Socialist Worker

Improving unemployment figures mask bosses’ new ways of eroding our workplace rights

Issue No. 2367

A drop in official unemployment figures can’t be allowed to mask the fact that the recession has allowed bosses to expand ways of exploiting new workers.

Official figures issued last week show unemployment fell by 4,000 over the last three months. But that still leaves 2.51 million jobless, 7.8 percent of the working population. 

And it fails to take in the large numbers of people that are underemployed.

For people who do find work other hazards exist. Many construction industry bosses have long put pressure on workers to say they are self-employed. 

This is increasingly being used in other industries to save money or discipline workers.

Look at the case of Will, who was taken on by a call centre in Liverpool in June. 

An online advert from the firm, 1st Contact Marketing, to work in telesales says, “You will be placed on trial for the first four weeks and then a permanent contract will be given.”

During his trial period Will was given “expenses” of £100 a week. That’s roughly £2.18 an hour, some £4 below the minimum wage.  He was expected to top this up with commissions for sales made.

When the trial period ended his manager told him he was just short of the target that would get him a contract. 

He said Will was welcome to keep working on the same basis, until he hit it. Will told Socialist Worker, “I decided I simply couldn’t work from 10am until 6pm for five days a week for £2.18 an hour any more. 

“I contacted the Pay and Work Rights Line, and was told that I was entitled to the £244.92 that would take my income up to the minimum wage, even though the work was commission based.”

But when Will rang 1st Contact he was told that it had been made clear to him on his first day that he was self-employed so the rule didn’t apply.  

It did not accept that he should be treated as an employee because he worked for one company following their hours and training.

Will said, “Businesses are taking advantage of the uncertainty and panic which sets in once people have been out of employment for a certain amount of time.”

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Article information

Tue 20 Aug 2013, 17:49 BST
Issue No. 2367
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