Tagged: workforce

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

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

Study “is boost for North East jobseekers”. Maybe.

Two thirds of the region’s Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) intend to recruit new staff in 2014, a study shows.

Research by Yorkshire Bank also found North East businesses which plan to create new jobs expect to grow employee numbers by 11%.

It also found that 64% of North East SMEs intend to recruit new employees.

On average, the North East’s 135,000 SMEs expect to recruit more than 7% more staff. If this figure is applied to the North East’s total SME workforce of 429,000, almost 31,000 new jobs could be created.

Alan Young, regional director for Business and Private Banking with Yorkshire Bank in the North East of England, said: “SMEs are crucial to the UK economy and its emerging recovery and we will continue to support them in 2014.”

Source – Newcastle Journal,  31 Dec 2014

Wow ! Great news, eh ? Happy days are here again !

Or maybe not. The important passage from the above is :

On average, the North East’s 135,000 SMEs expect to recruit more than 7% more staff. If this figure is applied to the North East’s total SME workforce of 429,000, almost 31,000 new jobs could be created.

And the important  words are expect and could.  All this amounts to  is a guess at what could happen, if the universe and, more to the point, the neo-liberal capitalist system we live under, played by the “rules”.

Its just as likely that the system will throw these SMEs to the wolves, should they decide it suits their agendas.

And produced by a high street bank ? With their well-proven  predictive and economic  insights ? Do me a favour…

 

 

Salvation Army cuts pay of workers

The Salvation Army‘s new regional pay structure came into force at the start of the month, bringing with it cuts in pay for hostel workers – including at the Salvation Army’s Swan Lodge in Sunderland.

The charity says the cuts are in response to changes in funding for homelessness services from central and local Government.

Clare Williams,  regional convenor of the union Unison, said:  “These changes will result in workers doing the same job in different areas of the country for different levels of pay, which in itself is unfair.

“However, it is aiming to achieve this by implementing severe cuts to pay and service conditions without properly considering the effects on its own workforce and the services it provides to vulnerable people locally.

“The charity says the changes are to secure future contracts for homeless services paid for by the Supporting People Grant.

“The irony is that the impact of these cuts upon its own staff will put many on the poverty line and some at risk of losing their own homes.”

Readers might like to consider the fact that the Salvation Army are also enthusiastic users of forced labour – unemployed  under threat of benefit sanctions –  to staff their charity shops.  Perhaps they have plans to extend forced labour to other areas of their organization.

More on the SA and unpaid labour here –

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/the-true-face-of-salvation-army/

Perhaps we need a resurrection of the Skeleton Army –  a diffuse group, active  in Southern England, that opposed and disrupted The Salvation Army’s marches against alcohol in the late 19th century. Clashes between the two groups led to the deaths of several Salvationists and injuries to many others.

A fascinating – and largely unknown –  example of popular protest. Read more here –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeleton_Army

 

Tyne & Wear Firefighters Face Cuts

One in every five firefighters in Tyne and Wear could be made redundant after the region’s fire service announced proposals to cut over £5 million from its budget.

The authority is consult on three options, including using smaller response vehicles or axing up to six engines.

Option one includes “standing down” engines on quieter nights and reducing fire fighter cover at some stations.

Option 2 would see the same cuts plus the closure of community fire stations in Wallsend and Gosforth with services moving to a new facility at Benton.

A third option sees closures in Sunderland.

If all options are backed then 131 firefighting jobs – 20% of the workforce – would go. An aerial ladder platform would also be lost.

Brigade Secretary Dave Turner said “We have made it clear in all recent discussions with senior managers that we will oppose any further cuts to frontline services.

“These are the most devastating cuts in the service’s history and will mean firefighters and the public will be at far greater risk if these cuts go ahead.

“It also means that areas of Tyne and Wear will be left without cover for extended periods – again increasing the risk to both the public and firefighters alike.”

Fire service bosses will decide on the cuts in January.

Source – Newcastle Journal 23 Oct 2013