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In ToUCh

Issue 5 2011/12

Date of issue 6 February 2012

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Welcome to In ToUCh e-bulletin from the TUC, the bite-size round up of our news and views.

This issue features further evidence that the government's economic strategy is failing, the latest on rising unemployment and a new study outlining the huge benefits that union reps bring to UK business.

Let us know what you think about the issues reported here by emailing [email protected].

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TUC News

Stagnation warning as economy shrinks

The Chancellor's economic strategy was 'going horribly wrong', the TUC warned as preliminary figures showed GDP contracting by 0.2 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2011.

It said that the grand austerity plan was failing to tackle the deficit, causing unemployment to spiral out of control and was now dragging the economy back towards recession.

'Even the most loyal fans of the Chancellor's plan, from the IMF to the ratings agencies, are urging him to change course and focus on stimulating the economy, rather than pursue reckless austerity measures that are making a second global recession look more likely', said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

More on this @

Not enough growth to support jobs

Ahead of the release of the official growth figures, the TUC published research showing that GDP per person was likely to fall in 2012 and would not return to pre-recession levels until 2016.

In November the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted GDP growth of 0.7 per cent in 2012 - but with the UK population set to grow by 0.8 per cent this year, GDP per capita growth could fall for the first time since 2009.

If the growth and population forecasts are correct, GDP per capita will not return to its 2007 level of £23,744 until 2016. Per capita growth is a crucial economic indicator because it takes account of population growth and whether the economy can create jobs at a fast enough rate to reduce unemployment in a growing labour market.

Further details @

Crisis as 1,300 join dole queue daily

Labour market figures published last month showing another rise in unemployment and youth and female unemployment at record levels were evidence that Britain was 'in the midst of a full blown jobs crisis', the TUC said. Unemployment rose by the equivalent of 1,300 a day towards the end of 2011.

Noting that the figures were even worse than the bleakest economic forecasts, the TUC said there was now a danger that mass joblessness would become a long term scar on Britain. The news for those in work was not good either, with pay growth falling, and more people having to move into part-time and insecure self-employment.

In the run up to the publication of the figures, the TUC warned that public sector job losses were adding to the gloomy economic outlook, with additional job cuts in local government, education, the NHS and the civil service announced in the Autumn Statement having a 'devastating' impact on regional labour markets.

TUC on jobs figures @

TUC warning on public sector jobs @

Inflation falls but wage rises needed

Inflation figures published last month showing that RPI had fallen to 4.8 per cent and CPI to 4.2 per cent were 'a welcome relief to consumers' but showed that the cost of living was still rising much faster than wages, the TUC said.

With wage settlements averaging around 2 per cent, workers were getting poorer in real terms month-by-month, and living standards were being squeezed further.

Details @

Unions' £2 million a day boost to economy

As Tory MPs and sections of the press stepped up their campaign against trade union facility time in January, the TUC responded by publishing research showing that the union presence in workplaces could save employers as much as £700 million a year.

The report - Facility Time for Union Reps: Separating fact from fiction - says that in workplaces where union reps negotiate with employers on behalf of their colleagues, there are significant cost savings to be had. These come in the form of more productive and better trained workforces, safer workplaces, fewer cases taken to employment tribunal, and lower recruitment and retention costs.

Summary details @

Download full study @

Help at work

A further indication of the range of work undertaken by union reps, often in their own time, can be found in an important new publication which has just been published by the TUC and is already proving popular among workplace representatives.

The TUC Workplace Manual aims to fill a gap long felt by reps, who can be faced with any number of problems as members and managers look to them to solve problems. By listing resources, providing checklists and offering examples it tackles issues such as the role of the rep, how to represent members effectively, and how to use employment rights.

The TUC Workplace Manual has a cover price of £18 for union members, with substantial reductions for bulk purchases. It will be followed later this year by the fourth edition of the popular guide to workplace rights, Your Rights at Work, which the TUC publishes jointly with Kogan Page.

Further information @

Banker tax change could raise £1.7 billion

Ending corporation tax relief for pay and bonuses worth more than 10 times average annual earnings (£26,200) could raise around £1.7 billion a year if applied to the banking and financial services sector, according to a new TUC report published early in February.

The study estimates that scrapping corporation tax relief for top pay and bonuses above £262,000 in all UK companies would raise around £5 billion a year.

Summary details @

Download the full Bonus Season report @

Government's top pay cop out

Earlier the TUC accused ministers of ducking the big decisions needed to reform top pay, following an announcement by Business Secretary Vince Cable that the Government was going to rely on shareholder activism to control boardroom excess.

The TUC said that the Business Secretary had 'shied away' from major reforms such as worker representation on boards, company pay ratios and open advertising for posts on remuneration committees.

Full response @

Worker representation needed

Ahead of the announcement, the TUC reiterated its call for worker representatives on remuneration committees by listing five reasons for such a move:

  • Excessive rewards at the top are damaging for business and society;
  • Giving shareholders greater power will not make any difference;
  • Worker representation on remuneration committees does make a difference;
  • Worker representation is already working successfully throughout Europe; and
  • Worker representation can be implemented easily and quickly.

'With ordinary workers suffering the sharpest fall in living standards in a generation it's completely unacceptable for those at the top to continue awarding themselves huge and unjustified pay rewards that bare little correlation to performance', said Brendan Barber.

Full details @

RBS bonus

The TUC played a prominent role in the storm of public outrage that followed last month's announcement from the Royal Bank of Scotland about the bonus level for its chief executive Stephen Hester.

'The government has been lecturing public servants about how they must accept a pay freeze and a big increase in pension contributions', said Brendan Barber. 'Ministers seem to have made an exception for Britain's best paid civil servant, and they will find their decision not to be tougher on the RBS board hard to justify.'

Following the public outcry, Mr Hester eventually decided to forego his £963,000 bonus, but the TUC pointed out that this did nothing to address the wider problem of top bosses detached from the rest of society.

More on this @

Bank lending needs to double

Total bank lending to firms outside finance and real estate must more than double in order to meet the investment needs of the UK economy over the next decade, according to a new TUC report.

Published to coincide with a TUC seminar on banking, the Banking After Vickers study says banks need radical reform so they support the real economy, deliver rebalancing including green growth, and facilitate regional regeneration.

More on this story @

Workers losing £60 billion a year

The falling share of national output going to wages means that British workers are taking home £60 billion a year less in today's money than their predecessors were 30 years ago, according to the latest TUC Touchstone Extra report.

The study - All in this together? - warns that UK workers are at risk of a near-permanent lowering in the pattern and nature of their working conditions, with disastrous potential consequences for our future economic health.

Summary details @

Full report available @

February's 24-seven

This year's Work Your Proper Hours Day falls on Friday 24 February, prompting the thought that is a good day to do no more than a regular seven hour day for a more civilised form of 24/7.

Work Your Proper Hours Day marks the day in the working year when, on an annual basis, those workers who do unpaid overtime start to get paid for their work rather than just giving their services to their employer free of charge.

It is currently estimated that five million employees work a total two billion hours of overtime each year - the equivalent of a million extra full-time jobs.

More on WYPHD @

All Together for the NHS

Health workers, professionals, experts, patients, campaigners and members of the public are to come together under the All Together for the NHS campaign banner on 7 March for a rally to Save our NHS.

The rally comes as the Health and Social Care Bill is expected to reach a crucial stage in its passage through the Lords. The aim is to make clear to the government, members of the House of Lords and MPs that the National Health Service is a treasured institution and that the people who work for the NHS, those that rely on the NHS and those that support the NHS will not stand by while it is broken up, sold off and destroyed.

The rally will take place from 18.00-19.30 in the Grand Hall, Westminster Central Hall, London. The event will be webcast, which will also allow activists from around the UK to engage with the rally via twitter and other social media ensuring a much wider audience for the campaign.

More on the rally @

Cool response to IFS report

An analysis of the impact of changes made to public sector pensions and pay by the Institute for Fiscal Studies received a cautious reaction from the TUC at the end of January.

The study analysed only one of the three major changes to public sector pensions, the TUC said, while underestimating the impact of the public sector pay freeze.

Full TUC response @

The price of fighting discrimination

The drive towards equality at work will be thrown into reverse as a result of government moves to make employment tribunal claimants pay fees. This warning was issued by Brendan Barber in his address to last month's TUC-Equal Opportunities Review discrimination law conference.

Under government proposals set out before Christmas, an individual worker will have to pay a minimum of £600 and possibly as much as £1,750 to have a discrimination claim heard at a tribunal.

Low paid workers considering pursuing a discrimination case, who could have a gross annual income of as little as £13,000 a year (the minimum wage for a full-time job) or couples with a joint income above £18,000 a year could therefore face fees equivalent to more than a month's gross income.

Further information @

Auto's rocky journey nears end

The TUC has welcomed the publication of the government response to the consultation on the final regulations to implement the auto-enrolment regime - the scheme to ensure all workers have some form of workplace pension.

Brendan Barber said: "It has been a rocky journey - and like others involved in the debate, we have not always been happy with the detail or the time it has taken - but this promises to be the most significant change in the workplace pensions landscape for many years - and certainly one of the very few progressive ones."

Earlier, the TUC had been critical of a new timetable for auto-enrolment announced in a written ministerial statement on 25 January.

TUC on implementation of auto-enrolment @

TUC on timetable @

German lessons in manufacturing success

The UK has much to learn from Germany as we seek to end our over-reliance on financial services and re-balance the economy towards manufacturing, the TUC argues in a new report German Lessons: Developing industrial policy in the UK.

The report looks at how government approaches to industry in Germany and the UK have differed since 1945, and comes up with a number of suggestions as to how a more strategic, intelligent and active approach to government industrial policy could reap huge dividends for British manufacturing and the UK economy.

Summary information @

Short version of report available @

Full report available @

High speed rail welcomed

The Government's decision to press ahead with the HS2 high speed rail line was greeted with enthusiasm by the TUC last month.

The new line was vital for getting more passengers and freight onto rail, narrowing the north-south divide and speeding the economic recovery, the TUC said.

However, it repeated a warning that thousands of jobs in rail construction, renewals and maintenance were at risk from the McNulty Review's proposals to cut staffing right across the rail industry.

Full TUC reaction @

Taking on the media barons

Labour's Deputy Leader Harriet Harman will be among the speakers at a conference on media ownership and regulation, which the TUC is organising in conjunction with the NUJ and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

The conference, to be held on Saturday 17 March, will be opened by TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady and other union speakers will include Michelle Stanistreet of the NUJ, Luke Crawley of BECTU and Tony Burke of Unite. Academics, campaigners and the NUJ's QC at the Leveson Inquiry, John Hendy, complete the line up.

Details @

Health and Safety Action Day

April 28 has been chosen as a Day of Action for health and safety, with unions and campaigners joining forces to highlight threats to workplace safety.

Some politicians, including the prime minister, are seeking to portray safety concerns as unnecessary and a regulatory burden on business, ignoring the fact that as well as causing death and injury, safety breaches also cost business millions of pounds in lost production.

More on the Day of Action @

Disability strategy

Unions have been asked to add their voice to that of the TUC in criticising the Government's disability strategy.

The TUC's submission to the Office for Disability Issues' strategy consultation contrasts the gap between government rhetoric and the reality faced by disabled people, as well as calling for the Welfare Reform Bill to be dropped. The consultation closes next month.

TUC work on disability @

ILO study relaunch plan

The TUC is backing an initiative by the RMT to gain union support for the relaunch of ILO study visits, under which union activists were able to travel to Geneva to learn more of the work of the UN body responsible for workplace issues on a worldwide basis. A meeting of interested unions is to be held at the RMT on March 28.

More on the work of the ILO @

Holocaust Memorial Day

The TUC used Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January to call for an end to discrimination and prejudice.

The day, held on the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, aims to remind people of the crimes against humanity committed during the holocaust and more recently during the genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.

Further details @

Marge Carey MBE

Former TUC General Council member Marge Carey died last month. Marge was President of USDAW from 1997 to 2006 and served on the General Council from 1998 to 2006. She was USDAW's divisional officer for the North West, based in Liverpool, from 1989 until her retirement in 2001, and was awarded the MBE in 1998.


21 February TUC-IDS pay prospects conference

24 February Work Your Proper Hours Day

29 February Wapping exhibition closes

7 March Save our NHS rally

14-16 March TUC women's conference

17 March Media ownership conference

24 March TUC young members conference

23-25 April Scottish TUC Congress

27-29 April TUC black workers conference

28 April Health and Safety Day of Action

22-24 May Wales TUC conference

30-31 May TUC disabled workers conference

More info on TUC events @

New this month

TUC Workplace Manual - essential guidance for union reps - from Publications, cover price £18 for union members with bulk discounts.

TUC Directory 2012 - annual guide to the TUC and unions, cover price £12 - from Publications.

The Learning Rep - magazine for all who have an interest in workplace learning - from unionlearn.

World of Work - magazine of the International Labour Organisation - from EU & International Relations Dept.

Labour Market Report no.22 - analysis of the state of employment - from Economic & Social Affairs Dept or @

Details of TUC publications @


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