John Metcalfe’s letter:
(Chief Executive: Isle of Wight Council)
John Metcalfe’s letter:
(Chief Executive: Isle of Wight Council)
Commenting on figures published today (Thursday) by the Office for National Statistics, which show that the number of people on zero-hours contracts has increased by 21% over the last year, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Zero-hours contracts have become an easy way for bosses to employ staff on the cheap. There is no getting away from the fact that zero-hours workers earn less money and have fewer rights than people with permanent jobs.
“It is very easy for politicians and employers to talk about the ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer. But they are not the ones living at the sharp end of the labour market.
“If you don’t know how much work you will have from one day to the next, paying the bills and arranging things like childcare can be a nightmare.
“Today’s figures are a stark reminder of why we need to create more decent jobs people can actually live on.”
New TUC analysis published today shows that the typical UK employee earns 50% more an hour than the typical worker on a zero-hours contract.
The median hourly rate for a zero-hours worker is £7.25, while for all employees it is £11.05.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Median hourly pay 2016
|Zero-hours workers||All employees||Permanent workers|
|Median hourly rate||£7.25||£11.05||£11.23|
Source: Labour Force Survey, April-June 2016
– All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
The proposals, put forward by the Green Party Trade Union Group (GPTU), aim to combat increasing exploitation of workers. They come after efforts by outgoing Leader Natalie Bennett and new co-Leader Jonathan Bartley to draw attention to abuses of workers at firms such as Deliveroo.
The first successful proposal pledges to join in direct action against the Trade Union Act as it comes into force, a move first called for by Green Party MP and co-Leader Caroline Lucas, whilst the second calls for a new statutory right of access for Trade Unions to enter unorganised workplaces and speak to workers.
Kieron Merrett, the Green Party’s Trade Union Liaison Officer, said:
“In the Green Party, we know that the best way to stop abuse and exploitation in the workplace is to enable workers to get organised in Trade Unions, so they can make their own claims and campaign for their own improvements in pay and conditions.
“But legislation in the UK is infamously restrictive, making it harder for Trade Unions to access the most vulnerable workers. That’s why the Green Party has pledged to join in direct action against the Trade Union Act as it comes into force, and to call for new rights for Trade Union representatives to access workplaces and organise the most vulnerable workers.
“The Green Party has confirmed that, to promote equality and protect workers, we need to support the Trade Union Movement and enable it to do what it does best.”
Clare Keogh, Co-Chair of the Green Party Trade Union Group, said:
“Many workers are now employed in new types of workplaces without any history of unionisation – particularly young workers and migrants. It’s no coincidence that these are the workplaces where the worst abuses are taking place.
“To put a stop to this, legislation and government action simply aren’t enough – workers must be organised in Trade Unions. It’s much more difficult to undo unionisation in the workplace than it is to repeal legislation in Parliament.
“I’m delighted that the Green Party has given unanimous support to our proposals. Not only do Greens fully support the Trade Union movement, but there are also many active Trade Unionists in our party. We are the party for working people!”
TUC Congress 2016:
The TUC Congress 2016 is taking place at the Brighton Centre from Sunday, September 11, to Wednesday, September 14. As Congress 2016 convenes the times are crying out even more for the organised workers’ movement not only to be in step with the fight that is going on led by working people and youth to chart a new path and alternative for the economy, politics and society but to be at its head.
The mass movements against the Conservative government’s austerity agenda, the destruction of steel and manufacturing as well as the wrecking and privatisation of the NHS and public sector is reflected in the political movements of the people to build the anti-austerity, and anti-war pro-social movements as well as to build the opposition around this in Parliament. Then the EU referendum itself reflected the resistance of the people to wrest back control from the EU of the monopolies and to fight for a society where the working class and people are in control of the economy and society. This reflects the mood that exists in the country that the workers’ movement must not only reflect but must take the lead on.
The Calli to the TUC Congress 2016 draws attention to the fact that, “This is a critical time for Britain’s trade unions” and that “It is against this backdrop that the trade union movement will come together in Brighton in September this year, to debate, discuss and decide how we can take action and organise to defend the people we represent and set out a vision for a better way.” But it is not just about “jobs, rights, investment” in the context of “resisting the government’s worst proposals”. The thinking and outlook of the organised workers’ movement has to go beyond the problems that the government and the big corporations impose in terms of limiting productivity, jobs, wage rises, and so forth. It is not just a question of resistance against the Trade Union Bill, now an Act, or for the trade unions to correct some aberrations in the way the economy and society is run. What is crucial is this “vision for a better way”. In fact, if this vision for a better way is not elaborated, then neither will the resistance struggles of the working class and people make headway, because the ruling elite and the monopoly right that this elite upholds attempts to impose on the struggles the outlook and thinking of the monopolies, their so-called “free trade agreements”, “making Britain competitive in the global market”, and so on. Under this outlook and thinking, the workers have no role but to serve the aims and interests of the most powerful monopolies. When the rights of all are under attack, it is vital that the organised movement of the working class itself upholds the need to fight for the rights of all, and to break through these imposed limits, implicit or explicit, on what the place of the workers is and what they may or may not do.
This system, in which the workers are relegated to an adjunct of the aims of the monopolies, in which they have no vision of their own for a better way, is not acceptable. It is not the highest level of society that humankind can give rise to. What is characteristic this year is that workers are already engaged in the struggle for the future of society especially around the anti-austerity movement and defending the rights of all in society. It is a reflection that this movement is, in fact, on the move that Jeremy Corbyn has received so much support as Leader of the Opposition. It is also around the fight for Brexit from the EU of the monopolies as a first step to end the monopoly and the neo-liberal control of the economy. This step forward means a new perspective is needed for the workers’ movement. It is this new perspective that can only be thrashed out in this fight for the alternative, removing the blocks placed in the way of the people for progress so that the working class and people can increasingly wrest control away from the grip that the monopolies have over the economy, society and politics and chart a new path.
In charting this new path standing on the sidelines is not an option for the the organised workers’ movement. The organised workers movement must enter into the movement that opens up a path to a higher level of civilisation against all the backwardness peddled by the ruling elite of racism and war and the criminalisation of the most vulnerable. The workers must increasingly challenge the dominance of the monopolies over society and government with the new perspective that the workers should be in control. This goes beyond the aspiration of simply being on the boards of directors, or influencing share holders, to one of actually being the decision makers in society. The workers must take up the issue of working class representation and democratic renewal, so that political forms and institutions serve working people and not the rich and powerful.
i The Call, Congress Report, Final Agenda (motions) and other documents of the TUC Congress 2016
The fight for a modern conception of rights must be taken to its conclusion
The Human Rights Act, which came into force on October 2, 2000, incorporates articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into the law of Wales and England (having already been incorporated into Scottish law after devolution).
The Queen’s Speech in May this year announced that proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights, intended as a replacement for the Human Rights Act, reiterating a similar announcement made the previous year. This remains at the proposal stage due to broad opposition in society and divisions within the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, the abolition of the Act is on the agenda.
In this context, the financial service workers’ union Accord has tabled a motion on human rights to this year’s TUC Congress, which “notes with regret and alarm proposals by the UK government to introduce a British Bill of Rights which is intended to replace the HRA [Human Rights Act] and which appears likely to water down the protections of the ECHR rights at home,” and calls on Congress to defend the ECHR and the Human Rights Act.
The ECHR is a post-war arrangement that, though tainted by the context of the Cold War, came out of the defeat of fascism and the subsequent developments of the time such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The aim is to replace this arrangement with one that favours the private interests of the monopolies, which assume the right to act at will for their own ends. The aim is to redefine “rights and responsibilities” to fit with the logic of the Trade Union Act, Immigration Act, Investigatory Powers Bill, and so on, which severely restrict and suppress the rights of the people. The issue is framed in a chauvinist manner as “British sovereignty” being impinged upon by the European Court of Human Rights (which, it should be noted, is not an institution of the European Union).
The defence of rights is at the centre of the struggles of the people, and the future and dignity of the working class and people depends on the defence of the rights of all. It is key to the vision for the alternative, for the future of society, and as such the working class has to take the lead. In particular, the very notion of rights is constantly obscured by being replaced by one of privilege. The right to university education is a case in point, which was attacked some twenty years ago on this very basis. It is to the credit of the student movement that it has become organised around the principled stand that education is a right, not a privilege.
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
It is therefore necessary to take things further. The government’s proposal for a Bill of Rights is a fraud, but Britain’s lack of a modern written constitution is a real issue. The Human Rights Act is merely an Act of parliament. As such, in Britain’s constitutional arrangements, it carries constitutional force, no more and no less than any other Act. It does not constitute a fundamental law. The lack of a supreme constitutional law against which legislation may be judged, a fundamental law that embodies the rights and duties of citizens and spells out where political power lies, is a crucial issue for workers to discuss. There is an issue of sovereignty here, but not that promoted by the government. Sovereign power currently lies in the archaic so-called Monarch-in-Parliament, and it is through this arrangement that all Acts of parliament carry full constitutional force. The issue for the working class is to become an independent organised force in its own right and vest sovereignty in the people.
Furthermore, the very conception of rights implicit in the Human Rights Act and ECHR is itself out of step with the times. It does not start from the principle that people have inviolable rights by virtue of being human, as well as particular rights, also inviolable, by virtue of being part of various collectives, such as being women, workers or national minorities. These are rights that exist objectively; a modern definition of rights stresses that society must recognise their existence and guarantee them.
These questions are increasingly coming to the fore in the working class and progressive movements. As the movement for the alternative develops, the movement for a change in the direction of the economy in opposition to austerity, it is crucial that the working class recognises its own rights, particularly its right to have a say on direction of the economy. The need for public services, for investment in social programmes, stems from the duty on society to provide for all its citizens; it stems from the right to education, health care, and so on. The battle between monopoly right on the one hand versus public right on the other is getting ever more fierce at present. For the working class and people to prevail means that the fight for a modern conception of rights must be taken to its conclusion.
SATURDAY, October 29th, 2016
10.00am – 5pm
Venue to be confirmed
The British Medical Association has announced a new wave of strikes by junior doctors in England over their contract, beginning with an unprecedented five-day walkout this month.
The latest action, agreed by the BMA council on Wednesday, is the first since its members rejected the the government’s final offer on the contract and will commence with a “full withdrawal of labour” between 12 and 16 September, with further dates to be announced.
Junior doctors , including those working in emergency departments, will walk out between 8am and 5pm on the days in question.
The BMA said it had made repeated attempts over the past two months to work constructively with the government to address the outstanding areas of concern, including the impact on those junior doctors not working full time, a majority of whom are women, and on those working the most weekends, typically in specialties where there is already a shortage of doctors.
Dr Ellen McCourt, the BMA junior doctors’ committee chair, said: “Genuine efforts to resolve the dispute through talks have been met with an unwillingness to engage and, at times, deafening silence from the secretary of state, leaving junior doctors with no choice but to take further action. This is despite a pledge from [the health secretary] Jeremy Hunt that his door is always open.
“The government has consistently said this is about creating a seven-day NHS, when junior doctors already work weekends and it’s been shown that the government has no answer to how it will staff and fund extra weekend care.
“With just weeks before the first group of doctors is moved on to the imposed contract, time is running out. This contract will be in place for many years, it will have a direct impact on patient care and whether we can attract and keep enough doctors in the NHS. It is too important to be rushed to meet a political deadline.”
She said that the junior doctors would call off industrial action if the government stopped imposition of the contract.
The industrial action will further test the NHS, already at breaking point due to increasing demand for services, staff shortages, and insufficient funding. If the other strike dates, yet to be announced, are in winter, they will cause particular strain on the health system.
At the heart of the contract dispute is Hunt’s proposal to change what constitutes “unsocial” hours for which junior doctors can claim extra pay, turning 7am to 5pm on Saturday into a normal working day as part of a Tory manifesto pledge to create a “seven-day NHS”.
There have been five previous walkouts in the dispute, all this year. The longest lasted for two consecutive days, and the first all out strike – including junior doctors working in emergency departments – was held in April. More than 100,000 operations and outpatient appointments have been cancelled so far as a result of industrial action.
In May there was said to be a compromise between the BMA and Hunt, but last month members of the doctors’ union voted against accepting it by a margin of 58% to 42%. As a result, Hunt is pushing forward with plans to impose the contract on junior doctors – those below the level of consultant – in October.
Dr Johann Malawana, the then chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, had recommended therevised terms and conditions as the best deal junior doctors could get. He resigned after the ballot results were announced, and was replaced by McCourt.
The Department of Health accused the BMA of putting confrontation before cooperation in order to score political points. It has to be said, “What is the politics at stake? Is it the politics of safeguarding the future of the NHS when in essence the service is threatened across the board? Is the doctors’ issue one of many failing attributes caused by the Government to weaken and destroy the service?”
Hunt told BBC News: “This is devastating news. Perhaps 100,000 operations will now have to be cancelled. Around a million hospital appointments will have to be postponed.”
The shadow health secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “The crisis in the NHS is deepening, with closures of hospitals and key departments across the country while nearly all waiting times are rising.
“The government is not properly funding even a five-day NHS. A seven-day NHS is simply impossible without more resources. It is not too late to change course. Jeremy Hunt should stop posturing about imposing a junior doctors’ contract, scrap it, and re-enter talks.”