Sell, Sell, Sell! Maximus Share Prices Could Tumble After Welfare To Work Scandal Rocks Australia

Originally posted on the void:

share-collapse1A damning documentary exposing the shoddy behaviour of Maximus and the welfare-to-work sector in Australia could lead to a drop in the company’s share price according to one stockmarlet analyst.

The programme, produced by ABC (and still viewable here), tells a story which will be familiar to all those in the UK forced to attend outsourced schemes such as Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme.  Claimants had their benefits stopped for no reason, signatures on paperwork were faked and the most marginalised claimants were parked – meaning abandoned completely by the companies who saw no profit in helping them.  Maximus dominate the welfare-to-work sector in Australia, and have several contracts running similar schemes in the UK.

According to an analyst on finance website Seeking Alpha, Maximus earn 10% of their revenue in Australia and that could now be under threat due to a ‘short term negative news cycle’. …

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Gluteus Maximus …(that’s Latin for ARSE)

Reposted from Kate Belgrave

Readers of this site will remember that a couple of weeks ago, I posted questions about people’s right to record and film face-to-face assessments as they go through the work capability assessments that are to be run by Maximus.

I wanted to know if Maximus will allow people to record their face-to-face assessments on their phones or any recording gear that they have – from the pointwhen Maximus takes over the grisly WCA process. I also had other questions, which I put to Maximus last week. I’ve listed these questions below, along with the answers I got back (perhaps I should say “answers”). I had to lean on Maximus’ US office for a response in the first instance, but got one of sorts in the end.

Needless to say, the entire exercise was a complete waste of time. You’ll see below that the responses give us five-eighths of fuck all as far as concrete information, timelines and/or actual process detail is concerned. No surprise there, of course – but I thought I’d post the responses anyway, because I think there is merit in highlighting the PR guff and detail-free twattery that Maximus has decided to specialise in when it comes to this contract. There’s also a dismissive aspect to a lot of the language, which you might find illuminating – a sort of “we’ll do things at our pace and you lot can wait” – air which nettled me badly. It should get on your nerves, too.

This sort of thing, for example:

“Change cannot occur overnight”

“[We] will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration”

“I am unable to comment on such speculation,” when I raised a perfectly valid point about Maximus’ view of the future of the ESA Support Group.

Sue Marsh actually got in touch with me after the press office did to say that I could speak with her, because my questions “come under her job,” but that attempt at overture got right up my nose, as well. For one thing – if Sue Marsh is the person who is best placed to answer questions in the sort of details required, then the Maximus press office should go to her for those answers before responding to whoever asked them. It’s not my job to sweep together Maximus’ various outputs on its own assessment processes as and when those outputs drop out of different holes, or to wait around for the responses that Maximus feels it has best finessed. For another thing – I can’t see myself responding well to any aspect of the many-pronged charm offensive that Maximus has launched in its sorry and very costly attempt to sculpt and polish the WCA turd. Let’s face it – any company that comes out with a phrase like “more touch, more communication,” apparently in all seriousness, should not be encouraged to contribute further to any dialogue on any topic, or to remain involved in any process where people require something better than bullshit. It’s my view that in a general sense, any company that speaks lines like “more touch, more communication,” needs a smack in the soft parts right there.

Anyway.

Here are the sorts of responses you get if you ask Maximus questions about recording face-to-face assessments, or about support for people with mental health conditions as they go through WCAs, or whether or not Maximus would bid for contracts to “provide” work-focused activity for people in the ESA support group if people in SG are ever pushed into such activity. I just want to give you a feel for the sort of Jog On contempt that those who ask for actual details about processes are treated with.

Opening response from Maximus:

“We are firmly focussed on managing a stable transition for next week. Naturally when we are up and running we will want to introduce innovative changes to the customer experience but they have to be done with DWP consent and change cannot occur overnight.”

Well – that’s a Fuck Off if I ever heard one (and I’ve heard plenty of them). I think it’s the “Naturally” that makes me want to punch the screen when I re-read that effort. May I say that I’ve had enough of the phrase “Customer experience” as well. People who must go through the work capability assessment are not “customers.” They’re not wafting around a pick and mix display, or selecting iphones from a catalogue. They’re sick and disabled people who must endure an outsourced assessment process at the hands of voracious private companies that are in turn hired by governments which are absolutely intent on selling the idea that everyone on a benefit is a scrounger. There’s no customer choice or shopping around going on here. The government is the customer – not the people who the assessment process is inflicted on.

Ho hum. Here are the questions and answers, then. Short and not particularly sweet, etc:

Recording face-to-face assessments:

My question:

“Re: the recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments. Will Maximus permit the audio recording and filming of WCA face-to-face assessments? If so, how will assessment recordings operate? Will people be able to record and film their assessments using their own recorders and cameras? This is an important point for people going through WCAs – without a recorded file of their assessment, there is little transparency of the face to face aspect of the process in particular. The DWP and Atos were challenged by lawyers on this point and forced to change protocol.”

Maximus response:

“In respect of recordings we are studying this and will take forward this and other ideas to the Department for their consideration. We agree there are merits to this change, but there are other considerations as well, including the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded. We want to ensure customers feel as comfortable through this process as possible, so all of these factors must be considered.”

Right. As it happens, a simple Yes or No would have sufficed here. Maximus could instruct its assessors that from of the start of the contract, people can record and film their assessments on their own recording gear if they want to, or bring someone along to do that (as I’ve said before, I’ll do it anyway. The hell with it). When Atos was in charge of this shambles, people had to ask for a change of appointment until they could get one with an assessor who was prepared to be recorded and where the dual recorders that Atos and the DWP insisted on were available. As for “the potential for the customer to be potentially constrained because some people are shy when being recorded” – I would have thought the answer to that one was simple. People – sorry, “Customers” – don’t have to record their assessments if they don’t want their assessments recorded. Naturally.

I can’t believe we’re still talking about this after all these years. Surely there is a limit to the number of times that the DWP and its providers can arse about on this subject? I’m also unclear on the basics here. Can people still ask for a recording to be made on official equipment? Does Maximus have enough equipment to meet demand?

Next up was:

My question: assessments for mental health claimants:

I asked: “What protocols and guidance will Maximus have in place for assessments for people with mental health conditions? Atos came in for considerable criticism regarding its failure to accurately assess ESA claimants with mental health conditions. Could we discuss the structures that Maximus will have in place and the training that assessors who conduct assessments for mental health claimants will have?”

Maximus response:

“With regard to assessing claimants with MH conditions we have established a Customer Representative Group with MH charities on this. One of the group activities will be to review training materials so that they better reflect MH issues. We are also review the use and numbers of MH champions in the business as well as employing OTs who often have extensive experience at supporting people with MH issues in work and life.”

You can understand why I found this underwhelming – ie barely worth reading. I suppose that I was hoping for something a little more robust and detailed than plans for reviews, and more chat and roundtables with, presumably, the usual charities. I wrote extensively on Atos’ evasiveness on the work and effectiveness of these so-called Mental Function Champions (and found at the time that Atos didn’t report to the DWP on the performance or otherwise of those “champions.”) Just a little history on the sorts of shenanigans you can get on this topic: In 2012, Mark Hoban told parliament that “we have introduced a mental health champion in every single assessment centre throughout the country.” Actually, he hadn’t. The DWP told me that 60 mental function champions were in place and that they largely worked a phone advice line. A group of us had to work for months to get Atos and the DWP to agree to a meeting about the WCA and these “champions” with charity workers from a couple of small, independent mental health charities – ie the kind of organisations that weren’t generally invited to roundtables or to share their views on the DWP and Atos with the DWP and Atos. The whole thing was a total pile and to this day I speak with people who have mental health conditions and talk about suicide when discussing their next WCA. Why people can’t simply be assessed by their own GPs and support teams is beyond me (and that goes for all sick and disabled people who need benefits. The WCA isn’t required at all – unless, of course, your aim is to push the idea that work for all is great and that people who receive benefits shouldn’t).

Moving on:

My question: the future of the ESA Support Group:

I asked: “There have been reports of people placed in the ESA Support Groupreceiving letters from jobcentres calling them to work-focused interviews. Would Maximus consider bidding for any contract to provide welfare-to-work or work programme-type schemes if the government decides that people in the Support Group should engage in work-focused activity?”

Maximus response:

The company simply said that it was unable to comment on such speculation.

To which I say – Bollocks. I asked a perfectly legitimate question about Maximus’ view of the future of the Support Group. As Benefits and Work explains: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” So. Either Maximus respects the idea of the integrity of a support group which exists for people who are exempt from work and work-focused activity, or it doesn’t. If it does respect that idea, it won’t consider bidding for any future contracts for work-focused activity for people in the Support Group, if that is a line that the government decides to pursue. Which the government will. It already has. The DWP already sends letters to people in the support group asking them to attended work-focused interviews. Simple as that really.

Anyway – that’s Maximus. Not a lot of joy there. Perhaps I will try putting these questions to them again during next week’s day of #scrapWCA action. Details of activities here.

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It’s official … this government SUPPORT domestic violence!

Reposted from Inside Housing

Domestic violence victim loses High Court bedroom tax case.

A mother living in a domestic abuse ‘sanctuary scheme’ has lost her landmark challenge against the bedroom tax, in a blow to similar services across the country.

Claimant ‘A’ – whose identity is protected – lives in a property which has a special ‘panic space’ installed by the council.

The woman had her housing benefit deducted because the council considered her panic room to be a spare bedroom, although she has been receiving discretionary housing payment to cover the shortfall in her benefit.

She started High Court judicial review proceedings against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in May 2013, arguing that the bedroom tax is a discriminatory policy which will have severe consequences for her and her son.

In a judgement handed down on 29 January, which was summarised in a government bulletin on Wednesday, the court found in favour of the DWP.

The judge held that although the bedroom tax discriminates disproportionately against women, the policy has a ‘reasonable foundation’, according to the DWP bulletin summary.

A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) survey in 2007 found that about half of England’s councils (171 of 354) were operating sanctuary schemes.

Figures obtained by a freedom of information (FOI) request to 79 councils in February last year show that since the bedroom tax was introduced in 2013, 281 households have been affected by the policy.

According to the summary, the judge commented that while it would have been helpful for parliament to have considered the effect of the policy on those living in sanctuary schemes, it was ‘not surprising that no reference was made given the relatively small numbers of people involved’.

Discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – funds to help claimants with their housing costs – are a ‘not irrational’ way to deal with issues arising from sanctuary schemes, it added.

The council – which is also unnamed – adapted Claimant A’s property because her life was deemed to be at risk from an ex-partner with a history of serious violence.

The home had a ‘panic space’ and a specialist ‘sanctuary system’ installed, which includes reinforced doors, electric alarms and alarms linked to the police station.

Claimant A has sought permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.

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Judicial Review Into DWP’s Disabled Benefits ‘Fiasco’

Reposted from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors website

Legal Experts Say Vulnerable People ‘Left In Lurch’ By Delays In Vital Payments

25/02/2015

Expert lawyers have been given the green light to launch a judicial review into the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) system for providing essential payments to disabled families, on behalf of vulnerable people who have been “left in the lurch” and have faced waits of up to 13 months for vital support.

Irwin Mitchell’s specialist public lawyers have been granted permission for the legal challenge in relation to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), after hearing numerous first-hand accounts from those who have faced serious financial hardship after experiencing delays in receiving the funds.

Introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance from April 2013, PIP is designed to help disabled adults to meet extra costs as a result of disability, including basic essentials such as food, heating and transport.

While the DWP estimated the process for applying for payments would take just two and a half months, of the 529,400 claimants who had registered for PIP assessments between April 2013 and July 2014 only 206,000 had received a final determination. This means that more than 300,000 applicants who applied since April 2013 were still awaiting a determination by the end of July 2014.

The problems with the scheme were described by Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge in June last year as “nothing short of a fiasco”, while the delays were also discussed at a Department for Work and Pensions Committee meeting in January.

Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, which has already successfully helped seven people to obtain decisions on PIP after launching legal action on their behalf, have now been given permission to launch a judicial review with the aim of improving the system for others affected. The action is on the grounds that delays of more than six months amount to a failure to reach a decision in reasonable time.

Anne-Marie Irwin We are delighted to have been given permission to ensure that the voices of thousands of disabled people can finally be heard on this issue.

“While we have helped a number of clients obtain decisions on PIP, it is worrying that the DWP’s approach has been to fast-track those who are taking legal action but not address the situation for the many people who continue to face delays and – as a result – are unable to pay for essentials such as food and heating.

“This has left our clients struggling to cope financially, with the strain and stress of these issues having a significant impact on their health and wellbeing.

“Simply too many people have been left in the lurch as a result of these issues and we hope that our legal challenge will lead to the vital improvements that are needed to ensure that disabled people up and down the country can get the support they need.”

Among those that Irwin Mitchell has representing in relation to the issue is Ms C – who cannot be named – from Kent, who suffers from severe depression and was diagnosed with ME and high blood pressure in 2009. This condition causes severe physical exhaustion and a host of other health problems. She applied for PIPs in January 2014 after her worsening condition meant she was forced to leave her job, but she did not receive PIP until October, the day after court proceedings were issued.

Ms C said: “The delay had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIPs so I could look after myself, but without it I could barely eat and only ever left my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.

“I was completely isolated during the nine months I was waiting for my payments. While my wait came to an end, it is worrying that many, many others have still not received a decision.”

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Hands up all those who STILL think privatisation is a good idea

Reposted from the Independent

People in need at risk of losing tax credits after being wrongly accused of cheating …

What a shame this government are not as vociferous in their pursuit of billionaire tax dodging individuals and companies.

More info about Concentrix here

https://www.concentrix.com/industries/government-and-public-sector.html

Thousands unfairly hounded over tax credits by US services company working for HMRC.

Thousands of people on low incomes are being sent letters by an American outsourcing company accusing them of cheating on their tax credits and warning them that they may have their benefits stopped.

Concentrix, part of a multi-billion pound US business services company, has been accused of going on a vast “fishing expedition” as part of a controversial contract with HM Revenue and Customs to outsource its fraud and error detection.

Staff working at Concentrix have told The Independent that they are under pressure to open between 40 and 50 new tax-credit investigations every day and often don’t have time to check whether the allegations they are making stack up.

Meanwhile, worried claimants have been taking to internet message forums to ask for advice for dealing with the false allegations being made against them.

Many said they believed the letters to be hoaxes as they asked for personal financial information such as bank and mortgage statements to be sent to the company within 30 days. Those who ignore the letters risk having their tax credits halted. In the last quarter, the Citizens Advice Bureau said it helped 20 per cent more people with tax credit problems than in the same period in 2013.

However, it said it did not know the cause of the rise. One concerned charity worker contacted The Independent after seeing a client who was confused and frightened by the letter. The worker was worried that many people will ignore or not understand such letters and consequently have their tax credit cut.

“A lot of people might have got these letters and ignored them because they think they look like a scam,” said the charity worker, who asked to remain anonymous. “It means in the next month or so people will have their tax credits stopped and that’s when the problems will really start.”

Claimants have been taking to internet forums to ask for advice (Getty)Claimants have been taking to internet forums to ask for advice (Getty)
The letter accused the recipient of living with a partner and said if that wasn’t the case she had to provide proof. “That seems outrageous,” the charity worker added. “They’re picking on vulnerable single people and making wild accusations. The onus should be on HMRC to provide proof, not claimants to be forced to prove otherwise.”

Carmen, a single mother who lives with her three children in Grimsby, recently received a letter from Concentrix telling her it had evidence that she was living with a woman “partner” who was registered at that address.

The letter told Carmen, who is heterosexual, to send documents in her name to prove that she was living alone.

“I live in social housing and lots of tenants have lived here before me,” she said. “No one has ever questioned my entitlement to child tax credit.”

Staff at Concentrix’s office in Belfast, where the contract is based, have told The Independent that they haven’t been given enough training to differentiate between genuine claims for tax credits and fraudulent ones.

They also say they are being encouraged to hit a target of making 20 decisions a day, or about three an hour, on whether to stop, amend or leave a tax claim unchanged.

Staff say they often don’t have enough time to review all the relevant data before making a decision. They also allege they have not been given enough training to make effective decisions.

One worker on Concentrix’s tax-credit contract, who asked not to be named, said that in his own estimate about six in 10 investigations into people suspected of not declaring that they’re living with a partner are opened in error.

Workers will check people’s tax-credit claims by comparing information from claimants on childcare costs, working hours and pay against other sources of information including credit-reference agency databases and from government – for example, PAYE and benefit payments. Different teams investigate tax credits, answer calls from claimants and make a decision on whether to stop the credit.

“It’s quite analytical work and needs attention to detail,” the worker said. “Just one mistake in a calculation of someone’s salary or childcare costs can mean you stop someone’s payment.”

In a statement, Concentrix said it couldn’t comment on clients due to confidentiality but added: “Over the last several years we’ve demonstrated significant commitment and growth in the UK and Northern Ireland. We’ve increased our staff by more than 1,000.”

A spokesman for HMRC said: “Concentrix carries out routine tax credit checks on behalf of HMRC to ensure that people receive the money they’re entitled to. Last year alone checks just like these led to corrections to awards of more than £700m. The company is not paid on the number of letters issued, but on the basis of savings to public finances arising from correcting tax credits claims that are incorrect. We know how important tax credit money is and are trying to ensure that people are paid the correct amount of money. We only contact people where we have an indication that information may be incorrect. We are working closely with Concentrix to ensure it carries out these checks accurately.”

But Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said that it was “another example of the Government and HMRC chasing those on low incomes, when they should be chasing tax-dodging millionaires. Concentrix work on a ‘payment by results’ basis, so they only get paid if they cut the tax-credit bill. This means they profit out of stopping payments made to people in real need. This service should be publicly accountable, not led by profit.”

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Why can’t Britain create decent jobs? Meet the women struggling against low pay and zero-hours contracts

Reposted from the Guardian

Cecily Blyther

Cecily Blyther, a learning support officer, has been on a zero-hours contract for six years. Photograph: Mark Passmore for the Observer/AP

Sarah, 44, married with a son aged four, has a degree in modern languages, two master’s degrees, a PGCE teaching qualification and a PhD. She has 20 years’ experience in teaching. Each year, for the past four and a half years, her contracts as a lecturer at two universities have been renewed only days before the start of the academic year, meaning she has continual breaks in employment.

She is entitled after four years to request a permanent contract that brings with it improved employment rights, security and a chance to improve her pension. Illegally, her requests have been ignored. Instead Sarah’s wages have stuck at about £23,000, £4,000 below the average UK salary at a time when the cost of living has risen by 25% since 2008. A starting salary for a lecturer is about £32,000.

“I love what I do. I do a good job,” she says. “I’d like to do a better job, but I can’t afford the time to research and publish. Five years from now I will still be teaching, but my wages will have gone down even further and my promotion chances are nil.

“Yes, I am angry, bitter and frustrated. It’s a different version of the glass ceiling. It impacts on the quality of education too, and I care about my students. If I am asked to come in at a moment’s notice to teach a course, I won’t turn it down, even if I’m not the best person for the post, because I need the money.”

The world of work is increasingly insecure for a growing number of women and men. Zero-hours contracts, agency work, hourly pay, variable hours and fixed-term contracts – all make up the new precarious environment. New analysis by the TUC shows that, since 2008, the number of women in casual work has risen by a far higher number than predicted. It has increased by more than a third (795,000 to 1,080,000) and by a staggering 61.8% for men (655,000 in 2008 to 1,060,000 in 2014).

While more men have been drawn into casual work, a new report, Women and Casualisation, Women’s Experiences of Job Insecurity, published on Monday at the start of the TUC’s Decent Jobs week, points out how the impact on women is greater. They earn on average £60 a week less than men, maternity rights are often undermined, 30,000 women are sacked during pregnancy and those in casual work are more vulnerable, while unpredictable hours for women have a far greater impact on childcare and caring responsibilities and on in-work benefits such as working tax credits. A woman has to work 16 hours a week to be eligible. If she drops below, she may be asked to repay the benefit.

Low-skilled, casual work that offers little in the way of guaranteed hours, training and job security is traditionally associated with sectors such as social care and retail. Many women have little choice but to trade “flexibility” for low pay and limited opportunities so they can meet children and carers’ responsibilities.

Employers argue that casual work can be a route into full-time work. However, recent research shows that 44% of people on zero-hours contracts have worked for the same employer for two years or more. One in four have been employed for five years.

Women and Casualisation also highlights the growth in involuntary casual work among the highly qualified. Women, who have been pouring into universities and the professions since the 1970s, may now find themselves in employment that makes use of their education and qualifications at a cut-price rate that comes at a personal cost.

Kate, for instance, has two children and was employed in radio production on a series of casual contracts, “living in a state of precariousness”, she says. “You have always got to be available, to be seen to be there all the time.”

Sally, 47, has been a qualified pilot for 15 years. She knows only a month ahead whether she will be in work. “A permanent contract would offer three months’ notice and a right to redundancy payment after two years’ continuous employment,” she says. “I have been working for my current employer for 27 months. I was led to believe I would have a permanent contract. Instead, now, I’ve had to sign on with yet another agency for more casual work.”

Isobel has been a props manager for a major theatre for 20 years and is a representative for the union Bectu. She says that many women in her industry, which includes costume design, lighting, sound, scenic art and technical theatre, are seeing the end of permanent contracts. “My company, for instance, says it wants to ‘aerate the system’.”

A group of half a dozen permanent staff all on grade one at around £17 an hour is to be replaced by a core of two permanent staff and lower rates of pay for the rest of the group on casual contracts, graded from two to five, each grade at a much reduced hourly rate. “It’s false economy,” Isobel says. “Women with years of experience are working fixed-term contracts that can be as little as one week. We are not asking for more. We are just trying to stop it getting any worse.”

The University and College Union has a longrunning anti-casualisation campaign. It says that two-thirds of further education colleges and half of UK universities employ staff on zero-hours contracts. That affects a person’s ability to acquire a mortgage, for instance, or to afford children.

Cecily Blyther, 56, a qualified teacher for many years, now works as a learning support officer in the south-west of England at a further education college, supporting students aged 16 to 60. She has been on a zero-hours contract for six years and, last year, earned less than £10,000. She has survived with help from her mother and by dividing her house into three, to take on tenants. “Every summer they say my services may be required for the next academic year. We have to turn up at the beginning of term and ask if there are any students. Initially, this term I began with only two hours’ work.”

Two years ago she asked, without success, for a permanent contract. After four years an employee can request a permanent post. The employer can cite “no objective justification” (not defined), such as a lack of business need, for not granting the request. Recently Blyther’s hourly rate was reduced by 25%. She earns £15 an hour, which covers preparation time and administration and includes holiday pay but no sick pay.

Jonathan White, who runs the anti-actualisation campaign at UCU, says: “None of the proposals put forward by the three main political parties to address zero hours are effective. Labour’s proposal, for instance – that an employer must offer a permanent contract after 12 months – will mean employees will find themselveslaid off after 11 months.” In November, Labour MP Ian Mearns introduced a private member’s bill proposing that casualised employees have similar rights and protections to those offered to regular workers and the banning of exclusivity clauses that prevent the underemployed from earning in a second job.

“Any economic recovery will be one for the few, not the many, so long as working people continue to be employed on Dickensian contracts,” Mearns said. He plans to reintroduce the bill next month.

Half of all universities, including Goldsmiths, University of London, do not offer precarious employment. So it can be done. “We know women are far more likely to find themselves on actualised contracts and stay on them for longer,” White says. “For some, that means delaying decisions about having a family. Universities and colleges are supposed to be places of enlightenment. They should be deeply ashamed.”

The TUC report offers a number of recommendations including a written statement of terms, conditions and expected hours of work and stronger support for collective bargaining. For this article, only one highly qualified woman felt she could risk having her name published. Casualisation is about flexibility, but it’s also about fear and loss of rights.

“All my employers have to say is that there are no more hours, and I am out of work,” Sarah says. “It’s too easy for them to let me go. We are cheap and dispensable. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a shop or in social care or in a university, what we do deserves to be properly valued.”

Cecily Blyther (pictured top), a support worker at a further education college in south-west England

“It’s a battle to get the work. We have to turn up at the beginning of term and ask, ‘Are there any students?’ Yet it’s a legal requirement for a college to provide learning support. The job is one-to-one. The college tried to get us to take on more than one but we refused because it wouldn’t work. I so love the job. But when I asked for a permanent contract after six years the head of human resources said that as long as zero-hours contracts were here, he’d make use of them.”

Sally, airline pilot, 15 years’ experience

“Employers now constantly keep you on the back foot. I am rostered in the middle of the month for the next month. But I could be laid off with a month’s notice. The lack of continuous employment makes it difficult because you can’t claim redundancy payment without two years of continuous employment. I’ve never belonged to a union before but this is the first time I’ve considered joining Balpa (the British Airline Pilots Association). You have got to stick together because no one knows what these temporary contracts really involve.”

Sarah, university lecturer, 20 years’ experience

“Two weeks ago, there was a fall in students in another area to mine. Permanent staff are protected so I was told I would have to go. Two colleagues argued my case and I survived. At the beginning of the term I was told I would have work for two semesters, 12 hours’ teaching each semester. Last week, I was told there are no hours in semester two. I teach more than any full-time lecturer yet I earn half what they do. Yes, I like flexibility but I’d like permanence of employment too.”

Isobel, theatre props manager, 20 years’ experience

“I am on a permanent contract but the theatre is now employing people on fixed-term contracts, which can mean anything beginning at one week. That makes it difficult, for instance, for women who need maternity leave. The hours are growing longer too, with no flexibility if women have childcare commitments. We had a very talented woman in lighting. She had twins. The employer could have organised part-time work but she was expected to work a 66-hour week on a short-term contract so she left. That’s a waste of experience and talent.”

Posted in zero hours contracts | Tagged | 4 Comments

Tories Only tell you what to Spend if you’re Poor

Originally posted on jaynelinney:

Mark Harper the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions was on Radio4 Today this morning, talking about Cameron’s promise to protect pensions; in his discussion he stated “we can’t tell people how to spend their money“!

Where then does this leave the vow from IDS that he is “testing prepaid cards, onto which we will make benefit payments, so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family”? ‘Given the total contrast between Ministers statements, who can we believe, Harper’s – we trust the public or Ids – the poorest must be told where to shop and what to buy’?

Maybe the Tories believe that only people who have retired can manage a budget? Or is it, much more likely in my opinion, the pensioner promise is more about the Conservatives feeling worried they might lose their traditional voting base, by means testing the additional support such as…

View original 57 more words

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