Royal Mail keeps no records of £1million-worth of undelivered presents it auctions off every year

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Royal Mail keeps no records of £1million-worth of undelivered presents it auctions off every year

Labour’s Ian Murray MP, the shadow postal affairs minister, said Royal Mail could not “store items indefinitely” and auctioning them was a “sensible solution”.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “I was staggered to learn the Royal Mail keeps no records of the individual items they send to auction…………

Ian’s comments on today’s National Minimum Wage announcement

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Ian Murray MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Minister, commenting on today’s National Minimum Wage announcement, said:

“Youth unemployment is at the highest rate since records began, with over a million young people unable to find work.  So it is disappointing that the only response from this out of touch Government to the job crisis facing our young people is to impose a real terms cut to their wages.

“This is the first time that the development rate for young people will not rise. The Low Pay Commission’s recommendation represents a vote of no-confidence in the Government’s handling of the economy and the prospects for recovery.

“If the Tory-led Government was serious about tackling youth unemployment they would back Labour’s Real Jobs Guarantee by repeating the bank bonus tax and using the money raised to help create 100,000 jobs for young people, which they would be required to take up. We have also called on the government to use public procurement to boost apprenticeship opportunities, but they have failed to do so.”

Ends

Notes to Editors

1.        The historical rates of the national minimum wage, including the development rate for 18-20 year olds, can be found here – http://www.lowpay.gov.uk/

2.        In its final evidence to the Low Pay Commission 2011, published in December 2011 the Government argued that there are “extra reasons to be cautious and moderate in recommending NMW rates for young people”.

“All of the factors that affect the main adult NMW apply to young people and there are also extra reasons to be cautious and moderate in recommending NMW rates for young people. Employment for the over 25s is already above pre-recessionary levels but for under 25s it is not.
This is at odds to the usual response to economic downturns where employment of young people tends to turn down earlier and faster than for older people but then to also recover faster. This time they have not as yet recovered faster. Furthermore, evidence suggests that labour market outcomes of younger workers are more at risk from the uprating of the NMW. “
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, National Minimum Wage, Final Government evidence to the Low Pay Commission 2011, p. 44,http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/employment-matters/docs/n/12-513-national-minimum-wage-evidence-2011

“Given the position of young people in the labour market, we would like the LPC to explore all of the elements of the NMW on young people, including those on the apprentice rate, in order to see if recommendations in these areas could help to improve the employment status for young people.”
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, National Minimum Wage, Final Government evidence to the Low Pay Commission 2011, p. 44,http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/employment-matters/docs/n/12-513-national-minimum-wage-evidence-2011

Growth hasn’t flatlined because of the UK’s unfair dismissal regime

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With unemployment at record levels, there is a pressing need for the Government to take urgent steps to get people off the dole and into jobs.  However, the Government’s proposals for weakening the right to claim unfair dismissal will only make it easier to fire, rather than hire extra employees.  On Tuesday, MPs will debate the government’s Statutory Instrument to extend the qualification period for unfair dismissal from one to two years.

The qualifying period for unfair dismissal has fluctuated over many decades.  Indeed, it was the last Labour government which reduced the period to one year in 1999, which was done on the basis that it struck a better balance between competitiveness and fairness.  There is absolutely no evidence that this reduced employment levels or that a shorter qualifying period has led to a loss of jobs or constrained employers’ recruitment decisions.

Let us be clear – taking away the employment rights of low paid and vulnerable employees is not a replacement for a proper strategy for economic growth.

Even the Government’s own research has shown that most employers do not perceive the current level of regulation as a major constraint on growth.  The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ October 2011 Small Business Barometer report found that only 6% of small business owners cited regulation as their main obstacle to growth.  Recruitment decisions are complicated but are more likely to be influenced by operational needs, market conditions, levels of demand and access to finance than the qualification period for unfair dismissal.

The Business Secretary himself declared that “the UK has a reasonable balance between rights and flexibility” and the Chartered Institute of Personal Development commented on the proposal that “there is no evidence whatsoever that this will support the labour market”.  Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice called the change “nothing short of a charter for rogue employers”. So, why does the Government insist on pursuing it?

What Ministers have failed to recognise is that the change it likely to have to the reverse effect to what they wish to achieve.  What will the impact be on the confidence, productivity and morale of employees?.  Making employees less secure in their jobs will affect their ability to plan for the future and could dent consumer confidence, which is already at a generational low.

Most worryingly, the proposals are likely to have a detrimental impact on young workers who tend to have a shorter tenure at work.  59.2% of all employees aged 24 and under have less than two years’ service with their current employer.  This change, coupled with the record levels of youth unemployment in the UK, is something MPs across the country should be concerned about.  The disproportionate impact on part-time, women and black and ethnic minority employees, all of whom tend to have shorter employment tenure, must also be considered.

The unintended consequence of this change may be that the number of discrimination cases – which are more expensive and complicated for employers – increases.  I can see the scenario unfolding:  an employee who has worked for less than two years feels that she has been unfairly dismissed.  She calls a lawyer for assistance and is informed that she has no rights as she has not worked for long enough.  The lawyer then examines whether a discrimination claim can be commenced – unlike unfair dismissal, there is no qualifying period here. In this scenario, the potential compensation levels are uncapped, the cases are far more complicated and the potential reputational damage to the employer is incalculable.

Ministers say that the change will reduce the number of employment tribunals by 2,000 per year but have not fully considered the potential impact of an increase in discrimination cases.  I would argue that the removal of the rights for millions of workers is disproportionate to the very small impact on unfair dismissal cases.  I can’t see how this will improve the perception of fear that employers will end up in a tribunal situation.

And business recognises the importance of the rights of their employees too.  As Fiona Dawson, Managing Director at Mars UK said on Newsnight recently, “I would like to see something that makes it easier for the workforce but it’s got to be fair.  So I would not support employees rights being removed.  I think we’ve got to make sure that it is fair, not just for businesses but for employees as well.”

Labour recognises that reform is needed in employment law and we will work with businesses, charities and trade unions to take forward change that will benefit both employees and employers.   The reasons that growth has flatlined is not because of the UK’s unfair dismissal regime, it is down  to the failed economic policy of this Tory-led government which is cutting spending and raising taxes too far and too fast and who are locked in to the narrow mindset of old orthodoxies which don’t serve the interests of business or employees.

Ian Murray is MP for Edinburgh South and Shadow Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs.

Ian switches off for WWF’s Earth Hour to show support for Rio environment summit

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The Rio carnival comes to the Houses of Parliament as part of WWF’s Earth Hour 2012

Ian is committing to switch off the lights for WWF’s Earth Hour 2012 and to supporting the environment summit in Rio.

WWF’s Earth Hour is a simple idea that has become a global phenomenon, with hundreds of millions of people turning off their lights on March 31 at 8.30pm to show they want to create a brighter future for the planet. Last year 135 countries, hundreds of millions of people and famous landmarks from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace in London to the India Gate in New Delhi took part in WWF’s Earth Hour.

The global event comes only a few weeks before another vital appointment for the 2012 environment calendar. In June, the Brazilian city famous in the world for its beautiful carnival will host the environment summit and Ian is showing support by signing up to WWF’s Earth Hour.

The Rio summit is a crucial moment for world leaders to discuss vital themes for the future, such as sustainable food, water and energy, and also assess what progress has been made since the first summit twenty years ago.

Colin Butfield, WWF’s head of campaigns said: ‘Earth Hour is not about saving an hour’s electricity. It’s something much bigger. It’s about people coming together to put the focus on this brilliant world we all share – and how we need to protect it. Not just for an hour a year, but every day.’

“This year’s Rio conference is a fundamental moment for world leaders to commit to doing something tangible about the planet and taking part in Earth Hour is a small but important step that everyone can take on the 31st of March” Ian said, “I encourage people in Edinburgh South to sign up and do something special during Earth Hour: from simply reading a book with your children, to a candlelit dinner party, everyone can show that they care for the environment”.

For more information on WWF’s Earth Hour, please visit www.earthhour.wwf.org.uk

REMPLOY AXE UPDATE

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Further to yesterday’s announcement that Remploy are closing 36 of 54 factories with potential compulsory redundancies totalling 1752, including 28 staff at the Edinburgh factory,  Ian Murray Labour MP for Edinburgh South has written to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and pensions, John Swinney Scottish Cabinet Secretary and Peter Gabbitas Director of Health and Social Care at the City of Edinburgh Council asking for all national and local government agencies to work together to try and minimise the possible impact on the employees based at the Edinburgh factory.

Ian Murray also demanded the Government Minster come back to the House of Commons last night to answer questions on this despicable decision by the Tory Government.  Ian Murray questioned the Minister in the House of Commons, he said “In 2007, the Conservatives said they would do all they could to support Remploy when they were in government. Does the Minister agree that the shambolic and shameful way the statement has been made today epitomises the Government’s cavalier and out-of-touch attitude to vulnerable people, and represents a broken promise to the dozens of disabled people in Edinburgh who are losing their jobs tonight?”

Ian Murray said, “I am deeply concerned about the impact the closure of the Edinburgh factory will have on the employees, as they are some of the most vulnerable workers in Edinburgh.  I have asked the Secretary of State, the Scottish Government and the Council to do all they can to assist and support the workers given the difficult position they now find themselves in, with 90 days to plan their future.   The government must recognise that they are dealing with the most vulnerable members of the workforce and I have demanded that Ministers look again at the decision.  This Tory led Government have consistently attacked the most vulnerable and think that their lack of a growth strategy will be resolved by sacking rather than backing workers.”

Remploy factory in Edinburgh to close

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Commenting on today’s announcement that a Remploy factory in Edinburgh is to close,  Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South said:

“I am absolutely appalled at the way in which the Government have announced this decision.  Ministers have shown a complete disregard for some of the most vulnerable workers in Edinburgh.

“The uncertainty which now hangs over the employees affected is completely unacceptable.  I am deeply concerned that these employees will now only be given 90 days to plan their future.  The government must recognise that they are dealing with the most vulnerable members of the workforce and I will be demanding that Ministers reconsider this.  This Tory led Government have consistently attacked the most vulnerable and think that their lack of a growth strategy will be resolved by sacking rather than backing workers.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Liam Byrne made the following statement on future of Remploy:  Responding to the Government’s Written Statement in the future of Remploy, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said,“The Welfare Reform Bill has been law for just a week, and the government’s first callous act is to throw hundreds of disabled people straight on the dole. Two-thirds of Remploy factories will now be shut and their workers, thrown into the market-place with just £2,500 to help them get another job, with no guarantees about the factories that are briefly spared. It is frankly outrageous that the government has tried to smuggle out the news on the day of the Parliament’s celebration of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. We will be demanding that ministers are summoned to the House of Commons to explain themselves.

Quite simply this is the wrong plan at the wrong time. Unemployment is going through the roof. Back to work schemes are sinking under the weight of spiralling unemployment. And the government thinks this is a good time to sack disabled workers. In 2007, Chris Grayling, said in Parliament;

‘Let me assure Remploy and its employees that the next conservative government will continue the process of identifying additional potential procurement opportunities for them and the public sector workforce’. Now we know the truth.  People with disabilities will never trust a word they say again.”

Labour has demanded answers to ten key questions:

  1. When will the factories start closing?
  2. Why are workers being given only 90 days to plan their future?
  3. How many staff will be made compulsorily redundant?
  4. Will the government guarantee that Remploy’s budgets will now be ring-fenced to help people with disabilities back to work?
  5. What is the future of the Remploy company? Is it the government’s policy to in effect close it down?
  6. Specifically, what is the support that will be given to workers to get another job?
  7. What are the total costs of shutting down the Remploy factories, including redundancies and costs of settling suppliers
  8. What are the redundancy terms for workers?
  9. Will workers’ rights to pensions they have paid for be protected?
  10. Why did no minister offer to come to the House of Commons to make a statement?

Ian shows his support for Water Works Campaign

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Ian has pledged his support to WaterAid’s Water Works campaign to bring safe water and sanitation to the world’s poorest people.

Ian made his pledge at a House of Commons event hosted by Northumbrian Water for WaterAid on the day that the United Nations announced that the Millennium Development Goal on water has been reached.  An additional 2 billion people have accessed clean water within the last 20 years.

Ian said “It is great news that we have met the Millennium Development Goal on water – this shows that aid is working and that we are making steps forward to eradicating poverty.” He continued, “there is still much work to be done however, as 783 million people still don’t have safe water to drink, and around 2.5 billion are lacking adequate sanitation.  Not having these essential services traps people in poverty. The UK has a lead role to play along with other countries to concentrate our efforts on bringing water and sanitation to all.”

Preventable diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation are the biggest killer of children in Africa, and illness and hours spent collecting water from distant sources keep children out of school and prevent adults from earning a living.

Safe water and sanitation transform lives, improving health and lifting communities out of poverty. As world leaders prepare to meet in Washington next month for a crucial meeting on water and sanitation, WaterAid is encouraging the public to support its Water Works campaign, which aims to highlight the importance of these basic necessities in tackling poverty.

“We want everyone to back the Water Works campaign and we are extremely grateful for Ian’s support.  WaterAid will do all we can to reach some of the most marginalised communities in developing countries. However this world crisis in sanitation and water coverage will only be addressed if governments show leadership. Progress is far too slow and it will currently take around 350 years for everyone in Africa to have access to something as basic as adequate sanitation.  This just isn’t acceptable, and we want the public to also say this loud and clear.” said WaterAid Chief Executive Barbara Frost.

WaterAid was established with the support of Northumbrian Water and the UK water industry in 1981. The company remains a very active supporter of its adopted international charity. Employees run a regional committee in the North East of England and, together with other partners in the region, organise fundraising events, support the charity’s campaigns and raise awareness of the charity.

WaterAid now works in 27 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region, improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. Since WaterAid was founded 30 years ago, it has reached nearly 16 million people with safe water and 11 million with sanitation.

To show your support for the campaign please visit: www.waterworks.me