Apprenticeship opportunities available in Brent

youre-hired

Not quite Alan Sugar and ‘The Apprentice’ but opportunities are available for residents aged 16-24 who are looking to start their careers.

Brent Works Apprenticeships provide roles for local young people, helping them gain a nationally recognised qualification, practical experience and earn a salary. The team work across a variety of industries, with opportunities available for many career paths.

Vacancies can be viewed on the website, and for more information contact the on 020 8903 6825 or email brent.works@brent.gov.uk

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Labour’s Future Jobs Fund was a roaring success. Tory Liberals who scrapped it have let down a generation

Labour’s shadow Employment Minister Stephen Timms MP has responded to a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) impact analysis of the Future Jobs Fund, which shows the programme had a net benefit to society of £7,750 per participant. The Government looks like it is doing its best to hide this evidence – LINK

In contrast, the Government’s flagship Work Programme is not meeting targets – LINK

On the Andrew Marr show, David Miliband MP claimed that the Work Programme was all Programme and no Work.

Guest Blogpost: Richard Lynch – No medal-winning performance from the coalition

During the past month, Britain’s sporting heroes in Team GB have taken on the world at the Olympic Games and, with performances which exceeded expectations, have delivered our biggest haul of medals for over 100 years. What a contrast with the other Team GB, the Conservative/LibDem coalition, which also promised success but has delivered a shrinking economy, increased unemployment and debt, poorer social provision and the biggest squeeze on the living standards of ordinary people in living memory!

When the coalition took office two years ago, it inherited an economy which had been hit hard by the worst global recession since the 1930s but was recovering and had been growing for five quarters. Instead of consolidating and encouraging that growth, however, it embarked on an unnecessary and unnecessarily savage austerity programme which choked off recovery, led to growth contracting over five of the following seven quarters and resulted in a return to recession.

Yet, when announcing his first budget after taking office, George Osborne said that if he didn’t introduce a harsh programme of tax increases and spending cuts, Britain would face:

‘Higher interest rates, more business failures, sharper rises in unemployment, and potentially even a catastrophic loss of confidence and the end of the recovery. We cannot let that happen. This budget is needed to deal with our country’s debts. This budget is needed to give confidence to the economy. This is an unavoidable budget.’

George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 20...
George Osborne at Conservative Spring Forum 2006 in Manchester. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bold words but what has been the outcome? Interest rates have remained low but, as Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Krugman has pointed out, they have remained low in the USA and Japan as well, countries with higher debt levels which didn’t rush into austerity.

On the downside, however, business failures have continued, with almost 4,000 companies going under in the last quarter and retail insolvencies rising by 10.3%. Unemployment remains well above the level Osborne inherited in May 2010, over a million young people are out of work and underemployment has become a major problem with a record 1.42 million people working part time because they can’t find full-time employment. Business and consumer confidence has collapsed to levels not seen since the worst point of the original recession, we have the highest trade deficit in 15 years, national debt is rising and the economy has contracted in the last three quarters, driving us into a double dip recession for only the second time since the Second World War.

And there’s no good news on the horizon either: The Bank of England is predicting a 0.2% contraction in growth this year and probably five further years of economic pain. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research is prediction a 0.5% contraction and the IMF has stated that Britain’s economic outlook is now deteriorating faster than that of any other major economy.

When Britain was facing big economic problems in the 1970s, Dennis Healy said that the first thing to do when you found yourself in a hole was to stop digging. Another smart bloke (either Albert Einstein or Roy Keane, I can’t remember which) said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But Osborne remains adamant that he will not change course and that there is no Plan B for the economy. Such arrogance from a chancellor and cabinet which have clearly lost the plot is now coming under increasing attack, not only from unions and political opponents but from coalition politicians (one of whom called Osborne a ‘work experience chancellor’), from business organisations and leaders and from the general public. The majority of economists who backed the austerity programme during the 2010 general election are now calling on Osborne to change course. And the IMF, which also previously backed austerity, is now urging the chancellor to think again about cutting back and to focus on growth and on ‘boosting the bargaining power of labour’ to get more demand into the economy.

It’s not as if there is a shortage of good ideas about rebuilding confidence and demand and getting the economy back on its feet again.  For example, stopping or slowing down the public sector and benefit cutbacks (even if only temporarily) would help lower the rate of unemployment, keep people paying taxes and maintain demand in the economy. Borrowing, at our famously low interest rates, to rebuild our creaking infrastructure and to build houses for people to live in, would boost employment in construction and related industries and get people spending again. Putting money back in the hands of ordinary people by cutting VAT (even if only temporarily), ending the freeze on public sector pay and even introducing quantitative easing for people, by creating money to put in the hands of the most needy rather than in the coffers of the banks, would all boost demand and encourage spending.

Indeed PPI refunds by the banks, which totalled £4.8 billion up to May, have already done more to boost the economy than the coalition, because people who have had money refunded have gone out and spent it!

The Olympics showed us that we don’t have to accept mediocrity or assume that we cannot reach new heights. We may have the fight of our lives on our hands but, as the TUC’s Frances O’Grady said, if we keep people together, build confidence and give a sense of hope and vision that things don’t have to be like this, we can build a better world. We can help win that better world by defending our rights in our workplaces and communities. But we can also help win it by mobilising now for the TUC’s national demonstration for a future that works on 20 October. It’s time to stop agonising and start organising!

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Disabled people targeted by cuts

An article I want to bring to your attention highlighting how disabled people are being sidelined in society and literally being locked away due to budget cuts – LINK

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...
This is the internationally recognized symbol for accessibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cumulative effect of cuts to the Disability Living Allowance, Local Councils, Time-Limiting of Employment Support Allowance, Wheelchair voucher allocation, NHS Services and many more means that the most vulnerable in society are most affected by the Tory Liberal approach of cutting too far too fast.

Rhetoric pushed out by even Government Ministers on how benefits are for scroungers and the undeserving out of work has led to it being acceptable to push through cuts that affect people who genuinely have an impairment.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: “Do you understand pension auto-enrolment?”

Less than a third of the UK workforce are members of an occupational pension scheme but this will begin to change when the last Labour government’s auto-enrolment scheme  starts to be introduced later  this year. The scheme is being phased in and employers with 120,000 employees or more will be required to begin auto-enrolling workers, aged 22 and above and earning at least £8,105 a year, into a qualifying pension scheme from 1 October 2012.  Smaller employers will have to start auto-enrolling workers in stages between then and June 2015, when employers with fewer than 50 workers will finish the process. Contributions to the pension scheme will come from employers, employees and tax relief, and will start at a very low level (one percent for employers and employees). This will increase gradually until October 2018 when contributions from employers, employees and tax relief will reach a minimum of 8% of earnings.

This is a complex scheme with pitfalls as well as advantages and it is vital that union reps understand it. It is also vital that there is hands-on union involvement in deciding arrangements in companies and organisations, and that reps are able to respond quickly to any attempts to worsen existing pension arrangements or to drive down pay to fund the new scheme.

Labour Research Department’s booklet Workplace pension reform – a practical guide to auto-enrolment can help in this respect. It costs £6.30 and can be obtained from LRD, 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF (020 7928 3649) or on-line from www.lrd.org.uk. Get a copy now.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Employment rights roundup

National Minimum Wage rates are to be increased for adult workers and apprentices from 1 October 2012 but current rates are to remain frozen for young workers. The adult rate will be increased by a miserly 11p to £6.19 an hour and the apprentice rate will be increased by an even more miserly 5p to £2.65 an hour. Rates for young workers will remain unchanged, at £4.98 an hour for 18-20 year olds and £3.68 an hour for 16-17 year olds. This means that all workers on the minimum wage will suffer a pay cut in real terms and it is disappointing that the Low Pay Commission (which has union as well as business representation) should have unanimously recommended the new rates. Still, realising that they will never be required to work for such a pittance, must have made the decision easier for Committee members.

State benefit rate changes from 6 April 2012 include: Jobseekers Allowance – up £2.80 a week to £56.25 for under-25s and up £3.50 a week to £71 for over-25s; Statutory Maternity and Paternity Pay – up £6.72 a week to £135.45; Statutory Sick Pay – Up £4.25 a week to £85.85. However Child Tax Credit, which had been available to parents earning up to £41,000 a year, will now be restricted to parents earning up to £26,000 (one child), £32,000 (two children) and £38,000 (three children). Working Tax Credit is also being restricted and couples with children will now have to work 24, rather than 16 hours a week to qualify.

Unfair dismissal protection could be weakened for up to 2.7 million employees following the decision to double (to two years) the qualifying period for making unfair dismissal claims to Employment Tribunals, from 6 April 2012. Even though workers in employment at that date will still be able to make claims after one year’s service, there will be a disproportionate effect on some groups, according to the TUC. These will include women working part time, employees from black and minority ethnic communities and young workers, whose length of service tends to be shorter than for the majority of employees. The coalition argues that watering down unfair dismissal protection will help boost recruitment but the TUC, rightly in our view, believes it will encourage a ‘hire and fire’ culture which will lead to increasing numbers being shown the door.  However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that short-service workers who are dismissed will sometimes be able to make ET claims on issues such as discrimination. A union member I have been representing was recently dismissed after complaining that the manager was being racist towards her. Unable to claim unfair dismissal because of short service, the member made a claim of race discrimination and victimisation (suffering a detriment as a result of complaining about discrimination). That resulted in a decent out of court settlement, despite the fact that an unfair dismissal claim could not be made.

Moving to part time work after maternity is not a legal right in the UK, although there is a right to request it and employers are supposed to give serious consideration to such requests. It is therefore encouraging to note that HSBC has announced that it will now guarantee a part-time role at current title and salary grade, if requested, to all staff returning from maternity or paternity leave. This is believed to be the first time that such a large company has offered this guarantee and it is hoped that it will increase pressure on others to do likewise. HSBC also offers 14 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay (as opposed to the statutory six weeks at 90% of pay) and up to 12 days leave for fertility treatment a year.

Parental leave rights should have been improved from 8 March 2012 but the coalition has postponed the improvement. The current rule is that employees with at least a year’s service can take up to 13 weeks’ unpaid leave (in one week units)  for each child, provided the child is under age 5, under 18 if disabled or within five years of placement if adopted. There had been EU agreement that this would rise to 18 weeks but this will not now happen until 2013.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Paying the price for recession and stagnation

It is now four years since the worst global recession for over 70 years began to impact on UK jobs – and working people are still paying a high price for it and for the stagnation which has followed it. During those four years:

  • Unemployment increased by over a million, from 1.61 million to 2.67 million, and is still increasing.
  • 2.68 million people, 10% of those employed at the start of the recession, were made redundant.
  • Underemployment doubled, with the number of people in part-time jobs because they couldn’t find full-time employment rising from 670,000 to a record 1.34 million.
  • Unemployed people made 14 million claims and repeat claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and received JSA payments which were worth a mere 10% of average full-time earnings.

But it was not just the unemployed and underemployed who lost out, as a recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed:

  • Two thirds of those who returned to employment after being made redundant found that their pay, on average, was 28% lower than before, and lower still for those who couldn’t find work on the same hours as before.
  • Those who managed to keep their jobs suffered as well because the recession and unemployment resulted in lower pay increases or none at all, and left the average worker £3,000 a year worse off than if pay had increased at pre-recession levels.
  • The cost to employers of making 2.68 million people redundant varied from sector to sector but is estimated to have cost a total of £28.6 billion.
  • And the cost to the economy, in terms of lost output, is estimated to have been at least £87 billion (6% of GDP) and possibly as high as £135 billion (10% of GDP).

All of this shows that it is not just the unemployed who have been paying a high price for the recession in jobs but people in work, many employers and the economy as well. And unless action is taken to get the economy growing again, something which did not feature in the recent budget, we will continue to pay a high price for probably years to come.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Another bad year for jobs?

Unemployment
Unemployment (Photo credit: born1945)

2011 was a bad year for unemployment and underemployment and, if the latest Labour Market Statistics are any guide, 2012 looks like being at least as bad. These statistics, which mainly cover the three months to end January 2012, show that:

Unemployment was 2.67 million, up 28,000 over the quarter and 148,000 over the past year. The unemployment rate was 8.4% of the economically active population, up 0.1% on the quarter and at a level which was last exceeded in October 1995 (when John Major was Prime Minister).

Unemployment amongst JSA claimants was 1.61 million in February, up 7,200 on the previous month and 162,000 on the previous year. This left the claimant rate at 5%, unchanged from January but up 0.5% on the previous year.

Youth unemployment was 1.04 million, up 16,000 over the three months to end January and equivalent to 22.5% of economically active 16-24 year olds. However, separate figures showed that the unemployment rate for black youth has been rising at almost twice that for white youth and that unemployment amongst young black men has risen from 28.8% to 55.9% in the past three years.

Underemployment also increased with the number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time jobs up 110,000 to 1.3 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

On the slightly less negative side, there was a fall in long-term unemployment – by 12,000 in the number of those unemployed for over a year and by 25,000 in those unemployed for over two years. However this still left 855,000 in the former category and 405,000 in the latter. There was also a fall in the economically inactive rate for 16-64 year olds not working but not included in the unemployment figures. Numbers in this group fell by 27,000 to 9.3 million, giving an inactivity rate of 23.1%. However, the fall was largely due to the effects of a government campaign which contributed to cutting the number of people in the long-term sick category by 67,000 to 2.09 million. In addition to this, the number of job vacancies increased by 15,000 to 473,000 but this still left an average of 5.6 unemployed people chasing every vacancy.

Unfortunately these crumbs of good news appear unlikely to presage a downturn in unemployment, as the economy is still flat-lining, consumer spending and business investment are at historically low levels, companies are still going bust and the recent budget did little to change the situation. The public sector, which cut 270,000 jobs last year, is also continuing to make cutbacks and recent Office for Budget Responsibility projections indicate that a total of 700,000 jobs will have gone by 2015 and 880,000 by 2017. There is also likely to be a post-Olympics jobs cull in certain sectors, including in Balfour Beatty where an estimated 1,500 jobs are believed to be at risk.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Employment rights’ roundup

Unfair dismissal – Employees currently have to be with an employer for one year before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal, but this qualifying period is increasing to two years with effect from 6 April 2012. However it is important to note that there are transitional arrangements which mean that anybody whose period of continuous employment began before the above date will still be able to make a claim after one year’s service. Employees who begin work on or after 6 April 2012 will have to work for two years before they can submit a claim.

Employment law consultations are taking place on a number of proposed legislative changes at present, including on further changes to unfair dismissal legislation, redundancy consultation periods and TUPE. George Osborne, Minister for Misery, has been urging employers to support proposals which will allow small businesses to get rid of staff under a compensated no-fault dismissal law, without the risk of being taken to an employment tribunal. If enacted, this will allow unscrupulous employers to fire staff almost at will and will significantly reduce the rights of the 13.8 million people who work in Britain’s 4.5 million small businesses. There are also consultations under way on reducing the 90-day consultation period which applies when it is proposed to make 100 or more employees redundant. And there are proposals to reduce transfer of engagement rights by making it easier for employers to cut pay and conditions after a TUPE transfer has taken place. The TUC fears that this proposal, if enacted, will lead to even more outsourcing and will erode the terms and conditions of already low-paid service sector staff, including in cleaning and catering.

Accident reporting is to be made easier for employers from 6 April 2012 when changes are made to RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). Incidents currently have to be reported to the Health & Safety Executive when a worker is unfit for normal work for over three days following an accident. That period is now being increased to over seven days, which safety’ campaigners fear is sending the wrong message to employers about the importance of the incidents/injuries in question.

Criminal records – Changes are being proposed to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which will mean that fewer ex-offenders will have to report spent convictions to employers when applying for work. The new proposals mean that community service orders will be considered spent after one year (rather than four at present). Custody sentences of up to six months will be considered spent two and a half years after leaving prison (rather than seven), custody sentences of six months to two and a half years will be spent six and a half years after leaving (rather than 10) and sentences of between two and a half and four years will be spent after 11 years (rather than never, as applies now).  Custody sentences of over four years will still always have to be declared, as will convictions for people who want to work with children.

Bullies beware – A scientist has won an employment tribunal award of almost £30,000, for constructive and unfair dismissal, after he faced a ‘barrage of shouting’ and unpleasant and derogatory treatment from a professor in Manchester University. This is yet another reminder to those in authority that they must treat people at work with dignity and respect.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.

Guest Blogpost from Richard Lynch: Do you understand your employer’s finances?

Understanding your employer’s finances and structure can be very important if you are negotiating on pay or pension rights, or consulting on redundancies or business transfers.  This is particularly the case in the current economic climate where some employers may be in genuine financial difficulty while others may be extremely cash rich but unwilling to spend on staff pay or job security.

Company accounts can be hard to understand, of course, but Labour Research Department has done the Movement a favour by publishing a very useful guide for trade unionists on Using Financial Information and where to find it. The guide costs £5.70 and is available from LRD, 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF (020 7928 3649) or can be ordered on-line from www.lrd.org.uk.

Using the booklet to understand your employer’s finances can do much to help you bargain effectively, and we therefore recommend that you buy a copy. If you want to save the cost involved, however, you can always ask Human Resources to explain the employer’s financial position to you. We are sure that they will give you all the information you need to get what you want from the negotiations.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.