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The News Line: Feature Privatisation of social care is a ‘ticking time-bomb’ – GMB
GMB-organised strikes against health privateers Carillion and at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon and Medirest (below) at Ealing Hospital in west London (shown here)
THE GMB Annual Conference, which opened in Brighton on Sunday and finishes today, warned that there is a ‘social care ticking timebomb’ ... with tens of thousands of people plunged into debt trying to pay for the level of support they need, as a result of the privatisation of social care. An investigation by the GMB, the union for carers, revealed at least 166,000 people are trapped in debt for their social care.

Freedom of Information requests submitted to every local authority in Great Britain with responsibility for social care show that at least 1,178 people have been taken to court by local authorities for social care debts. Of the total of at least 166,835 people who are in arrears on their social care payments, more than 78,000 have had debt management procedures started against them by their authority for non-payment of social care charges. The true figure is likely to be higher, as some authorities didn’t respond.

Sharon Wilde, GMB National Officer, said: ‘These stark figures show the UK’s social care ticking timebomb has now blown a gaping hole in families’ finances. ‘The fact that more than 1,000 people have been taken to court because they’re unable to pay for their own care – or that of their loved ones – shows the system just isn’t working. ‘Meanwhile, our ageing population is creating a huge demand for care staff  – but caring is still not seen as a sought-after career.

‘The lack of local authority funding often means low pay – and the sector is struggling to recruit and retain the dedicated staff needed to provide the best care to the UK’s most vulnerable people.
‘We need a clear, coherent strategy for funding social care now and in the future. ‘Otherwise, the struggle to recruit and retain carers will become even more acute, while tens of thousands of people are plunged into debt trying to pay for the level of support that they need.’

On Monday, GMB delegates in Brighton heard the union announce that it is launching legal action against three Amazon delivery companies on the charge of bogus self-employment. The case is the latest in a series of gig economy legal cases brought by the union since they won the landmark judgement against Uber in 2016. The legal action being taken by GMB is on behalf of members working for Prospect Commercials Limited, Box Group Limited and Lloyd Link Logistics Limited. The claimants all worked for the companies as couriers, delivering parcels for Amazon.

GMB say the drivers were employees, and the companies used the bogus self- employment model to wrongly deny them employment rights such as the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The drivers were required to attend scheduled shifts that were controlled by Amazon, meaning they did not have the flexibility that is integral to being self-employed. In this situation, the couriers were treated like employees in terms of their working hours, the GMB union contends they should be treated as employees in terms of their rights too.

Two of the members are also claiming that they were dismissed because of whistleblowing, and their roles were terminated because they raised concerns about working practices, for example that: • the number of parcels allocated to drivers resulted in excessive hours and/or driving unsafely to meet targets; • drivers were expected to wait a significant time to load their vans, extending their working hours; • drivers were driving whilst tired, which posed a threat to their safety and other road users; and; • drivers were being underpaid and not being paid amounts that they were contractually entitled to. These whistleblowing claims are also being brought directly against Amazon on the basis that it was Amazon who determined the way that the drivers should work.

Case Study One of the drivers who is involved in the legal case recounted his experience of leaving the house at 6am, not returning until 11pm at night and as a ‘thank you’ for his hard work, had £1 per undelivered parcel deducted from his wages. On more than one occasion the driver was told by the company that he would not be paid if he did not complete a route, and had sometimes driven when ‘half asleep at the wheel’ in order to ensure he got paid.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: ‘Amazon is a global company that makes billions. It’s absolutely galling that they refuse to afford the people who make that money for them even the most basic rights, pay and respect. ‘The day to day reality for many of our members who deliver packages for Amazon is unrealistic targets, slogging their guts out only to have deductions made from their pay when those targets aren’t met and being told they’re self-employed without the freedom that affords.

‘Companies like Amazon and their delivery companies can’t have it both ways – they can’t decide they want all of the benefits of having an employee, but refuse to give those employees the pay and rights they’re entitled to. ‘Guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions are not privileges companies can dish out when they fancy. They are the legal right of all UK workers, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to rule on.’

The conference opened on Sunday to the announcement that according to a new GMB investigation, the UK has lost almost 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade. The figures, which were discussed at GMB’s Manufacturing Conference in Brighton on Sunday, show that 599,100 jobs in the sector disappeared between 2007 and 2017, a massive fall of 17%. Between them the lost jobs have meant that £2.3 billion less has been paid in manufacturing wages in real-terms.
In 2007, the UK supported 3.5 million permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs – more than 12% of the all British employment. By 2016, that had slumped to just 2.9 million, or 9.2% of the total. Every region in the UK has experienced a decline in manufacturing employment.
Three badly affected regions – London, Scotland and the North West – have lost 27%, 22% and 21% of their manufacturing jobs respectively.

The worst affected region by total job losses – the North West – lost 93,500 manufacturing jobs.
Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary for Manufacturing, said: ‘We are at a critical crossroads in UK manufacturing. ‘The right support for our manufacturing sector would accelerate growth, address the skills gap and provide a much-needed boost to technology, production and exports. ‘A robust manufacturing base post-Brexit is vital for the UK economy, workers and local communities.

‘The continuing decline in jobs is a result of this government’s failure to deliver the certainty the industry needs. ‘It begs the question; how does this add up to May’s commitments that ‘the UK’s post-Brexit arrangements must protect people’s jobs and security?’

Another report to conference that led to angry contributions from delegates, found that privatised water company bosses in England took home an average of £1,254,000 in 2017. Nine privatised water company fat cats trousered a whopping £58million in salary, bonuses, pensions and other benefits over the past five years, delegates heard. The bosses of England’s privatised water and sewerage companies together received £11.3m in 2017 alone.

The figures, from a joint investigation into their company accounts by GMB and Corporate Watch, were released yesterday as the GMB launched it’s ‘Take Back The Tap’ campaign to bring England’s privatised water industry back into public ownership.

The figures show that through a combination of salary, bonuses, pensions and other benefits that the average package for a privatised water company in 2017 was £1,254,000 – a figure that is six times higher than the pay and pension of the UK Prime Minister. [3]

Top of the water industry’s fat cat league is the CEO of Severn Trent who took home a staggering £2,450,700 in 2017 – an 50% increase since 2013. Close behind is the CEO of United Utilities who splashed out £2,310,000 on their CEO in 2017 – a 49% increase since 2013. While water bosses are pocketing these eye-watering sums, consumer water bills in England and Wales have increased by 40% above inflation since privatisation in 1989 according to a report by the National Audit Office.

The GMB’s Tim Roache said: ‘It is a national scandal. Over the last five years England’s hard-pressed water customers have been forced to splash out £58 million through their bills to go into the pockets of just nine individuals. ‘Privatisation of the water industry has been a costly mistake and these eye-watering sums are further proof the water industry must be returned to public hands.

‘GMB is urging people and politicians to Take Back the Tap and make our water services work for the many and not the few. ‘Water is the most natural monopoly and should be in public hands.’
 
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