As the TUC celebrates its 150th anniversary, the trade union movement looks back on its successes but also looks forward to the work that still needs to be done to ensure workers’ rights and jobs are protected.
Unite delegate and construction worker Billy Parry highlights the ongoing fight against blacklisting, bogus self-employment and umbrella companies in construction his comment below.
As a joiner in construction I have battled workplace insecurity. Be it bogus self-employment, the lump or umbrella companies. All these practices reduce safety, training and deny workers a pension. And there are far darker consequences. It is insecure, casual, employment which feeds blacklisting.
I was blacklisted for raising safety issues. A cowardly act, which affected my life my families’ lives and ruined the lives of many others. And let’s be clear blacklisting continues in construction and other industries to this day.
I want to congratulate my union on taking the fight to the agencies and umbrella companies.
Through our Strategic Cases Unit, which targets bogus self-employment, payroll and umbrella companies, we won a massive case on behalf of our member Russ Blakely earlier this year.
Russ was forced to be employed via a payroll company. But he refused to sign the paperwork and therefore was able to finally win back unfair deductions and holiday pay stolen from him.
Even more significantly the appeals tribunal ruled that just because you are forced to sign up to an umbrella or payroll company, the agency that recruited you can’t pretend there is no relationship.
And crucially you can be a worker for the agency, the payroll or umbrella company, or both. Unions now have a new and powerful string to their bow when taking on the exploiters.
But I want to issue a further warning. The exploiters never stand still. At Unite we are increasingly seeing that workers through agencies or umbrella companies are having the apprentice levy deducted from their wages.
The levy that employers not workers should pay. And there is a double whammy. The levy only applies when employers’ payrolls exceed £3m. So if these unscrupulous agencies and umbrella companies are deducting the levy from all their workers, not only are they robbing workers, they are making a profit.
A complete disgrace. The government if it had an ounce of decency would take immediate action. But I won’t hold my breath.