Whitehaven News column – 26th February 2015

Biggest pay squeeze for workers since Victorian times
I’ve written before about the iniquities of zero hours contracts. The notion that an employee can be kept on a piece of string, yanked into work at 6 in the morning and then told, once they attend their place or work, to go home and that they aren’t needed (and therefore not paid) has always seemed Dickensian to me. If you have no real interest in this, please think again. Consider how it would affect you if you had to endure such terms, or if your children had to. Imagine being technically ‘employed’ (for the government’s purposes, ‘employed’ means ‘not on the unemployment register’) yet not actually receiving any pay and being unable to access any state support. Imagine, too, having to plan your life, your finances, your childcare and more without knowing what hours you will be working and how much you will be earning. It’s a miserable existence.
Figures out this week from the independent Office of National Statistics have shown that 700,000 people are now employed on zero hours contracts – up by more than 100,000 since last year. And because most people on zero hours contracts usually have more than one job, the actual number of jobs based around zero hours contracts in the national economy is now 1.8million.
Labour has pledged to do away with exploitative zero hour contracts if we win the general election because not only do zero hours contracts exploit most of those individuals employed under the terms of one, but they hurt local businesses in local economies like ours, too. Work should provide individuals with dignity, pride, and self-respect. And work should provide security. Do you really want an elderly relative to receive care in their home from someone suffering under the pressures and unfairness of a zero hours contract?
The reality is that working people are now suffering the biggest pay squeeze since records began in the 1850s. Since 2010, average pay packets in the North West of England have fallen by £2,461 in real terms whilst for those at the top, pay keeps on rising and rising.
Here we go again
Regular readers will know that I have a fairly health contempt for Parliament, its culture and practices. Too often, Parliament doesn’t fail to miss an opportunity to damage itself and the standing of MPs yet further. I get pretty sick of this, and I’m sure you do too.
That’s why being an MP should be a full-time job. Of course there can be some exceptions, but when some MPs are using their positions as MPs to make money outside of Parliament (money they wouldn’t be able to make if they weren’t MPs) then the public gets pretty sickened.
David Cameron is against the idea of most MPs having only one job and will vote against Labour’s plans to introduce such a rule in the House of Commons tonight.
Perhaps, there will be little wonder at the Prime Minister’s opposition to such a move.
Yesterday, I wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to clarify whether or not any contact had taken place between his government and Alliance Medical prior to the company winning a contract to provide cancer scanning services for NHS patients despite the Alliance Medical bid to provide the services costing £7m more than the rival bid submitted by the NHS. Sir Malcolm Rifkind  – who this week announced that he will be standing down as a Conservative Member of Parliament after being featured in a Chanel 4 documentary concerning MPs outside interests – is a board member of Alliance Medical.

I look forward to the Prime Minister’s answers. As soon as they appear you can read about them here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s