Government should provide support for 12 pilot projects across the UK to draw together voluntary and public expertise to eliminate hunger.

– All supermarkets should follow the example of Tesco and add 30 per cent to any food given by its shoppers to food banks.

> Bought by shoppers in Tesco.  It might look a bit more magnaminous if they just gave something without those kind of strings ?

– Local authorities should work with food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage.

> But don’t we have all those things already ? Surely the problem facing people using foodbanks is that we have plenty of food, but not the money to buy it ?

– Credit unions accounts’ should be made eligible for receipt of Universal Credit to encourage use among low-income households.

– Local authorities should begin collecting information on whether landlords in receipt of housing benefit are providing basic cooking facilities for their tenants.

– The Government should reform the benefits system so it can deliver payments within five working days.

> I’m sure it could right now… if it wanted to.

– The Department of Work and Pensions ought to simplify access to hardship payments.

 > And it could do that right now too… if, of course, it wanted to…
Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Feb 2015

Argos, Homebase and Tesco exploit workers with contracts guaranteeing around THREE HOURS a week

A Sunday Mirror investigation has revealed the shocking findings, which would see a worker on the minimum wage take home less than £19 a week.

Some of Britain’s biggest high street stores are paying staff as little as £19 a week on miserly short-hours contracts.

Many working for our major retailers are employed on deals guaranteeing as little as three hours of work a week, a Sunday Mirror investigation has found.

On the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour that would add up to weekly pay of just £18.93 for the minimum three hours.

And even if they work many more hours than that minimum in an average week, some employees are still entitled to just three hours worth of holiday pay when they take a week off.

Companies claim the contracts give working mothers, students or pensioners flexibility. But union research reveals half of those on contracts of less than eight hours a week are desperate for more work.

Staff interviewed by the Sunday Mirror told of people desperately waiting for a call or text offering extra shifts or even queuing up for them.

One Tesco worker, who did not want to be named, said: “Notices go up offering the extra hours available and there’s always a raft of people waiting to sign.”

The mother-of-one, from Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire, added: “It’s on a first-come, first-served basis so there’s a bit of rivalry to get on the list. Occasionally, we might get a text offering us more hours.”

The scandal of zero-hours contracts – under which more than 1.4million workers must be available to work with no guarantee they will get shifts – has been widely exposed. But our investigation is the first detailed research into short hours.

Many employers offering short hours, say the contracts fit around staff needs. But the Unite union claims they are a way to cut costs for firms.

Assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Zero hours or short hours, it’s all the same in terms of absolute abuse of a ­workforce. We recognise that some people might want to work just a few hours a week but in most cases the flexibility is a one-way street and lies with the companies.

“This is a corporate UK which believes it can treat people terribly, particularly the young. Like those on zero-hour contracts, those given short contracts have no ­knowledge of what extra time they will be called to work.

“They are either sitting at home waiting for a text or scared to turn hours down in case they aren’t offered any again.”

Unite claims companies use short contracts to avoid paying National ­Insurance. Firms must pay NI contributions for every employee earning more than £136 a week.

Mr Turner said: “It’s preferable for ­companies to take on two short-hour workers than a full-time employee they would have to pay NI contributions for. This means benefits such as pensions and maternity pay are affected.”

The Sunday Mirror investigated firms across the UK and found that Argos and ­Homebase have some staff on contracts as short as three hours a week. Tesco’s shortest contracts are just three-and-a-half hours.

Arcadia group, which encompases fashion stores Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop, Wallis and BHS use four-hour contracts. Currys, PC World and Next use six hours.

The GMB union claims many of the short contract jobs are full-time posts which have been sliced up.

National officer Kamaljeet Jandu said: “We believe short-hour contract jobs are not new jobs, but old positions that have been broken up. It’s job splitting.

“We feel this is partly so employers can avoid National Insurance contributions.

“The impact of these contracts is the same as the zero-hour arrangement where there is no guarantee of when you will be working or income. That has a tremendous impact on family life.

“A lot of people on three or four-hour contracts will only be entitled to three or four hours’ pay on a week off.”

A recent study showed that 40 per cent of people without full-time jobs want more hours.

The figures, from Markit, expose the truth behind company claims that flexibility is a lifestyle choice for mums, students or retired people.

 The research is backed up in another report by retail workers’ union Usdaw. Half of their members on short-hours contracts regularly worked overtime, some doing as much as 16 hours a week extra.

And three-quarters of those want the security of guaranteed shifts. The union also attacked the Government for failing to tackle short hours arrangements.

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “The coalition ­Government has continually ­underestimated the numbers of zero-hours contracts. They have launched consultations and reviews and this has become an excuse for inaction. Their failure to act has given the worst employers a green light to exploit vulnerable workers.

For many Usdaw members short-hours contracts and under-employment are even bigger concerns. The Government is quick to advertise small falls in unemployment but fail to mention the problem of under-employment.

“Short-hours contracts suit some but a far greater number are struggling to get the hours they need to support ­themselves and their ­families.”

Companies defended the contracts, insisting they offer flexibility to staff. Tesco said: “We do not use zero-hours contracts and of our 300,000 colleagues a fraction of one per cent are contracted for less than five hours a week.

“Most of the people working these short hours are in full-time education or have chosen to work a few hours a week after reaching retirement age.

“The vast majority of colleagues are on contracts of 16 hours a week or more.”

Dixons Retail, which owns Currys and PC World and recently agreed a £3.8billion merger with Carphone Warehouse, admitted using six-hour contracts.

But a spokesman said: “Hours are confirmed with colleagues well in advance and regularly reviewed.”

A spokeswoman for Argos and Homebase said: “We employ staff with fixed-hour contracts to ensure they have regular core hours to maintain their skills in the workplace.

“Some of our workforce have a ­preference for more flexible working hours which enables them to fit work around their home lives.”

A spokeswoman for Arcadia, which owns BHS, Burton Menswear, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Topshop and Topman said: “We offer contracts according to the needs of the store so they vary.”

Next said: “Our contracts are all about flexibility for the employee.

“The minimum contract is six hours because that’s the number of hours some employees want to work.

“The average that people work is much more than that and there is no cap on the maximum number of hours which can be worked.”

Short-hours jobs are available all over the UK but very few job adverts give exact details of the contract on offer.

Companies use words such as “must be available” at certain times or give a shift pattern without revealing exactly how many hours employees will be given.

Almost all vacancies can only be applied for online so job-seekers have little knowledge of exactly what they are applying for or what the rate of pay is. We called stores to ask for more details but only Tesco and Next staff could help.

Here are jobs advertised by companies which use short-hours contracts:

Currys PC World

JOB: Sales adviser

WHERE: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

CONTRACT: Between eight and 30 hours.

DETAILS: Candidates should be available to work Mon–Fri 9am–8pm, Sat 9am–6pm, Sun 10.30am–4.30pm

Tesco

JOB: Customer delivery assistant

WHERE: Launceston, Cornwall

CONTRACT: Temporary (flexible)

DETAILS: Shift pattern: Sun 5.45pm- 10pm, Mon 9am-7pm, Fri 7am-11am

  • We called customer services as a mum of two. An adviser said: “It will probably be a four-hour contract upwards. The shift pattern means you could be called in at any of those times and must be available. I can’t advise you whether you should apply, but if you don’t have child care for those shift patterns I would personally say it’s not for you.”

Next

JOB: Sales consultant (£5.18-£6.33ph)

WHERE: Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre

CONTRACT: Eight hours, part-time (temporary)

DETAILS: Important: Contract shifts are subject to the availability stated within your application, therefore shifts will change each day and each week. Actual shifts are confirmed two weeks in advance. As a minimum, your contracted hours will always be scheduled each week.

  • We called the store and were told: “It’s mostly flexitime work and short-hour contracts. Your contract will probably guarantee eight or 12 hours. You will have to work when the store wants you to.”

Asda

JOB: Working in chilled products

WHERE: Long Eaton, Derbyshire

CONTRACT: Permanent, part-time, 10 hours a week

DETAILS: Shift pattern, evenings

  • When we called Asda we were referred to the website for job applications.

Argos

JOB: Driver (£6.35 ph)

WHERE: Hamilton, Lanarkshire

CONTRACT DETAILS: Nine hours

DETAILS: You need to be prepared to work weekends and start as early as 6am, potentially earlier during peak periods. While the contract is for nine hours per week, we need you to be flexible and able to work additional hours on a regular basis if required.

  • When we called Argos we were referred to the website.

Outfit (part of the Arcadia group)

JOB: Sales adviser

WHERE: Various stores

CONTRACT: No information given

DETAILS: Competitive hourly rate + bonus + benefits

Opinion: Firms save thousands in NI payments

By Kelly Griffiths, Employment law expert at Backhouse Solicitors

When working well, short-time contracts provide flexibility for both employers and employees and can be a great way for students, retired people and people with families to earn some extra money. For others they can be a nightmare when things go wrong.

In order to qualify for benefits such as statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory sick pay, an employee has to be earning at least £111 a week which can be difficult with this type of contract.

The low level of guaranteed wages may make it difficult to budget and to obtain credit or a mortgage, all of which can lead to increased risk of debt problems. While employees may wish to work more hours this is not always an attractive option for employers.

If an employee is earning under £663 per month the employer is not required to pay National Insurance – a large corporation can save thousands of pounds.

It is for that reason many find themselves restricted to a few hours per week with no ability to earn the money required to meet their household needs.

Little is known about the number of people who work under this type of contract but we could be looking at hundreds of thousands.

It seems further consultation is needed, to help the employees stuck with these contracts and to address the loophole which allows large corporations to avoid paying National Insurance.

Source – Sunday Mirror,  31 May 2014

Newcastle Lib Dem not guilty

Investigators have cleared a councillor caught up in accusations of dodgy lobbying.

Liberal Democrat Greg Stone (North Heaton)  will face no further action from Newcastle Council after he was secretly recorded by a national newspaper offering “tricks of the trade” on how to get planning permission.

The councillor, who works as a lobbyist, faced calls to resign as two Labour politicians put in complaints over Mr Stone’s role.

Further questions were raised by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who discovered emails he says showed Mr Stone had contacted the council’s chief executive to raise the concerns of “business interests” over the council’s refusal to grant an alcohol licence to the proposed Tesco Store on Grainger Street, Newcastle.

Mr Stone offered to put the chief executive in touch “with the parties concerned”, but was told the council would be fighting plans for more city drinking. Since then Newcastle Council has granted the Tesco store a smaller drinks licence.

Labour MP Mr Brown called for a tougher investigation because Mr Stone’s employers at Indigo Public Affairs have worked for Tesco in the past. In a statement put to the council as the investigation continued last year Mr Stone lists 10 possible reasons why he might have been sending the email to the chief executive.

Further questions regarding the Tesco lobbying were put to Mr Stone, who then said he was asking on behalf of the Lib Dem group.

Mr Stone said: “This investigation arose as a result of unethical reporting, which failed to fairly reflect the context of my comments, and complaints from opportunistic political opponents.

“I have maintained throughout that I have acted properly in my professional and council roles.

“I am therefore unsurprised by the finding that I did not breach the code of conduct, and I am glad that this protracted process has been resolved in a very clear way.”

A council spokesman said: “The council received two complaints against Coun Stone that he had allegedly breached the Code of Conduct for members. These complaints were thoroughly investigated. The investigating officer concluded that there had been no breach of the Code of Conduct. The council’s monitoring officer was satisfied with the conclusions in the investigating officer’s report and therefore closed the matter.”

Mr Brown said questions remained unanswered over the council’s licensing policy.

Source – Newcastle Journal   01 April 2014

The Punishment of Starving Thieves: The Barbarism of Modern Britain

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One of the commenter’s to Mike’s blog, Vox Political, R. Jim Edge, reported an appalling miscarriage of British justice. The comment is on Mike’s post, reblogged from Pride’s Purge, about the death of a mentally ill man, Mark Wood, from starvation. Wood had been sanctioned by Atos, and this exacerbated his mental illness. He developed an eating disorder, and refused money his family gave to spend on food. He died weighing just over 5 stone, with a body mass index of 11.5. The full details are on Pride’s Purge and the Void. R. Jim Edge commented

Its going to get worse, just this week in Chester a woman who stole some groceries from TESCO because she had had her benefits stopped was (and this is the good bit) fined £30 and ordered to pay £80 compensation to tesco.

This is actually a…

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How the UK government hid 1 million jobless from unemployment figures

This is a few months old, but well worth reprising…

One of the purported achievements of the Coalition government’s disastrous economic policy of austerity, has been the unemployment figures.  Pundits say that at 7.8% (2.51m) they are nothing to shout about but not the disastrous rates seen in states such as Greece (26.9%) or Spain (26.3%). In reality, the unemployment rate is more than double this in many areas, while those in employment are facing ever worsening conditions to retain their non-jobs.

We have the Thatcher government to thank for the majority of the statistical trickery which currently renders the government released unemployment figures redundant.  Prior to 1979, the unemployment rate was anyone registered as unemployed, this was converted to a percentage of the total workforce and that was the published unemployment rate.  Then some changes came in:

  1. Redefining Unemployment:  originally defined as those ‘registered’ unemployed, changed to only count ‘claimants’ – this obviously reduced the number greatly as many unemployed people do not, for various reasons, claim benefits.
  2. Cutting Benefit Entitlements: By making changes to the benefit system (who is eligible and not) the government can magic away unemployment numbers by simply removing eligibility for benefits.  If the person cannot claim, they are not classed as unemployed.
  3. Training Schemes & Work Programmes: the conservative government of the 80’s began to double count those in training & work programmes.  First, they excluded them from the unemployed figures, then they added them to the total workforce figures – this means that simply by recruiting people into a work programme, the government has reduced the unemployment figures.  Prior to Thatcher, these schemes were not counted as employment.

The Thatcher government was able to show a drop in unemployment of 550,000 in July 1986, and 668,000 in 1989 by transferring those unemployed into work programmes.  They also kept an average 90,000 unemployed under 18 year olds off the books by making them ineligible to claim benefits.

Sadly, none of these changes have since been reversed, giving the UK public a much skewed view of unemployment and underemployment.  If we look at the research prepared by other bodies without such downright deceitful exemptions, we reveal a more realistic picture of the economic woe being meted out across the country.

A study put together by Sheffield University last year set out to establish the real level of unemployment in the UK, given that there has been little change in the published unemployment statistic, we can suppose they still hold relatively true.  The study found:

  • For Britain as a whole in April 2012, the new figures point to more than 3.4 million unemployed. This compares to just 1.5 million on the claimant count and 2.5 million according to the Labour Force Survey – the government’s two official measures of unemployment. The difference is attributable to extensive hidden unemployment.
  • An estimated 900,000 unemployed have been diverted onto incapacity benefits. These are men and women with health problems who claim incapacity benefits instead of unemployment benefits. They do not represent fraudulent claims.
  • Hidden unemployment is disproportionately concentrated in the weakest local economies, where claimant unemployment is already highest. The effect has been to mask the true scale of labour market disparities between the best and worst parts of the country.
  • In the worst affected districts, the real rate of unemployment is often around 15 per cent. Knowsley in Merseyside tops the list with a real rate of unemployment estimated at 16.8 per cent.
  • The older industrial areas of the Midlands, the North, Scotland and Wales mostly have the highest rates of unemployment. In large parts of the south of England the rate is still only 3-4 per cent.
  • Comparisons with similar data for earlier years shows that Britain was still a long way off full employment before the 2008/9 recession. Full employment is now still further away and the real rate of unemployment is higher than at any time since 1997.
  • The report casts serious doubt on the likely impact of the Coalition government’s reforms, notably the Work Programme and Universal Credit, which are founded on the assumption that unemployment can be brought down by encouraging the unemployed to find work. The evidence points to large and continuing shortfalls in job opportunities away from the most prosperous parts of southern England.

One of the more worrying points in the survey is the widening gap between ‘claimant count’ and unemployed , as ever increasing numbers of people fund themselves without a job or eligibility to claim social security.  For this expanding pool of people, exploitation beckons.

The government is pressurising people into ever more exploitative work programmes in order to reduce unemployment figures by threatening withdrawal of social security for non-compliance.  In 2011, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government announced a plan to increase uptake of Workfare (the term given to these schemes) by 100,000.  They also made changes to the programme they inherited from New Labour as follows:

1. A jobseeker who leaves a placement after 1 week loses their welfare payments for 6 weeks.  If they do this a second time, they lose them for 13 weeks.  The third time, three years.

2. Placements can be mandated for up to 30 hours a week for as long as 6 months.

3. The scheme has been opened up so corporations in the private sector can exploit this taxpayer funded, forced labour.

This means that someone who finds themselves unemployed must work up to thirty hours a week, for up to six months at a time, stacking shelves for Tesco or Poundland simply to receive as little as £53 per week, which they are already entitled to as part of the social contract of Britain.  Also, Tesco isn’t paying the £53; we are, through our taxes.

Although an interview is supposed to be guaranteed at the end of the term, it is not required that the workfare provider has a vacancy open.  An interview for a job that doesn’t exist is no interview at all.

Corporations get free labour, the government gets to massage the unemployment figures (Workfare victims are counted as employed) and the unemployed get shafted.

Anyone doubting this critique would do well to read the findings of the DWP’s own analysis of the performance of their work programmes.  These schemes cost the taxpayer £5bn, yet only 1 in 10 people found employment lasting up to 3 months.  The figures are even worse for the sick and disabled people forced into the work programmes – only 1 in 20 finding lasting employment.

The picture doesn’t get any rosier for those who have managed to find employment either.

Employers are less likely to provide real jobs than ever.  As the market favours the employer, there has been an unprecedented month on month fall in wages through the entire 36 months of the Coalition government, and wages were already falling before they arrived.

On top of hidden unemployment, the UK also has an ever growing problem with underemployment; the case of people unable to find jobs with sufficient hours/pay to meet their needs.

A recent paper by researchers at the University of Stirling revealed that underemployment rose from 6.2% in 2008 to 9.9% in 2012. The rate hit 30% among 16 to 24 year olds.

We have also seen the rise of ‘zero hour’ contracts. Almost unheard of a few years ago, more than a million UK workers are now under these contracts.  These contracts have no specified working hours – meaning that an employee is placed on permanent stand by until or unless the employer needs them.  While classed as employed, the person has no wage security as they cannot guarantee their pay from one week to the next.  They also receive no sick pay, leave or other basic terms and conditions.

The Resolution Foundation recently published a review of ‘Zero Hours’ contracts which found serious issues of the spike in their use:

  1. Those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts earn less than half the average wage (£236 vs. £482 per week) of those on proper contracts.
  2. Workplaces using ‘Zero Hours’ contracts have a higher proportion of staff on low pay(within £1.25 of minimum wage) than those who do not.

These factors have allowed the UK Labour Market in recent years to combine a relatively high level of employment and an unprecedented squeeze on wages.

  1. Those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts work 10 hours a week less, on average, than those who are not (21hrs – 31hrs).
  2. 18% of those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are seeking alternative employment or more hours versus 7% of those in ordinary contracts

These factors have contributed to the rise in underemployment in the UK since 2008.  An ONS survey last year revealed more than 1 million people had been added to the rank of the underemployed since the 2008 bailout of the banks.

  1. ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are hitting young people the hardest, with 37% of those on such contracts aged between 16-24.
  2. ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are more likely to be held by those without a degree, and with a GCSE as their highest level of education.
  3. Non UK Nationals are 15% more likely to be employed on such a contract than UK Nationals.

It is not difficult to see the advantages of ‘Zero Hours’ contracts to employers – they can achieve maximum flexibility of their workforce, effectively retaining them on a pay as you go basis.  It is also clear that in the short term, the government of the day also enjoy the advantage of hiding the true effects of their cut throat economic policies.  But the ordinary human being seeking to meet the rising cost of living is losing on all counts.

Between 2008 and 2012, inflation rose 17% according to the Consumer Price Index, while incomes increased just 7% – this translates to a real terms pay cut of 10% for working people.  But the Consumer Price Index measurement tracks the rising cost of an imaginary list of products and services that the poorest workers are unlikely to ever buy.  The UK Essentials Index however tracks inflation of the bare essentials that would the poorest would buy – and these have risen by an eye watering 33% during the same period.  This means that not only is the impact of unemployment hitting the country disproportionately, but underemployment and exploitative employment conditions are too – with the poorest being the worst affected.

There was a piece on the Guardian this morning talking about the triple boost to the UK economy of increased factory output, house prices and car sales, and trumpeting this as a sign of economic recovery.

But what is the point of this increased GDP if it is won at the expense of people wages and livelihoods?  Surely, if the inequality in the UK between rich and poor is growing, unemployment is rising, underemployment is rising and wages are falling – this is a recession.  It speaks volumes for the broken economic measures of growth at play here that a real world recession for the majority, is applauded as a recovery, when all that is recovered are the profits for transnational corporations and incomes of high earners, most of whom pay little or no contributions in tax.

Get Involved

Boycott Workfare – get involved in the campaign to outlaw workfare

UKUncut – get involved in demanding proper tax contributions from those corporations benefitting from these nightmare employment schemes.

DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts do extraordinary work highlighting the state’s assault on disabled people.  Please support them

Source – BS News,  07 Aug 2013