The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 16th February:
When we discuss employment and work, we frequently concentrate on the numbers.
Most often, for instance, we like to know how many people are working, or how many aren’t.
But when it comes to working, the quality of jobs is just as important as the quantity.
Because it’s just as crucial that people in Barnsley are employed in jobs that are well paid, secure, aren’t exploitative, and allow them to plan for the future.
It’s why an assessment – the Taylor Review – was recently undertaken to look at the changing nature of work and the problems new forms of employment like the gig economy or zero-hours contracts provide.
Acknowledging these issues with modern work was a vital first-step, but the Taylor Review’s recommendations simply didn’t go far enough in tackling them.
Which is why it was even more disappointing that in their response to the Taylor Review last week, the Government failed to meet even the most basic of its recommendations.
There’s no sign of banning exploitative zero-hours contracts that leave many without guaranteed income, unable to plan financially past the next rota.
There’s little hope for the adequate changes needed on bogus self-employment that requires obedience to unethical companies without any of the rights or protections in return.
There’s no ending of the legislation that allows permanent and temporary staff to be paid a different wage for doing exactly the same job.
And the pledges the Government did offer were toothless – what good is an employee’s ‘right to request’ changes to contracts when their employers can still say no, for example.
Too many hard-working people in Barnsley are trapped in precarious and uncertain work, without vital rights and protections the rest of us enjoy, and unable to plan for their future.
The Government had the chance last week to take a giant stride towards tackling the problems of modern working practices and improve the lives and working conditions of these people.
Unfortunately, their response was too similar to many of the jobs they offer: lacking in quality.