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TRADE UNIONS and Labour dismissed the government’s “workplace reforms” yesterday, saying that they do absolutely nothing to tackle workplace exploitation.
Business Secretary Greg Clark set out plans for what his department described as the “biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years to meet the changing world of work.”
Legislation is being introduced to give workers details of the rights they are eligible for from their first day in a job, such as sickness, maternity and paternity leave and pay.
Measures will also be taken to ensure that seasonal workers get the paid time off they are entitled to, the government claims.
Maximum fines for employers who have been found by employment tribunals to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight will increase from £5,000 to £20,000, it added.
However, Labour pointed out that it was the Tory government who had obstructed such justice by increasing the fees for employment tribunals for wronged workers.
The government said it was taking on 51 of the 53 recommendations made this year by Matthew Taylor in his review into modern work practices after he was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016.
Its statement said that it had agreed with Mr Taylor in that “banning zero-hours contracts in their totality would negatively impact more people than it helped.”
But shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey condemned the Tory government for having “failed to support workers” in insecure work, including those on zero-hours contracts.
She added: “Instead it has increased tribunal fees, attacked the health and safety of workers, introduced the draconian Trade Union Act and presided over the lowest wage growth in a decade.
“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.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that giving workers the right to merely request a guaranteed number of working hours is “no right at all” and will give them “no more leverage than Oliver Twist.”
It was a “victory for union campaigning” that the government has now moved to scrap the agency worker loophole, used by bosses to pay agency workers less than directly employed ones to undercut wages, she added.
“These reforms as a whole won’t shift the balance of power in the gig economy,” Ms O’Grady also said.
“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.”
Since the review was announced, a number of zero-hours workers who have been deemed as “self-employed” by their bosses at companies like food couriers Deliveroo and minicab firm Uber have taken their employers to court and won the confirmation that they had been eligible for the minimum wage, sick pay and paid holiday.
Earlier this year, the TUC said that the government’s proposals made after the Taylor review concluded “lacked ambition” and would not tackle the problems created by growing insecurity in the labour market.
The TUC estimates that at least 3.8 million — one in nine of all workers — are employed in insecure employment, including agency work, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and low-paid self-employment.
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