Time for Government to act on umbrella company scam, says Emma

November 27, 2014

141126 Umbrella Company Rally smallEmma praised the work of workers and campaigners in fighting for fair pay and conditions for construction workers, in a rally held at Parliament on Wednesday (26 Novermber).

She told an audience of MPs and activists how employees were being forced to sign new contracts that meant they were paid through umbrella payroll companies. These arrangements mean some workers are losing out on hundreds of pounds per month.

Emma said it was time for the Government to act now to close the loopholes that allow these workers to be exploited. She has previously challenged Treasury ministers in Parliament to change the law regarding umbrella companies, and called for a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Wednesday’s rally follows an event held last month to launch the construction union UCATT’s report on umbrella companies, The Umbrella Company Con Trick.The report can be read here.

Other speakers included: the Labour MPs Steve Rotheram and Jim Sheridan; the General Secretary of the TUC Frances O’ Grady; the Assistant General Secretary of Unite Gail Cartmail; the General Secretary of Unite Mick Cash; and the Chief Executive of the construction union UCATT, Steve Murphy.

Emma’s speech to today’s UCATT rally:

Good afternoon.

The Government has been ignoring this issue for too long, but the more people who speak out about the umbrella company scam and the more people who make it clear they won’t accept this kind of exploitation from employers, the closer we get to forcing them to take action.

In the past couple of months alone I’ve seen more and more colleagues becoming aware of this issue, speaking to workers in their own constituencies and questioning ministers in the House.  Today’s rally should make even more people sit up and pay attention, so congratulations to all of those who have been working so hard to put this issue on the agenda.

Last month, as Steve said, UCATT’s report on the Umbrella Company Con-Trick was a major help too, and an eye-opener both for me and for many other MPs about the scale of this problem, so thank you to Jamie Elliott and all the others who helped to put that report together.

But we need to keep going, because it is clear the Government doesn’t want to know about this issue. When I have questioned Ministers about this they have been complicent, the only action this Government is going to take is making guidance clearer so that workers know how they are being ripped off- as if knowing your being ripped off makes it any better

It’s no surprise that when workers are losing out at the hands of big businesses, a Tory-led government will give business the benefit of the doubt every time.

We’ve seen them stand by while workers’ rights and pay are undermined through zero hours contracts, and we’ve seen them try to attack workers’ job security by making it easier to fire staff, all in the name of cutting red tape. So we cannot expect them to do the right thing now.

While the Government delays, workers are losing out on hundreds of pounds every month – these people can’t afford to wait, they need action.

The umbrella scam is typical of the pattern we have seen under this Coalition. Not just in terms of falling pay, but also the growing insecurity people feel at work. Plenty of workers may sense that something is not right when they are asked to sign a new contract with their employer – others will outright know that they are being exploited. But what can they do? If they don’t sign the contract they can’t work and can’t earn a living.

What we have under the Coalition is a culture where employers know they can get away with scams like this, and where they know there is little chance of them ever being punished. We have seen it with the minimum wage, where the Government says it will ‘name and shame’ those who break the law and then produces only a handful of firms.  They talk tough, but when it comes down to it their heart is just not in it. We are seeing the same with umbrella companies today.

So that’s why we have to keep on fighting to put an end to this scam.

I know what is happening is wrong.

You all know it is wrong.

But worst of all, this nasty government knows it is wrong.

The Government’s reluctance to take the side of millions of workers over the shady umbrella companies is typical, and not surprising at all.

Everyone but this Government is up for the fight and making the changes needed.

I and my Labour colleagues are certainly up for the fight.

And friends I know you are too




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