In the news this week…

14 June 2013 A weekly roundup of news affecting employment law and illuminating the need for change.

14 Jun 2013| News

14 June 2013

A weekly roundup of news affecting employment law and illuminating the need for change.

Pay inequity

Workers wages have suffered the deepest cuts since records began, think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown. A report from the organisation revealed there has been a 6% real terms pay cut over the last five years, compared with the historically normal 2% per annum rise. This has left workers over 15% worse off than they would have been had wages not slumped. A fall in trade union collective bargaining has been linked to the fall in wages and it was highlighted by the IFS that although some growth in employment has been seen, this is being vastly offset by the drop in wages.

The Trades Union Congress put this trend into tangible figures on Tuesday, estimating that workers were paid £52 billion less last year compared with pre-recession levels. This squeeze on salaries is not only due to falling real terms wages, but also due to the rise of part-time employment and the privatisation of the public sector, the organisation said. The TUC launched its new campaign Britain Needs a Pay Rise in response to this multi-faceted attack on workers’ livelihoods.

And the impact of this drop in income has not gone unnoticed, with government figures this week revealing that 900,000 more people fell into poverty in 2011/12. Around half a million of these were working age adults, while 300,000 were children and 100,000 were pensioners. The Child Poverty Action Group noted that a rising number of children living in poverty are from working families, arguing that it is not unemployment that is causing such hardship, but the conditions of employment. Oxfam appeared to agree, calling for a rise in the National Minimum Wage.

Despite such widespread cries for greater pay equity, the Confederation of British Industry has called for the end of automatic pay rises in the public sector.


Blacklisting has also been in the news once more, with BBC’s Panorama programme airing on Monday allegations that blacklisting is continuing in the construction industry and has been used by firms involved in London’s Crossrail project. General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey also accused the consortium at the head of Crossrail – Europe’s largest engineering project – Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK) of blacklisting and has launched UK-wide protests against them. “It’s clear that blacklisting activity is continuing at Crossrail,” he told the Guardian. “BFK refuses to engage with us, even though we have significant evidence of blacklisting and there have been a series of unacceptable and avoidable incidents, with one worker being left with severe burns across his body,” he stated.

Trade unions and Labour MPs were shocked at Prime Minister David Cameron’s lack of concern over the scandal, with the Morning Star reporting that he “breezily” told parliament he had not seen the programme. He responded by saying, “As you know, the government not only doesn’t support blacklisting but has taken action against it”: A statement unions have condemned as a lie. Labour MPs have written to the Prime Minister asking him to detail exactly what action has been taken to abolish the practice once and for all.


Especially following the leak of information on the actions of the NSA in the US, whistleblowing is gaining traction as an issue in the news. Figures obtained by Tory MP Steve Barclay showed £2 million was spent on gagging orders on NHS staff since 2008. The Conservative politician has laid the blame at the door of NHS England Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson, disregarding the probability that this is a much wider issue existing in private sector giants – most famously, the banks. Yet the Coalition recently made it more difficult for whistleblowers to come forward in its Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act.

Zero hours contracts

In brighter news, Business Secretary Vince Cable has launched a review into zero-hour contracts, which are often abused by employers to keep workers on ‘standby’ without pay, until such time as they are needed. However, the IER is concerned that the outcome of the review may disappointed unions.

The Resistance

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity has published its Declaration of Resistance in the Morning Star, promising to support all action against the cuts and setting forth plans for a day of national civil disobedience and direct action. Find out more about the People’s Assembly and their forthcoming forum in London on June 22nd here.

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