Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/810/18567
Them & Us
Tory Chancellor George Osborne fantasises about rising employment but the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a massive rise in workers on zero-hour contracts.
In February, 583,000 were on zero-hour contacts. Now, the ONS estimates 2.7 million of which 1.3 million workers were not given any hours in the two week sample period. In addition, the ONS survey did not include those categorised as self-employed but who may work for just one company.
Unsurprisingly, the survey confirms that zero-hour contracts are 'particularly popular with big business', with 47% of large companies making use of such arrangements compared to 12% of small businesses.
Typically those on such contracts are more likely to be women, in full time education, and under 24 years or over 65.
Another factor allowing the government to claim falling unemployment levels is the shift of people from full-time jobs to self-employment. The Resolution Foundation has pointed out that self-employment has risen from 650,000 five years ago to a staggering 4.5 million or 15% of the active workforce.
But far from becoming millionaire entrepreneurs the average weekly income of a self-employed person is 20% lower than in 2008 and 40% less than a typical full-time worker.
Revealingly, 27% of those joining the ranks of the self-employed in the last five years did so because they had no other option - many the result of suffering JSA benefit sanctions.
Rail against privatisation
Ed Miliband is under attack from the Tories and the right-wing media over even contemplating (not for long!) renationalising the privatised rail network.
Yet, a publicly owned national railway system is an extremely popular demand, especially among rail commuters having to pay extortionate fares to privately-owned train operating companies (TOCs) in order to travel in overcrowded carriages.
Since privatisation in 1993 the TOCs have received billions in revenue subsidies from the government - £3.2 billion in 2012-2013 - guaranteeing large profits for shareholders.
Yet the east coast mainline, which was taken back in public ownership after National Express walked away from its East Coast franchise in November 2009, is now cheaper to run. But 'value for money' hasn't stopped the Tories privatising this directly operated company.
Tory MP Priti Patel, who is leading a rebellion against plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, just happens to be a former lobbyist for tobacco giant BAT and who, coincidentally, chairs a parliamentary group whose secretariat is provided by two tobacco industry-funded organisations.
Patel reckons that plain packaging would be the "final nail in the coffin for small businesses", whereas most people see cigarettes as the final nail in the coffin for smokers unless they are encouraged to quit.
Energy customers on pre-payment meters are so broke and prices are so high that they are self-disconnecting. It's been revealed that Npower and EDF have tens of thousands of pre-payment customers who haven't topped up their meters for at least 30 days. This hidden fuel poverty often means having no heating and being unable to cook, for months on end.
People on pre-payment meters are also being stung by the mega-profitable 'big six' energy companies through higher fuel tariffs, compared to direct debit customers.
In The Socialist 7 May 2014:
Socialist Party election campaigning
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns