Socialist Worker

Millions are being left behind at work

Do you feel that you're working more hours than you should without any compensation? Then you're one of many

Issue No. 1879

OVER FIVE million people in Britain are working unpaid overtime, according to a TUC survey released this week. As a result bosses save £23 billion a year. The average amount done by the workers was an extra day-7 hours 24 minutes-a week. They should get £4,500 a year in extra earnings.

All the figures are taken from official statistics, and exclude employees who do less than one hour of unpaid overtime a week. They demonstrate how pressure from managers, fear of the sack or not getting promoted and simple bullying can force workers to go way beyond their normal hours. This is on top of recent figures that showed:

British workers do the longest hours in Europe with full time employees working 43 hours a week on average.

One in four male full time employees do over 48 hours a week and one in ten do more than 55 hours a week.

The British government is facing renewed calls from unions to end the 'opt-out' from the European working limit of 48 hours a week. Blair is likely to side with bosses who claim that workers 'enjoy the freedom' to work long hours. The result is people driven into the ground, getting ill, and not seeing family and friends because of long hours.

Much of the press comment on the unpaid overtime figures centred on the finding that managers and professionals work a lot of the unpaid overtime. This gives the impression of bosses and barristers toiling away long after their workers or secretaries have left. A detailed look at the findings shows another picture.

Nearly one million 'associate professionals' work unpaid overtime. These are computer technicians, nurses, youth workers and lab technicians. The 'professional' grade includes teachers, who are perhaps the largest single group who work time beyond their contracted hours.

The 'managers' grade does include some at the top. But it also covers those who are given jumped-up titles in shops and offices as an encouragement to work themselves to an early grave for a little more money.

People at the bottom of the income scale are also working for nothing. There are 500,000 clerical workers and 150,000 craft workers doing unpaid overtime and more than 70,000 plant and machine operatives.

For full details go to www.tuc.org.uk/work_life/tuc-7317-f0.cfm


Revelations from chief schools inspector

Bell tolls on Labour's education talk

A REMARKABLE speech by David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, has questioned much of the propaganda we hear from ministers about education. Bell broadly supports New Labour's approach to schools. But his speech highlighted the gulf between Labour's rhetoric and the reality for many children.

Bell pointed out that class and income were still the central reasons for success in the system and that in some areas the class divide was growing: 'Since 1996, the socio-economic attainment gap has narrowed in primary schools but it has widened somewhat in secondary schools. Generally, the gap is such that, by the age of 16 years, 81 percent of pupils whose parents are in 'higher professional occupations' gain at least five good GCSE passes, compared with 32 percent of pupils whose parents have what are defined as 'routine occupations'.'

Ten years ago an Ofsted report had said, 'Most schools in disadvantaged areas do not have within themselves the capacity for sustained renewal. Beyond the school gate are underlying social issues such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing, inadequate healthcare and the frequent break-up of families. Education by itself can only do so much to enable individuals to reach beyond the limiting contours of their personal and social circumstances and succeed.'

Bell commented, 'That message remains a strong one.' Ministers claim that the real problem is schools' lack of 'ambition' for their pupils and that individual schools can entirely compensate for disadvantages children face. To read the speech go to www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/index.cfm?fuseactionstationnews.details&idstation1506


Child support agency crisis

Single parents lose out

THOUSANDS OF single parents have been left short of money because of problems with a multi-million pound computer system intended to speed up payments. Since the Child Support Agency system was introduced in April, 152,000 single parents have applied for child maintenance. Just 53,000 have had their claim processed and as few as 7,000 may have actually received any money.

The private firm EDS supplied the computer system at a cost of £450 million. This is the same company that supplied the computer system for the government's tax credits, which were hit by a series of delays when they were launched earlier this year.


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Article information

News
Sat 29 Nov 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1879
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