What do unions think of the Taylor Review?

Matthew Taylor

Matthew TaylorUnions have expressed their disappointment at the content of the Taylor Review into work practices.

The full report will be published later today, but author Matthew Taylor has briefed journalists about its contents, including his seven principles for fair and decent work. Unions are disappointed it does not call for a ban on zero hours contracts and that it does not address low wages and high tribunal fees.

The seven principles are:

1 – Our national strategy for work – the British way – should be explicitly directed toward the goal of good work for all.

2 – Platform-based working (a business model which facilitates exchanges between 2 or more groups, usually consumers and producers), offers welcome opportunities for genuine two way flexibility and can provide opportunities for those who may not be able to work in more conventional ways. These should be protected while ensuring fairness for those who work through these platforms and those who compete with them. Worker (or ‘dependent contractor’ as we suggest renaming it) status should be maintained but we should be clearer about how to distinguish workers from those who are legitimately self-employed.

3 – The law and the way it is promulgated and enforced should help firms make the right choices and individuals to know and exercise their rights. Although there are some things that can be done to improve working practices for employees, the ‘employment wedge’ (the additional, largely non-wage, costs associated with taking someone on as an employee) is already high and we should avoid increasing it further. ‘Dependent contractors’ are the group most likely to suffer from unfair one-sided flexibility and therefore we need to provide additional protections for this group and stronger incentives for firms to treat them fairly.

4 – The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organisation, which is why it is important that companies are seen to take good work seriously and are open about their practices and that all workers are able to be engaged and heard.

5 – It is vital to individuals and the health of our economy that everyone feels they have realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects and that they can, from the beginning to the end of their working life, record and enhance the capabilities developed in formal and informal learning and in on-the-job and off-the-job activities.

6 – The shape and content of work and individual health and well-being are strongly related. For the benefit of firms, workers and the public interest we need to develop a more proactive approach to workplace health.

7 – The National Living Wage is a powerful tool to raise the financial base line of low paid workers. It needs to be accompanied by sectoral strategies engaging employers, employees and stakeholders to ensure that people – particularly in low paid sectors – are not stuck at the living wage minimum or facing insecurity but can progress in their current and future work.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s no secret that we wanted this review to be bolder. This is not the game-changer needed to end insecurity at work.

“A ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours is no right at all for many workers trapped on zero-hours contracts. And workers deserve the minimum wage for every minute they work, not just the time employers choose to pay them for.

“But Matthew Taylor is right to call for equal pay for agency staff and sick leave for low-paid workers — something which unions have long campaigned for. The government should move swiftly to implement these recommendations.

“Theresa May cannot use this report as shield to hide from her responsibilities. We need a proper crackdown on bad bosses who treat their staff like disposable labour. And an end to employment tribunal fees that price workers out of justice.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “There is serious room for improvement in employment practices particularly for home care workers who are still being exploited en masse.

“It’s shocking that so many are not even paid the legal minimum for the work they do. This significantly undermines care standards and pushes a large proportion of the workforce into poverty or away from the profession altogether.

“In many cases, workers can’t tell whether they are being paid for all the hours they work because their payslips are so confusing. And employers have been allowed to get away with this for too long.

“If we want elderly and disabled people in need of care to be treated with dignity, then care workers must be treated with dignity as well.

“But the system is fundamentally flawed as workers are now priced out of justice because of the introduction of tribunal fees.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It is no surprise these seven points are so weak and business friendly given Taylor was commissioned by a Tory government that forced through the Trade Union Act that had at its core the aim of undermining the collective strength of workers.

“If they are representative of the full report, it will fall woefully short of being a serious attempt to improve workers’ rights and will offer nothing to the growing army of people exploited on zero hours contracts and in insecure work, and nothing to the millions living in poverty because of low wages.”

GMB general secretary Tim Roache said: “For millions of people the world of work is like the Wild West – people don’t know if they are coming or going. Why are they not given the basic right to plan their lives even a week in advance?

“Given the epidemic of precarious work in the UK, this report simply does not go far enough in fixing a broken system that gives employers the choice of whether to treat their workers fairly or not.

“Action on the Gig Economy is overdue, but help for agency workers, those on zero hours or short hours contracts won’t happen by asking nicely or hoping bad employers find a moral compass down the back of the couch.

“We need regulations and proper enforcement – until we get that, we will all continue to pay for shareholder profits though lost tax revenue and the knock on effect poor work has for public services and our communities.

“The Prime Minister could have agreed to implement the findings of the Taylor Review as a starting point today, but she didn’t even go that far.

“Words on decent work are always welcome, but they’re meaningless without determined action to back them up and challenge those who profit from insecurity.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Taylor Review is an opportunity to take a serious look at the forces driving the rise of insecure work and exploitation in this country. We cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation.  Workers are being hit by a triple whammy of rising living costs, falling wages and increasing insecurity.
“We need better answers from government on this because for far too many in this country, the bald truth is that work simply does not pay. Workplace insecurity is being super-charged not by gig-working alone, but by the deliberate and bogus use of self-employment, by the continuing use of zero hours contracts and the misuse of agency working where there ought to be permanent employment.
“The denial of basic rights and a fair wage to growing numbers of workers is a scandal on a huge scale.  It must be addressed. So it is vital that what emerges from this report brings much-needed clarity to workers and can support them in pursuing their rights. But it must also be substantial enough to put a stable footing under the growing numbers of workers for whom the monthly outgoings are ever-rising but their incomes are in constant flux.
“The onus must be on employers, not employees, to prove that the employment status is legitimately self-employed, for example, and we call again for this country to do as New Zealand does and ban abusive zero hours contracts. The message must also go out loudly and clearly to those employers who swindle their workforce that the law is coming after them and that working people will have justice.
“That is why Taylor’s recommendation must be matched by effective enforcement of the law. Without fully resourced enforcement then all we have from Mr Taylor and the government is a dog that is all bark and no bite.
“Lastly, the government must overhaul the welfare system.  It ought to be there to support people as they move in and out of work but instead is a force for creating the impoverishment of working people.”

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said:  “for Mr Taylor to say work should be fair is a statement of the obvious. Unfortunately, Mr Taylor’s report offer’s no practical solutions to the scourge of insecure and low paid work and is frankly not worth the paper it is written on.”

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “For workers across the UK, the labour market is like the Wild West. Exploitation is exploitation whether it’s in a sweatshop or at the end of an iPhone, and the Taylor Review falls way short of addressing the problems workers face.
“With six million people earning less than a genuine living wage, it’s astonishing that this review is watering down workers’ rights to the minimum wage. Far from creating a country that works for everyone, Theresa May is creating a country in which we work until we drop.
“The question for trade unions is what we’re going to do about it. It’s time for the union movement to come together in a concerted campaign to end insecure employment and in-work poverty by margin greater demands on behalf of all workers.
“The CWU is calling for an agreement on a common bargaining agenda, a trade union manifesto on what constitutes a new deal for workers and a well-constructed plan, including action to achieve it,
“It’s incumbent upon unions to step up, work together and deliver a new kind of trade unionism. We must make the future world of work the number one political issue and organiser workers everywhere.”

NUT assistant general secretary Amanda Brown said: “Modern employment practices leave insecure workers dependent and exploited. The aim in the report that ‘legislation does more of the work’ relies on compliant, transparent employment practices which teachers on zero hours contracts or working as supply teachers do not recognise.

‘Adding to the definitions of precarious worker will not protect those in insecure work. We see no rights and no guarantees in a ‘right to request guaranteed hours’; the only guarantee we anticipate is that that worker will not work again. Teachers working in insecure work need transparency, a baseline of rights and access to enforce those rights.

‘We have seen teachers exploited by supply teacher agencies and umbrella companies whose work dries up the moment they ask a question about their rights. Principles are fine but there will be no ‘good work’ unless enforceable rights and penalties against those who exploit vulnerable workers are guaranteed.

‘The report does not mention the fact that some of these “modern practices” actually cost far more than the alternatives in areas such as supply teaching where agencies drain millions of pounds away from education into their profits.  In such cases, new systems offering direct employment would benefit everyone, saving schools substantial amounts while also offering teachers apposite pay reflecting their qualifications and experience.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “This report offers warm words for people on casual contracts, but it’s tinkering around the edges of the problem. Insecure workers don’t want sympathy, they need real change that gives them proper rights at work and ends exploitative contracts.

“When it comes to flexibility, too often it is a one-way street. Employees need to have clear rights and a decent contract, not just the option to ask for them. For people who live in daily fear that their hours will be cut if they even speak out, such a right is quite meaningless and makes this review a massive missed opportunity.

“Zero-hours and other exploitative contracts stop people from being able to plans their lives on a monthly, or even week-by-week basis. It is quite shocking in this day and age that we allow these kind of practices to proliferate, and for bosses to pretend that employer and employee benefit equally from flexibility.”

Community general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “This report rightly recognises that self-employed workers are in need of greater entitlements and security, so this is something we cautiously welcome. However, the lack of detail on this means that government must now agree to consult self-employed workers and trade unions on how best to ensure the self-employed are supported and protected.

“Community has been working with Indycube to give a voice to the self-employed and give them protection they otherwise could not access. With the number of self-employed workers in the UK soon to be greater than the entire public sector, the government must also step up and play their part.

“Our current employment laws and tax structures are not sufficient; they were built for a different era. In one of the world’s most advanced economies, with incredible technology at our fingertips, workers should not have to choose between flexibility and protection at work.

“Although important, trade unions and the labour movement should not simply rely on court judgements to further our aims, but rather seek to work with government, employers and workers to achieve wholesale change in our workplaces and society.

“Matthew Taylor is right to say that too many workers have been left feeling like cogs in a machine rather than human beings. Trade unions should continue organising the self-employed and the gig economy, and should seize this opportunity to work with government and employers to ensure that everyone has access to decent and fair work.”

Scottish TUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “Whilst the Taylor Review has recognised and made recommendations to address some of the problems faced by precarious workers and those in the gig economy, it has not gone far enough to offer real hope.

“Perhaps the most positive recommendation is for the equalisation of pay for agency workers and sick pay for the low paid.  The government must fully and robustly deliver on this through legislation. It is far from clear whether the new classification of ‘dependent contractor’ will make things any clearer.

“Of greatest concern is the lack of any meaningful action to clamp down on zero hours contracts.  The ‘right to request guaranteed hours’ betrays a profound misunderstanding of the extent of the problem and no apparent awareness of the pressure workers are put under when trapped in such contracts.

“The STUC will continue support workers to attain the real protection they require against exploitation.  Ultimately it is workers collective organisation and union membership which will guarantee greater security.”

NUJ president Tim Dawson said:  “Matthew Taylor’s report leaves unanswered the central issues raised by his own inquiry.  He makes the right sympathetic noises, but his recommendations fall short of providing basic rights to all those workers who need them. By suggesting a new (or renamed) category of worker,  that of ‘dependent contractor’ ,  Taylor is adding to pre-existing problems. The term ‘contractor’ is routinely abused by employers who seek to avoid their responsibilities to their staff and to deny them rights and protections. We do not need another category.

“Instead, the government should be making it more difficult for employers to treat workers shabbily by dispensing with such distinctions as ‘employ’, ‘worker’ ‘contractor’. Legislation is required to provide basic rights and protections to all workers who are dependent upon one employer for their livelihoods.

“Most important of all, dependent workers should have a statutory right to be represented by a trade union for collective bargaining purposes. Perhaps the most glaring omission of Taylor’s report is his failure to recognise the beneficial results that trade unions can achieve for freelance workers, something that explains why those that represent significant numbers of self-employed workers, such as the National Union of Journalists and others, have growing not contracting memberships, as Taylor asserts.”




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