Monday, 10 February 2014

Rising insecurity

The majority of working households are facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation. Prices are increasing, real wages are falling and for many hard-working people there is rising insecurity in the workplace.

Months ago, Ed Miliband highlighted the excessive profits being made by energy companies and promised a price freeze, with other interventions to make the market competitive. Cameron and Clegg lambasted that promise, whilst claiming that all was well. Yet now, the Energy Secretary has written to the regulator, OFGEM, saying that the profit margins made by the "Big Six" energy companies when supplying gas are much higher than previously thought. It makes you wonder where he and OFGEM have been as the statistics being used have been public for many weeks.

Then, David Cameron has been making much of some statistics which suggest that employment has been rising. However, an analysis of those statistics reveals a massive increase in self-employment, zero-hours contracts and part-time working. It is little surprise that the number of people who say they feel insecure at work has doubled since he became Prime Minister.

That insecurity has been compounded for households with the lowest incomes as the real value of the minimum wage has fallen and support from working benefits continues to be cut. Both employers and employees need flexibility but this shouldn’t mean people should lack job security and have to be flexible about being able to afford the weekly shop.

That’s why we should ban those zero-hours contracts which simply exploit workers, end the scandal of false self-employment, strengthen the National Minimum Wage and incentivise employers to pay a Living Wage through ‘make work pay’ contracts.

In that way, we can tackle the cost of living crisis and the stress from rising insecurity at work, by building an economy that works for working people, rather than participating in a race to the bottom. It’s what good employers want as well.