A North MP will stand up for workers rights over ‘umbrella’ companies that leave them out of pocket.
Construction employees paid by so-called umbrella companies claim they have been told to make up lost wages by claiming expenses, even fraudulently.
It is claimed that companies are getting around new government regulations forbidding them to treat workers as self-employed.
They set up umbrella companies so that the workers are not directly employed by the construction firms.
Unions UNITE and UCATT will join MPs in lobbying at the Houses of Parliament this Wednesday.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who will speak alongside union heads and other MPs, said:
“This is the latest in a long line of scams designed to help employers avoid their obligations to their employees and to taxpayers.
“The umbrella company loophole is costing construction workers in my constituency hundreds of pounds a month.
“These are the people who build our homes, schools and hospitals.
“They deserve better than to be conned out of a fair wage.
“The Government was warned about this problem a while ago, and I and other Labour MPs have been raising it in Parliament for months now, but we have been fobbed off by Ministers who don’t understand the scale of the problem.”
One electrician working at a building site in Northumberland was moved onto an umbrella scheme this year.
The worker said that since the change his wages were, on estimate, £2,500 to £3,500 down in six months.
“What they’re saying is that you’ve got to make it up on expenses,” he said.
“I talked to someone from the umbrella scheme on the phone to say that I couldn’t claim for driving and he said ‘surely one of your family uses a car. Use those petrol receipts’.
He said wages should not be reliant on expenses to recoup money lost through tax.
“Why should a trained electrician have to put up with a minimum wage?
“It’s been a struggle.”
In a recent report UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy said:
“It was hoped that, as a result of the Government’s actions, construction workers would be paid properly and enjoy basic employment rights.
“The hope was dashed as, in order to get work, workers were forced to sign up to umbrella companies.”
But he said his members saw no increase in their wages.
“In fact they have to pay both employee’s and employer’s NI contributions, as much as a quarter of their eligible earnings,” he said.
Another worker, Andy, was in an umbrella scheme at a Teesside site.
He said he asked how to recover his wage and was told to fraudulently claim.
“They told me ‘you can claim six pounds a day for your parking,’ he said.
“The only thing was that the car park was private property – it was the site I worked at – and it wouldn’t cost me a penny.”
Umbrella companies act as an employer and accountant to clients, receiving invoices from them, paying the worker’s salary while deducting tax and a fee for their own work.
The method’s use has increased after government legislation was introduced to reduce the number of workers declared as self-employed.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Nov 2014
A former Labour mayor and trade union figure from the north of England has urged people in Scotland to vote for independence.
Craig Johnston, the former mayor of Carlisle, says a Yes vote will “energise the debate about devolution” across the UK.
Mr Johnston, a regional organiser for the RMT union, also hopes a new constitution in an independent Scotland will implement workers’ rights and “instil a bit of fairness in the workplace”.
Criticising the Labour Party, he said:
“I don’t want the Labour Party to be like it is.
“I can’t support a Labour Party that introduced the private finance initiative and let the moneylenders into the NHS – Nye Bevan’s temple.
“This is the party that oversaw the crisis, bailed out the bankers and started selling off the NHS. These are the people who are trying to scare us now.”
Dennis Canavan, chair of Yes Scotland’s advisory board, said:
“This is yet more evidence of the breadth and sheer energy of the Yes campaign.
“Craig Johnston is a highly-respected civic and political figure in Carlisle, which of course sits very close to the border and for centuries has had strong links with Scotland.”
Steve Bowditch, current Labour mayor of the city disagreed and said a Yes vote would be “extremely damaging for Carlisle”.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 17 Sept 2014