Government Exploiting Workers Rights Loophole

As reported in the Barnsley Gazette, Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 29th March, Stephanie has slammed Government Ministers after revealing that they have quietly delayed closing a loophole that allows bosses to keep workers on insecure contracts and poverty pay. The latest admission, in answer to a parliamentary question from the Labour MP, contradicts a previous assurance given in the Commons earlier this month by Business Secretary Greg Clark that he would reconsider the timetable. It also undermines the Prime Minister’s announcements on workers’ rights, intended to win over trade unions and Labour backbenchers to her Brexit deal. Just weeks ago, Theresa May had cited her action on agency workers as a reason to trust her Brexit agreement to protect workers’ rights, and key trade unions have a reacted with anger to news that the measure had been delayed.   Agency workers are meant to be treated equally to permanent staff but employers can dodge the rules by using so-called ‘pay between assignment’ contracts, under which the agency itself is considered the employer, even when the worker is in fact permanently placed in one workplace. The Resolution Foundation found bosses used the loophole to underpay workers by £173m a year. Business Secretary Greg Clark had announced that he was accepting the recommendation of the ‘Good Work’ Review to close the loophole. The Review, undertaken by Matthew Taylor, had first been commissioned by Theresa May in October 2016 and reported in July 2017. However, Ministers admitted to the Barnsley East MP that they had quietly delayed implementing the change until the 2020-21 tax year, leaving agency workers unprotected for both the current and next financial year. When she challenged Clark on the date in the Commons earlier this month, he told the House that “I have had representations from the trade unions as to the timing, and we will reflect on that.” But junior minister Kelly Tolhurst has now confirmed that the government is not reconsidering the delay, so as “to allow time for businesses to realign their contractual arrangements”.   The government has faced similar criticism for delaying legislation to ensure waiters are entitled to tips left until the next Queen’s Speech, despite the change first being promised in May 2016. Commenting on the revelation, Stephanie said: “The Prime Minister keeps asking us to trust them but once again she has shown exactly why we can’t. The Business Secretary promised me in the Commons that he’d reconsider this delay only to renege at the very first moment he thought he could get away with it. We simply can’t take their word for anything, let alone on an issue as important as our fundamental rights at work. “This is the government that took two and a half years with a review, a consultation on the review and a consultation on the consultation, yet still leaves agency workers waiting until 2020-21 for equal treatment. Apparently Tory Ministers are unwilling or unable to implement even their own limited promises. “Vulnerable workers here in Barnsley and across the country need urgent action, not more dithering from a government in chaos.” The news came weeks after Tolhurst admitted that the government was also delaying a flagship promise to ensure that tips left by customers for staff in bars and restaurants go to staff. Legislation on fair tips had first been proposed by the government in May 2016, and the Prime Minister made it a key announcement at Conservative Party Conference in October 2018. The government’s ‘Good Work Plan’, heralded by the Prime Minister this week, boasted about “the government’s record … including ensuring tips left for workers go to them in full”, despite this promise remaining unfulfilled. But challenged on the discrepancy by Stephanie Peacock in the Commons, Tolhurst replied that they would “bring forward legislation in the next Session…”, meaning that no Bill will be tabled until the next Queen’s Speech.  

Column: Social Care

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 29th March, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the crisis in our social care sector, and the increased pressures placed on vulnerable people who depend on it by this Government. You can read her full comments here.   

Stephanie's Resignation

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd March, Stephanie resigned her position as a Labour Party Whip last week in order to vote against the prospect of a second referendum on the UK's exit from the European Union.  Commenting, Stephanie said:  “In 2016, Barnsley voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union, and a year later I was elected by the people of Barnsley East on a manifesto promise to respect this decision. “I have long been honest and clear that I feel a second referendum risks undermining this result and ignoring the clear message we received at the ballot box both locally and nationally to leave EU “Simply abstaining on the issue of a second referendum was not sufficient in honouring this commitment, and I felt compelled to resign my frontbench position in the Party and vote against this approach. “It has been a privilege serving the Labour Party on the frontbench as we face down this damaging Tory Government and their woeful handling of our exit from the EU. “But I will always prioritise my representation of the people of Barnsley East who elected me, and the commitments I have made to them.” You can see the full story here:  

Miners Memorial

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd March, Stephanie took part in a miners memorial in Barnsley to commemorate two miners who lost their lives in the miners' strike of 1984. Commenting, Stephanie said: “It was a real honour to lay a wreath at this incredibly moving memorial for David Jones and Joe Green, who sadly lost their lives on the picket line in 1984.“We must never forget the injustices done in the miners’ strike, where the Government did all they could to break the miners and their way of life in communities like ours here in Barnsley.“And we must always remember David and Joe, brave men standing up for their communities and their way of life, whose lives were so tragically cut short.”    

Column: International Women's Day

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th March, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the International Women's Day. She paid tribute to the many incredible women in Barnsley, but outlined the burdens placed on their shoulders by the Tory Government's policies. You can read her full comments here.    

Stephanie meets Coal Authority

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th March, Stephanie recently held a meeting with the Coal Authority at her office in Hoyland.The Coal Authority is responsible for licensing all coal mining in Britain, and also addresses legacy issues relating to mining, such as water pollution and subsidence.The meeting was attended by James Lowth, the Coal Authority’s Director of Operations.During the meeting, James outlined the work the Coal Authority does, and Stephanie pressed them on the work they’re doing to address the challenges faced by Barnsley East.Commenting, Stephanie said:“As a proud mining area, the closure of the pits has had a profound impact on the economic, social and cultural life of our community here in Barnsley.“As well as fighting injustices like the unfair surplus sharing arrangements in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, I’m committed to helping my constituents to deal with other issues stemming from our mining heritage, such as water pollution and subsidence.“That’s why I felt it was important to meet with the Coal Authority, and to speak to them about the work they’re doing here in Barnsley East.”

Modern Slavery Meeting

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th March, Barnsley East Labour Party Women’s Forum recently held an event on tackling modern slavery here in the UK.The event was held on Saturday 9th March from 1pm to 2:30pm at Barnsley Town Hall.It’s estimated that there are currently 14,000-16,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK. The event discussed the nature of this practice, and ways it can be identified and tackled.Speakers included Jane Williamson, a tutor who has worked on Northern College’s ‘Free Thinking Programme’ to provide education to survivors of modern slavery, Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and national lead for tackling modern slavery, and Tim Forber, Assistant Chief Constable with South Yorkshire Police.The event was chaired by Stephanie .Commenting, she said:“Modern slavery is an absolutely appalling practice, where people are forced into work without pay and life without freedom.“It’s staggering that this practice is still so widespread in the UK in the 21st century, and it’s so important that we do all we can to fight it.“That’s why I’m pleased to have chaired this important event, so that we can work towards understanding, identifying and tackling modern slavery, and ultimately ending it once and for all.”  

Stephanie Runs Half Marathon for Barnsley Charity

As reported in the Barnsley Gazette, Barnsley Chronicle and the Barnsley News and Sport on 13th March, Stephanie ran a half marathon last weekend to help raise funds for a local charity. Donning her running gear to tackle the 13-mile course in blustery and challenging conditions, the MP  surpassed her target of raising £500 for the Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Service (BSARCS). BSARCS in the sole organisation in Barnsley providing specialist services to people affected by rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault and sexual violence. In the last year alone, the charity has helped around 1,500 people affected by the trauma of sexual violence. Amidst funding cuts to local authorities that have placed greater financial strain on charities like BSARCS, the Barnsley MP decided to take the opportunity to help raise funds for them She said:. “I won’t be catching Mo Farah at the finish line any time soon, but running the half marathon was a great opportunity to help raise funds for a fantastic local charity. “Many charities rely on funding from local authorities, but with budgets slashed to the bone by this Tory Government it is vital frontline services like those provided to vulnerable people by Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Services that suffer. “Hopefully the kind donations given and money raised will go some way in helping this excellent organisation continue to provide crucial services and help for those in Barnsley who need it.”  

Stephanie Visits Citizens Advice Barnsley

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 8th February, Stephanie recently visited Citizens Advice Barnsley.During her visit, Stephanie met with the Citizens Advice Chair, Janine Eldred, and their CEO, Jo Clark.Stephanie chatted to them about the work they’re doing and the challenges they face.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was a real pleasure to visit Citizens Advice here in Barnsley.“While they use the national Citizens Advice name, Citizens Advice Barnsley is its own separate local charity, and sadly their workload and the pressures they face have increased hugely in recent years, as Government cuts have hit local services right across Barnsley.“So it was invaluable hear from their Chair and CEO about the challenges they face and ways I can support them, as well as chatting to them about the work they do to help people right across our area.”

Stephanie Opens BIADS AGM

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 8th February, Stephanie recently spoke at the Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support (BIADS) AGM.Stephanie, the organisation’s patron, spoke at the beginning of the AGM.She spoke about the achievements of BIADS over the previous year and looked forward to the year ahead, as well as speaking on the importance of dementia support services here in Barnsley.Commenting, Stephanie said:“I’m proud to be the patron of BIADS, an organisation doing such important work in supporting those living with dementia and their carers here in Barnsley.“As the Alzheimer’s Society states, we must do all we can to ensure that those living with dementia can feel a part of, not apart from society.“BIADS is a central part of working towards making that a reality in Barnsley, so it was great to support them at their AGM.”