Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Posts Tagged ‘Terms and conditions

Reminder: Work Your Proper Hours Day…

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… is today. Today’s the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime would start earning for themselves if they did all their unpaid overtime at the start of the year. Celebrate it!

To coincide, the TUC has published some new analysis of official statistics to highlight those occupations that have the most working hours, particularly those working ‘extreme’ levels of unpaid overtime – i.e. people working more than ten extra hours per week. For this group, this level of unpaid overtime means that Work Your Proper Hours Day is not until at least 26 April (or later, for those working more than ten additional hours per week).

By occupation, the Work Your Proper Hours Day for some key groups of employees for which high levels of unpaid overtime is more common is as follows:

Functional managers – 25 April

Corporate managers and senior officials – 7 May

Business and statistical professionals – 30 April

Quality and customer care managers – 20 April

Legal professionals – 20 April

ICT – 15 April

Business and financial professionals – 2 May

For members of Prospect in a major private sector employer with which we deal, our most recent survey of terms and conditions found out that the average level of unpaid overtime was 8.14 hours per week. At the median salary level of £40,500, this took people’s hourly rate down from £21.56 to £17.58 – indicating an average value to the employer of unpaid overtime of nearly £7,500 per year. And countless costs as regards personal and family lives and relationships.

Getting a work-life balance that works for you as an individual has been at the heart of the union’s continuing worktime, yourtime campaign seeking to promote options that can provide a better work-life balance for individuals. That might entail making small, simple changes or making more significant long-term changes to your working pattern.

The worktime yourtime pages within the Connect sector of Prospect also give more specific advice about particular issues and options for achieving a better work-life balance. Use them!

Written by Calvin

26/02/2010 at 2:09 pm

Pay: prospects for 2010

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In recognition of today’s joint TUC/Incomes Data Services conference on pay bargaining, the TUC has produced a list of ten myths on pay in the context of the recession which you can find both here and on Richard Exell’s post on ToUChstone.

The myths, which are drawn from the different parts of the union movement, are common ones and ones that are likely to appear again and again over the next few months, not least since the spring months are the most significant ones for pay negotiations, with the largest number of pay deals concluded during the January-April period; and there’s also the issue of the forthcoming general election. They’re well worth repeating in these specific contexts, and they do need to be tackled whenever they occur, so here they are in brief:

1. MYTH: above inflation wage increases could set off a damaging wage spiral. REALITY: wages are not driving inflation at the minute and it’s normal in the long-run for wages to increase above the rate of inflation

2. MYTH: further freezes and cuts are needed to make companies profitable again. REALITY: Some companies may be struggling but rates of return remain generous and cuts are likely to be damaging to growth

3. MYTH: Wage freezes have been widespread through the private sector. REALITY: Two-thirds of companies gave rises last year, with a median increase of 2.3%

4. MYTH: Wage freezes will be just as widespread in 2010. REALITY: the economy is growing again and inflation is on the rise. Wage claims, and pay agreements, are likely to follow suit

5. MYTH: Unions have accepted wage freezes because they are too weak to negotiate pay rises. REALITY: Wage freezes have occurred where there are genuine cases of hardship but unions are wise to cases of wage restraint designed to boost company profits

6. MYTH: Public sector pay freezes are an alternative to job losses. REALITY: a false choice, since short-term pay restraint has a limited effect other than on staff morale

7. MYTH: A minimum wage freeze will prevent job losses in the private sector. REALITY: this makes little sense socially, given the background to the recession, or indeed economically since the lowest paid are likely to use more of their wages on spending than on saving

8. MYTH: Raising the minimum wage for young people will make it harder for them to find jobs: REALITY: The recession has hit young people hard, but employment has fared better in low-paying sectors

9. MYTH: Public sector wages rocketed while private sector wages contracted last year. REALITY: data changes caused the discrepancy, not least given the dominance in the average wage figures of the nationalised banks. Since 1999, public sector wages have grown more slowly than those in the private sector.

10. MYTH: Public servants earn more than workers in the private sector. REALITY: this is like comparing apples and pears. Where similar jobs are compared, the differential does not depart strongly from zero.

More myths to the list can always be added: from a purely private-sector perspective, for example, we have the myth (not least in a recession, but not limited to such times) that pay can be meaningfully linked to performance. In the coming weeks and months, this blog will be doing its bit to bust the myths on pay that come our way.

The myths on this list are busted more fully on Richard’s ToUChstone post, while regular readers of ToUChstone will recognise several from individual in-depth postings in recent weeks. As Richard says, the recovery remains fragile and is likely to be threatened by wage restraint. Individual sets of pay negotiations are likely to be dominated more by the circumstances of the organisation concerned, with the economy providing more of a backdrop, but, from a macro perspective, it is clear that a growing economy will be driven by people spending money – and that implies a clear economic need for real wage rises.

Written by Calvin

16/02/2010 at 12:42 pm

Make Me Wanna Holler…

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Research published today by the TUC shows that UK workers gave away £27bn in unpaid overtime in 2009.

Some five million of you regularly worked unpaid overtime last year – with the average amount of unpaid overtime being 7 hours and 12 minutes per week. On the basis of a 36-hour week, that’s exactly one additional new working day per week. The absolute number of people working unpaid overtime fell back slightly on 2008 levels, but the individual annual value of all that unpaid overtime was some 5% higher on 2008, at £5,402 (an increase of £263).

The figures (which include some interesting data at the level of the nations making up the UK and the English regions) have been released as part of the TUC’s preparation for Work Your Proper Hours Day – the day when workers start getting paid if all their unpaid overtime for the year was worked from 1 January. Pressures on workers in a recession are huge and workers susceptible to losing their jobs are, understandably, likely to do all they can to keep them – including putting in extra hours. This is why the TUC’s message this year for Work Your Proper Hours Day is that bosses ‘should thank staff for the extra work they are putting in to help businesses through the recession’ (as well as that ‘pointless presenteeism’ is bad for staff and businesses).

These figures are close to those we have found from our own surveys. The 2009 BT survey, for example, found that full-timers worked an additional 8 hours and 10 minutes on top of their contractual working week (that’s a normal week which extends not only across Saturday as a normal working day but into Sunday too). We also regularly find that stress rises significantly with working time – and 2009 was no different.

This year, Work Your Proper Hours Day is Friday 26 February. But you don’t have to wait ’til then to start claiming your life back.

Written by Calvin

07/01/2010 at 12:46 pm

ACA calls for Pensions Commission

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In a further sign of the breaking down of the 1990s pensions consensus, the Association of Consulting Actuaries has today called for a Pensions Commission to ‘challenge the legal and regulatory hurdles standing in the way of sensible long-term pension designs’.

Reporting of the ACA survey has been quite widespread, with both the BBC and The Guardian giving space to ACA’s view that the decline in quality pensions provision is evidence of the failure of public policy (though the first part of the BBC report has been extensively re-written around the DWP’s reaction to the survey).

We should mention here that one of the contexts to the ACA survey and its call for a new pensions commission is likely to be the DWP’s rejection of the conditional indexation model proposed by ACA during its deregulatory review.

That there has been a decline in quality workplace schemes is self-evident. Its impact on the pensions of future generations of pensioners, and on state finances, is also quite clear. Whether we need a new pensions commission, before the proposals for tackling the decline in workplace saving made by the last one have yet been introduced, is a moot point. At the same time, the plethora of reasons why quality schemes have been closed in recent years stacks so high that to pick out failures of public policy seems, by itself, to be somewhat perverse: in my view, reasons why company schemes are closing are little to do with public policy and more to do with companies exploiting a period of worker weakness to erode a vital (and admittedly costly, at the moment) part of employees’ terms and conditions of employment based on short-termist considerations and fuelled by accounting standards that are unsympathetic to the long-term nature of pensions provision. The tide of scheme closures, in the face of DWP attempts to deregulate provision, seems evident proof that the policy ‘failures’ lie less at the public level than the corporate one.

Likewise, any attempt by employers to use auto-enrolment to reduce their investment in pensions at the individual level, on the grounds that auto-enrolment will increase overall costs, needs to be seen not as a failure of public policy but a function of the same attack by employers on terms and conditions. Nevertheless, ACA has done a favour in highlighting the potential for levelling down by employers, also highlighted some time ago by Tom’s post at labour and capital, and, if this is a likely outcome, it is one that will need to addressed in the regulations surrounding auto-enrolment.

A new pensions commission is unlikely to emerge with anything new. It will be distracting; the reforms proposed by the last one need to introduced and bedded down as a priority; and another pensions commission is, by itself, unlikely to see any change in the rate at which schemes are being closed. Getting bogged down in another discussion about conditional indexation is the last thing that is needed right now.

Pensions remains a complex area with many nuances, but, like climate change, it is one that is increasingly looking to be one which divides left and right.

Written by Calvin

04/01/2010 at 6:39 pm

How much is your job worth?

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The new economics foundation has today published a provocative document looking at the real value to society of a range of different professions in the attempt to explore issues around how our pay relates to ‘worth’ as well as the inter-relationship between the work that we do and the impact on wider society.

The report compares six professions and ten ‘myths’ about pay and work and, while it won’t surprise (given its stated purpose to ‘shatter some myths about work and value’) that nef’s methodology delivers some justification for Adair Turner’s views of the ‘socially useless’ nature of large swathes of banking activity, nor that cleaners and waste recycling workers are engaged in work that is far more socially useful, the report nevertheless produces some highly interesting points for policy-makers. Its central conclusion, that:

We urgently need to align incentives with the social and environmental value that are generated by the workforce,

is one that (with an appropriate grammatical correction!) needs further promulgation in a world in which pay is set at one end of the market by peers and, at the other, by a race to the bottom driven by the need to make savings on outsourced contracts, whether in the public or the private sector, and where work is dominated by vulnerable workers rather than ones which share a belief that they are ‘masters of the universe’.

The difficulty that remains is that, in a privatised, globalised world, where issues including wages have been handed over to the frequently distorting hand of neo-liberalist perspectives, reining market-induced excess back in again demands intervention and regulation and will increasingly demand internationally-co-ordinated action. Difficult things to achieve in practice and ones that are likely to require clear and concerted explanations if they are to be ‘popular’ in action, and not just on paper in individual opinion polls.

Nevertheless, the report is a timely one in that, in a post-crisis world, priorities will have to be set for public finances; having a framework for why public services need to be maintained, why there is a need for a commission to explore high wages and why decisions have been made over taxation policy, to name but three examples, is an essential first step in setting out why such priorities have been set – and indeed, why they are important. It is also likely to require a government that has confidence about its decisions.

Written by Calvin

14/12/2009 at 4:56 pm

World Day for Decent Work

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… is today. Trade union organisations around the world are organising events and initiatives publicising the themes of the day. Tonight, at Congress House, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze are joining TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady for a night of rhyme, rhythm and reason (and food)

WDDW is an initiative of the International Trade Union Confederation, the global confederation of trade union organisations. Decent work issues encompass, amongst others at the global level, migration; discrimination; equality; forced labour; human trafficking; child labour; other core labour standards such as the right to bargain collectively and the freedom to organise; freedom of expression; laws and agreements; the informal economy; climate issues (green jobs); health and safety; social protection; poverty and food crisis; and social dialogue.

More broadly, the context for WDDW is the threat to the jobs and futures of people everywhere as a result of the economic and employment crisis, and their background in decades of deregulation and in the greed and excess of a tiny minority which have pushed the world into the deepest recession since the 1930s. Decent work must be at the centre of government actions to bring back economic growth and fundamentally to reform the global economy so that it puts people first.

Written by Calvin

07/10/2009 at 10:51 am

Lloyds to be compelled to give up HBOS?

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This morning’s Times is carrying the story that Neelie Kroes, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, is seeking ‘draconian penalties’ on Lloyds as payback for the ‘state aid’ it has received in taking over the struggling HBOS Group last autumn – largely as an alternative to the nationalisation of HBOS.

A final decision has yet to be made but Kroes is believed to have rejected Lloyds’s compromise position that it would sell Cheltenham and Gloucester and make some limited disposals in Scotland (Halifax having taken over the Bank of Scotland some years previously). Lloyds is believed to be desperate to hang on to HBOS as an entity (or, apparently, at least a large part of it) and appears to be playing a long game given the impending installation of a new European Commission.

The Times story focuses on the state aid aspects of this case, warning of other decisions recently made by the Commission and other investigations underway into the government sponsored rescues of banks which took place last autumn and the concomitant liquidity assistance and guarantees, and this is clearly part of the background (though part of the story is also quite clearly political). However, it also remains true that the merged Lloyds-HBOS group has a one-third share of the UK market and that clearly contravenes competition rules (the merger could only be approved following special dispensation). Indeed, back in July, the Commission issued advice on the state aid aspects of restructuring aid to banks, reminding of the importance of the fundamentals of competition policy and advising of the desire to see as quick a return to viability as possible for the European banking sector.

In the telecoms context, the story is a useful reminder of the prevalence of competition rules in the light of the proposed joint venture of the UK interests of T-Mobile and Orange. If prevailing competition rules are to be reinstated as soon as possible in the European banking sector, then a joint venture in an industry whose very existence was much less threatened by the recession has no chance of proceeding where it carries with it such a large market share without a similarly large programme of disposals.

The story also provides a useful opportunity to remind ourselves that those who bear the heaviest costs of such disposals and the surrounding speculation and uncertainty in the corporate merger game are, first and foremost, the workers in the industry.

Written by Calvin

16/09/2009 at 11:24 am