An insecure Britain isn’t good enough for One Nation Labour

September 10, 2013 4:45 pm

Yesterday YouGov released survey results starkly demonstrating the rise of insecurity and falling living standards in Britain under David Cameron. The number of people feeling insecure at work has almost doubled in the past three years since the Tory-led government took office. Half the working population believe the economic policies of the present government have made them feel less secure and 40% of people are worried their job will become less secure in the future.

In practice this insecurity can make life a daily struggle, meaning it is impossible to plan ahead, not knowing how much money will be coming in next week, let alone next month. In some cases it can leave people who are notionally in work living a hand to mouth existence. That kind of Britain may be good enough for out of touch Tory ministers who think ‘any old job will do’. It isn’t good enough for One Nation Labour.

The YouGov poll should make extremely worrying reading for the Tory-led government which has attacked the rights of people at work at every opportunity, making it easier to fire not hire people. Whether it is slashing protection for workers against unfair dismissal, their ridiculous ‘shares for rights’ scheme or bumping up fees for employment tribunals, they seek to heap further insecurity on working families already feeling the strain.

Added to this, under David Cameron we have seen the use of zero-hours contracts proliferate. These can provide flexibility for employers and employees which suit both parties. But, whereas  they used to be a niche element of the labour market, their use has grown so much so that now they are becoming the norm in too many parts of our economy.

And we still don’t know the true extent of the increase in their use. According to a survey of employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development which represents HR professionals, there are as many as a million people employed on zero-hours contracts, while the Recruitment and Employment Confederation has found that more than a quarter of its members use them.  After I wrote to Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, last month the ONS I am pleased he has signalled they are changing the way they assesses the numbers of employees on zero-hours contracts.  Given that many people are not aware that they are actually on a zero-hours contract, the ONS accepts its estimates may have been underreporting the scale of their use.

In spite of all this, ministers have failed to do anything about the worrying rise in zero-hours contracts. After pressure from Labour Vince Cable said his department would investigate, but it has emerged that this consists of just three officials looking at the issue amongst their many other responsibilities. No call for evidence has been issued and no formal consultation launched.

Given their failure to act, I chaired Labour’s summit on the issue last month which we held to collate evidence and hear from employees and employers.  Following our summit, Ed Miliband has this week announced the action we would take to prevent abuse and underpin better practice in the use of zero-hours contracts.  We would ban employers being able to require those on zero-hours contracts to work just for them.  We would stop workers being required to be available around the clock where they is no guarantee of work. And we’d make sure that contracts reflect the reality of people ‘s working patterns – so if someone has regular hours in practice they should be on a full time contract that reflects that.  We would also introduce a new code of practice for employers on the use of zero-hours contracts.

The former Director of Human Resources at Morrisons, Norman Pickavance, will be leading an independent consultation for us with employers and others to advise on how the measures should be implemented.

As Ed Miliband has said, the key battleground of the 2015 election will be the living standards crisis which families are facing in this country.  The cost of living and decent pay are central to this debate.  We are clear: the issue of job security is important too.

Chuka Umunna is Shadow Business Secretary and Labour MP for Streatham

Latest

  • Comment It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    I love the Labour party. I enjoy canvassing, I pay my subs, go to the various fundraising dinners and vote in National Executive Committee (NEC) elections. I, like many, hate the constant barrage of ‘please donate’ emails and fear the dreaded fundraising call. And if I feel like that, imagine the dread felt by a candidate when they receive such a call. Don’t believe that happens? Hard to believe as it is, on more than one occasion now I have […]

    Read more →
  • News Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy is resuming his soapbox street meetings tour of Scotland tomorrow, after suspending it last week in the face of increasing co-ordinated abuse by supporters of independence. These protests at Murphy’s open-air meetings came to the attention of the media (and the police) when the Shadow Defence Secretary was hit with eggs last week. In a blog for the Spectator this weekend, Murphy explains how the organised groups go beyond the “normal cut and thrust” of politics that the meetings […]

    Read more →
  • News 16-24 year olds more likely to vote Labour, poll finds

    16-24 year olds more likely to vote Labour, poll finds

    A voting attitudes poll has found that young people, between the ages of 16-24, are more likely to vote Labour in the next general election. The poll, carried out by Survation between 21st-26th August for Sky News, saw 1,003 young people asked about their attitudes towards politics and their voting intentions in the next general election. Of those who said they would be voting, 35% said that they would vote Labour, while only 12% opted for the Conservatives and a mere […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland When it comes to the referendum, let’s remember “in unity is strength”

    When it comes to the referendum, let’s remember “in unity is strength”

    In the coming days UK Labour leader Ed Miliband will be here in Scotland – making the case for shared solidarity across these islands.He’ll arrive in the wake of a difficult summer for David Cameron and a growing sense that we can secure a Labour Government in next May’s general election.This view that Labour can win in 9 months time finds no place in the Nationalists’ narrative. They had hoped to be able to tell voters that Tory victory was […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband: I want my Cabinet to have 50% women

    Miliband: I want my Cabinet to have 50% women

    Ed Miliband has reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring his Cabinet would have 50% women – although stopped short of making it a promise, saying he wants to “let my actions speak for themselves”. In an interview with woman’s magazine Red, Miliband said he’s proud that women’s representation in the Shadow Cabinet has improved since he became leader, and that he would like to see women make up half of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP): What has changed under his leadership […]

    Read more →