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Friday 13th

February 27th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · No Comments · Politics

On Friday 13th Lindsay Hoyle (Labour MP for Chorley) is introducing a private members bill – the second reading of the Statutory Redundancy (Amendment) Bill.  Fridays are days when many MPs traditionally head back to their constituencies, making it hard to get such bills passed.

My union is supporting this bill very strongly, as they should, and encouraging members to get in touch with their MP asking them to turn up to ensure this very worthy bill proceeds to the next stage.  The danger is that  a single opponent can easily cause it to fall.I can’t explain it any better than Unite does in its e-mail:

Statutory redundancy pay (SRP) in this country is among the lowest in Europe. Introduced in 1965, when its value was some 200% above average weekly earnings, its worth has declined so dramatically that a worker made redundant tomorrow can expect their redundancy pay off to represent only 56% of their average weekly earnings.

This is a lousy reward for years of loyal service – and it means that workers in this country are among the cheapest to sack in the EU.

Personally I am fortunate.  I work for a company that voluntarily pays well over the statutory minimum.  I am not expecting to be redundant again, but it is not something I am afraid of and being so insulated it is sometimes easy to forget how paltry the statutory payments are.

I remember looking up the details when I was thinking about taking redundancy in about 2000.  It was depressing, and the sad fact is that many companies will not pay any more than they have to (usually companies without any unionisation. Coincidence?).

It is time to stop the rot.

Unite, working with our sister unions, is leading the campaign to back a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by Lindsay Hoyle, Labour MP for Chorley, that will improve the tired formula for calculating SRP. Getting a fairer deal for workers, and stopping employers from viewing redundancy as the cheapest option in these testing economic times, is a priority for our union – but we need your every assistance to win this campaign.

For this Bill to have any chance of success, at least 100 MPs must be in the Commons on Friday 13th March to steer it through to its next Parliamentary stages. With your help, we can impress upon Labour MPs across the country that they must stay at the Commons on March 13th to support the Bill. Remember what we achieved with the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill? By lobbying Labour MPs now, we can achieve a better deal for workers on redundancy pay.

This is exactly the sort of thing that Labour MPs should be supporting as a matter of principle anyway but right now it is even more important.  As Unite point out, companies can view redundancy as the cheapest option, leaving workers unemployed and with nothing to shield them from the impact of a sudden loss of income.

It is not likely that the level will return to the original 200% above average earnings, but it has to rise above the current insultingly low amount.   This is the sort of area where we can show that there is a difference between the parties.

For reasons I may touch on in the future, I doubt the current recession/depression/credit crunch is Gordon Brown’s fault but also doubt that the last one was Thatcher’s/Major’s fault.  These things can be unpredicable and unavoidable and the important thing is to do what we can to is to show how our treatment of the workforce differs from the last government, when entire communities were written off as “a price worth paying”.

This bill can stop redundancy being the ‘cheap option’ for companies, forcing them to find other ways to manage without laying off the workforce – making redundancy the last resort that it should be instead of the first resort.  And if they do eventually have to go that route at least the workers will have some sort of cushion while they look for something else.

When the Tories are currently busy trying to dismantle the minimum wage, I can’t see them supporting this bill: rather I can see one of them filibustering to prevent a vote.  It will only succeed if enough Labour MPs can be persuaded to attend.

I have asked my MP to consider this, though it will impact her regular Friday surgeries and constituency work, and I would urge anybody else with a Labour MP to do the same.

Anybody with a Tory MP has my deepest sympathy…

(See HERE for details of the current minimum payments.  As a guide, a 40-year-old with ten years’ service would get £3500 if they were earning  more than £18,000 a year.  The absolute maximum anybody can get under this scheme is £10,500.  That is all you would get if you were aged 61 and had worked in the same job for 40 years…)

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