The Government is to publish its response to the Taylor Report on precarious work and the gig economy.
Taylor’s original report recieved a tepid response from trade unions and if reports in the Guardian newspaper are anything to go by the Government’s response will get a similar response.
The Institute of Employment Rights has today (November 9th) set out details from The GuardianÂ and an intial response to the response.
The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom’s President Professor Keith Ewing said the report and response was: “Largely tokenism which generally is unlikely to make much difference. It does not address underlying problems – three tier employment status, and legality of zero hours contracts”
CTUF also agrees with the IER reponse and as the TUC said in a tweet “We will wait to see the fine print, unions have been leading the campaign to scrap the agency worker loophole which is a license to undercut wages.”
The IER states that “Theresa May has backed legislation to better protect agency workers, including closing the Swedish Derogation (a legal loophole that allows temporary staff to be paid less than their permanent peers) and imposing fines on employment agencies that withold holiday and sick pay.
“Gig” workers were promised the right to “request” (but not to receive) temporary or fixed-hours contracts after 12 months of continuous service (to be defined…), and clarification as to the difference between a “worker” and an “independent contractor”.
On this point Len McCluskey of Unite tweeted : “This is a piecemeal approach. Giving gig economy workers and those on zero hours contracts the right to request a contract after a year will not stop bad bosses exploiting workers. It must be a day one right, and zero hours contracts should be outlawed.”
The IER goes onto say “elsewhere, the government said it would investigate modern slavery at car washes, consider merging labour standards agencies, consider providing workers with the right to notice and compensation for cancelled shifts, and give all workers the right to a payslip.
If a worker’s rights are breached and their employer refuses to pay out court-ordered compensation in full (as happens in two-thirds of cases), that employer could soon be “named and shamed”, but aside from the dubious effectiveness of this punishment, whether this is a boon for workers depends entirely on whether they retain their right to access justice in the first place.
And it seems that vital right may be up for grabs once more, as Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice, Richard Heaton, told the House of Commons Justice Select Committee earlier this week that his department was formulating a new tribunal fees scheme.
The last programme to charge claimants for taking their employers to court was found unlawful by the Supreme Court last year after a judicial review was brought by Unison. The government has since had to pay back over ÂŁ7 million to affected workers. But Heaton insisted that the Ministry would find another way to charge litigants for enforcing their rights.
It is a key recommendation in the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law that employment tribunal fees are not brought back. Further, our proposals for reform go much further than those adopted by the government.
“Boiled down, May’s plan for workers’ rights is to fiddle while Rome burns – providing a little bit of extra support to those who miss out on holiday pay or are exploited by agencies, while doing nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions whose wage does not cover the basic cost of living.
We cannot protect vulnerable workers without providing them with equal rights to their peers. We recommend a universal status of ‘worker’ for all people in employment, providing everyone with the same rights from day one; sectoral collective bargaining to ensure that pay and conditions negotiated by unions and employers are rolled out across all industries, regardless of the employer; and the introduction of a real living wage, because no person in full-time work should be forced to rely on state benefits.”
Rebecca Long Bailey MP, Labourâ€™s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, commenting on reports of the Governmentâ€™s plans for the gig economy, said: â€śAfter almost 500 days since the Taylor Review was first published the Tories are failing to improve the lives of working people. Their proposals are not only thin on detail but fail to grasp the inherent problems plaguing millions of workers such as insecurity, inequality and low pay.Â Labour will transform the British workplace and create a level playing field in the labour market by ensuring that workers receive their full legal rights from day one.â€ť
The Labour Party explained:
- Merely abolishing the Swedish derogation and allowing workers to request a more stable contract will do absolutely nothing to tackle the stark inequality in pay and type of work facing UK workers.
- Labour will give all workers equal rights from day one, including sick pay, paid holiday, and protection from unfair dismissal;
- Labour will repeal the Trade Union Act and introduce new laws that will enable the roll out of sectoral collective bargaining in the biggest transfer of power to workers in generations.
- We will prioritise trade union and workplace rights through a new Ministry of Labour;
- We will strengthen the enforcement of those rights by properly resourcing HMRC and fine employers who breach labour market rights and regulations
- All workers have the right already to request that or whatever other improvement they desire. Until employers are obliged to provide a more stable contract the promise is empty rhetoric.