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The Taylor Review Diagnoses The Problems Of The Gig Economy But Fails To Recommend Tough Action

11/07/2017 14:12 BST | Updated 11/07/2017 14:19 BST
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For millions of people the world of work is like the Wild West. People don't know if they are coming or going and the ability to plan even a week in advance is a luxury they are not deemed worthy of. I haven't seen many Tory politicians who defend this 'flexibility' paid through a zero hours contract.

The Taylor Review, out today, was a chance to set things right. Sadly, it's a missed opportunity.

I won't sit here and say there's nothing in it that would help workers. I'm not into opposition for the sake of it - some action on the Gig Economy is better than none.

Taylor recommends scrapping the Swedish Derogation - something GMB has long called for - this piece of legislation means two people can work side by side doing exactly the same job, with one paid less than the other on an agency contract. It creates a 'do as I say or someone who'll work for less will' culture. Government must accept this recommendation; it will help thousands of workers.

But it's not enough.

The Review is incredibly frustrating to read.

I will happily talk about quality work all day long. But talk is just that. The review accurately diagnoses some of the problems, but fails to recommend the tough action needed to treat the patient. Who could disagree that workers should have decent work and not be stuck in low paid, precarious work?

Here's the thing, precarious work is not an oversight by employers. No one can tell me that any company worth their salt is so poor at workforce planning that they need 50% or more of their workers on agency contracts on a permanent basis; this is a deliberate and a core part of their chosen business model.

This isn't a quirk of the system, this is the system.

Only the law - and rigorous enforcement of the law - will change the reality of work. The report explicitly says national regulation is not needed. Shall we try asking nicely and see if that works? I can tell you from experience it won't.

Even when the law comes down on the side of the worker as with GMB's landmark victory against Uber last year, the employer will challenge it in the courts and do everything they can to avoid their responsibilities to their workers. Hoping bad employers find a moral compass down the back of the couch is worse than wishful thinking, it's selling working people down the river.

And don't get me started on 'right to request' - workers might as well be requesting a Ferrari for the good that that will do. Any right not backed up by proper enforcement or that can be dodged via precarious contracts, is not a right at all.

Insecure work is heading to a point of national crisis. The Gig Economy maybe the 'on trend' term for the most recent business model of insecure work, but our own research shows up to 10 million people nationally are trapped in precarious jobs - from the care sector to couriers to taxi drivers.

We're all paying for that. Whether it's mental ill-health, loss of tax revenue for government (not just from workers and paid in tax credit top ups, from companies who don't fancy paying their way) or undercutting decent businesses who are treating people properly it affects us all either directly or indirectly.

Precarious work is not inevitable but a test of political will. Other countries are looking to take action against employers who are driving down employment standards for their citizens. New Zealand has banned zero hours contracts on a cross party basis under a centre-right government. Why can't we?

It is not too late for the Government to take action to create fairness and security at work. It is in everyone's interests that they do. My door is always open if the Prime Minister is serious about listening to the real concerns of working people, but I won't hold my breath.