New Workers Rights – Unions Say It’s A Missed Opportunity

The UK government has introduced what it claims to be “the biggest package of workplace reforms for 20 years” – but unions have described it as “a failure to shift the balance of power away from bad bosses and a missed opportunity”.

Legislation will increase fines for bosses who have deliberately victimised their staff and legislation will be introduced to give workers details of their rights from the first day in a job, such as eligibility for sick leave, pay levels, maternity and paternity leave.

The reforms, outlined by the Tory business secretary Greg Clark, plan to stop the misuse use of the ‘Swedish Derogation’ for agency workers (pay between assignments) which allows businesses to opt out of equal pay arrangements for agency employees.

Measures will also be taken to ensure that seasonal workers get the paid time off they are entitled to.

The reforms, covered in a report called the ‘Good Work Plan’, are based on the recommendations made by Matthew Taylor.

The maximum employment tribunal fines for employers demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight will increase from £5,000 to £20,000.

One of the most controversial aspects of the changes is that the reforms would not ban zero-hours contracts, (which Taylor had recommended), because that would “negatively impact” more people than it helped.

 Unite’s Len McCluskey said: “People on zero hour contracts and workers in the insecure economy need much more than a weak right to request a contract and more predictable hours.  No matter how many times the government re-announces the same offer, unless and until this country takes a leaf out of New Zealand’s book by banning the use of zero hours altogether, working people will continue to be exploited and work will never be the route out of poverty.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the government had missed an opportunity to bolster the rights of zero-hours workers. “These reforms as a whole won’t shift the balance of power in the gig economy. Unless unions get the right to organise and bargain for workers in places like Uber and Amazon, too many working people will continue to be treated like disposable labour. The right to request guaranteed working hours is no right at all. Zero-hours contract workers will have no more leverage than Oliver Twist,” she said.

Labour shadow BEIS Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, said the reforms will do little to combat the government’s attacks on workers’ rights such as an increase in employment tribunal fees, the Trade Union Act and low wage growth. “These proposals do nothing to tackle the growing number of people on precarious zero-hours contracts and with their botched Brexit deal threatening jobs and rights they’ll have to do a lot more than this to reassure workers,” she said.

Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB union published a full blog in the Huffington Post. Read it here.

More soon…..

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