Archive for Employment

Tom criticises Portuguese-speaking requirement for construction workers

Tom has criticised a company for seemingly favouring Portuguese speakers for roles in constructing a new power station on Teesside.

A job advert for a banksman slinger on the Middlesbrough site, stated that speaking Portuguese ‘is highly desired but not essential’. Banksman slingers are responsible for ensuring safety during the transportation of materials via crane on a construction site.

Tom said:

This is one way in which companies are disadvantaging local skilled workers and making it harder for them to get work. It is very unusual to expect construction workers earning £14 an hour to speak a second language, to say the least. I have been contacted by several Teessiders who work in the construction industry who feel they aren’t being a fair chance to get these jobs.

There is another issue here. Why is there a requirement for a banksman slinger to speak another language at all? I worry that this means the crane drivers and scaffolders on the site are foreign workers being exploited by being made to work for conditions and pay below the industry standard. This could mean the migrant workers are being cheated while standards for all construction workers are being undercut.

Last month I introduced a bill to tackle exactly these sorts of practices by employers building power stations. A loophole in the law means companies building smaller power stations can make their employees work for less than the industry agreed standards. I will be raising this issue again – we need to stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting and close the loophole.

Tom Blenkinsop, introduced the 10 minute rule bill last month saying that the House of Commons must address these ‘pockets of exploitation [which] lead to resentment among all workers from our communities who are prevented from seeking and achieving meaningful employment.’

‘Help Teesside lead the world’ – Tom’s appeal to Government

Tom has called on the Government to invest in Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technology in Teesside as a way to boost investment and job creation in the region.

Tom pointed to the recent success of Carbon Clean Solutions in India which has created technology to capture the CO2 created by an industrial plant and use it to make Baking Soda, on a commercial basis, i.e. without Government subsidy.

The UK Government controversially cancelled a project to help get the industry off the ground in the UK in 2015, which was due to fund starter projects in Teesside, despite warnings that the move could cost thousands of jobs. Last year, a Parliamentary Advisory Group on Carbon Capture and Storage called for greater Government support for the industry and claimed early investment in the technology could save consumers billions.

Tom said:

The Government must act to support CCS and CCU technology now. Teesside in particular could benefit as our area’s industry provides the perfect environment in which to build a commercially viable Carbon Capture sector.

I have written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ask for a meeting to discuss how this could benefit Teesside and what the Government can do to get this industry going.

Carbon Clean in India have shown that with determination and innovation this can be done. The Government cannot afford to pass up this opportunity which would cut pollution, cut bills, create jobs and bring much needed investment to our area.

I believe the Government can and should help Teesside to lead the world in this relatively new technology.

Tom backs Usdaw’s campaign to protect shopworkers

Tom has joined with the members of the retail union Usdaw to call for an end to abuse in the workplace. As part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff, Usdaw members are highlighting the problems faced by staff during Respect for Shopworkers Week, which runs from 14 to 20 November.

Tom Blenkinsop USDAW keep your cool

Tom said:

I am proud to back this campaign which raises awareness of the abuse and violence faced by shopworkers across the UK. It’s important we all show respect to retail workers, especially during the stressful and busy run-up to Christmas.

It is unacceptable that anyone should have to face abuse in their workplace. The stories I have heard from Usdaw representatives and shopworkers show how difficult abusive customers can make their jobs.

I will continue to campaign with Usdaw to provide shopworkers the support they need and deserve. We must give a clear message that abusing or assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.

John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary said:

We are grateful to Tom for supporting our campaign to keep our members safe at work.

Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to deal with tense and difficult situations. Unfortunately these can escalate to verbal abuse and assault. Over 300 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough. Parliament has placed the legal obligation on shopworkers to enforce the law in relation to age restricted sales and Parliament must also ensure that the law also protects shopworkers who are doing their job. Politicians and members of the public must work together to ensure that shopworkers get the respect they deserve.

’The story of this site isn’t over’ – Tom on SSI stats

New statistics show 93% of those forced to rely on unemployment benefits by the closure of the Redcar Steelworks have stopped claiming, one year later.

Statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions show 1990 of the 2150 of those made unemployed, either as a direct or indirect result of the SSI site closure, no longer rely on Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Tom welcomed the findings but warned there is still more to do:

These statistics show the impact of the closure of the SSI plant is still being felt by my constituents and others on Teesside. They show over 150 of those made redundant in the closure of the site are still unemployed. The fact that the vast majority have found jobs is testament to the hard work of the SSI Task Force.

But these statistics don’t show the whole picture. They don’t show if many highly skilled workers are now employed in jobs that fail to use their range of abilities, if they are poorly paid, or if those jobs are sustainable in the long term. The reality is these statistics on their own don’t demonstrate success, success can only be demonstrated in rebuilding lives of those who lost their jobs a year ago.

The steel industry on Teesside didn’t die with the closure of the SSI site. ‘British Steel’ now operates the long products site in Skinningrove and the Lackenby bean mill, and, hopefully, Hartlepool tube mill has a viable future. With the right government support these works can thrive and expand, perhaps then these former SSI workers can get back to doing what they do best – producing high quality British steel.

The story of this site isn’t finished yet, and we can’t let the government use these statistics to close the book on the men and women who have played a part in it.

These figures were released to accompany the SSI Taskforce’s One-Year-On report, which highlights the progress made by the Taskforce in the year since closure.

Local Labour MPs call on government to step up support for CCS project on Teesside

Labour MPs for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, and Redcar’s Anna Turley have today (18th November) called on the Government to step up its support for the Carbon Capture and Storage project on Teesside.

Ahead of the Spending Review and the Autumn Statement on 25th November, Tom and Anna have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor George Osborne asking him to ‘reassess the level of support and funding available to Teesside Collective’s CCS project in light of the closure of the steelworks in Redcar and the 700 announced job losses at Boulby Potash’.

Tom said:
“Over the past couple of months the local economy of Teesside and East Cleveland have suffered  tremendous blows, firstly the steelworks and latterly with the potash mine at Boulby. Now is not the time to be protecting the failing Northern Powerhouse minister by sending up Lord Heseltine to deflect some of the criticism.

“The industrial CCS project put forward by Teesside Collective offers a huge opportunity to not only protect remaining key industries, but to grow and become a global leader in this technology – and that will bring jobs.

“So far, the government has invested £1m into this project; that is a pittance when compared to other governments. For example, in Canada, government’s there have invested over $600m in a CCS project by Royal Dutch Shell. There is a real risk that the UK will be left behind on this technology and the government urgently needs to step up the funding being provided to the project on Teesside and that will attract private investment that will lead to more jobs for local people.”

Anna added:
“The carbon capture and storage project offers huge potential for Teesside’s economy and is exactly the kind of investment we need to drive our recovery from the loss of the steelworks and job cuts in other local industries. It will not only help create new jobs but ensure our existing core industries remain viable and make Teesside a world leader in clean energy. This is an ideal project for new Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative and it is imperative the government recognise the crucial importance of this project.”

Rise in local unemployment figures ‘mask human misery and waste of talent’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (11th November 2015) branded the latest unemployment figures for his constituency area as “appalling” as they showed an inexorable rise.   Tom said: “The sad fact is that in the two boroughs that I cover in parliament, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland, there are now 6887 adults jobless and, shockingly, 1610 young people signing on.

“I need to stress that these are figures that lag a month from when they are compiled, so they don’t yet show those thousands of people affected by the SSI collapse and the job losses there and at local contracting firms. When these come on to the register imminently, the figures will be horrendous.   “The fact that we have just under 8,500 people officially registered as unemployed shows the sheer degree of human waste and squandering of talent that this government are presiding over. These are people who, if they were in productive work, could be helping to build a better future and a better economy for Teesside. This is a waste of talent and a waste of human potential. The Government should be ashamed of itself. The powerhouse is becoming the poorhouse.”

‘Government has let down the North East on jobs growth’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (6th July 2015) claimed that the Government has let down the North East as a new report reveals that London creates jobs four times faster than the North East.

The research by the Northern TUC of ONS data shows that between 2010 and 2014 jobs growth in London (11.5%) was four times as fast as the North East (2.9%).

Tom said:
“It has been over 12 months since George Osborne coined the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’, but action and investment to make it more than a buzz-phrase remains thin on the ground. I think this research clearly demonstrates that there is long-way to go to rebalance job opportunities and growth away from London – and in particular to the North East.

“The North East and, being more parochial, Teesside in particular needs urgent investment in skills and modern infrastructure. Businesses have already identified that they find it hard to find candidates with the adequate skills and there is a whole generation missing out if those jobs go elsewhere.

“We’ve plenty of opportunities in the North East. Last week’s decision on the potash mine, the gas supply-deal between BOC and SSI, and the proposed Carbon Capture and Storage network are all huge boosts to the area and I believe demonstrate a reignition of Teesside as a major player amongst large, modern industries.

“Furthermore, the Budget on Wednesday is an opportunity not to be missed for the Chancellor to start backing up his apparent desire to develop a Northern Powerhouse.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP response to South Tees NHS outsourcing

Commenting on reports that certain administrative duties have been outsourced to a company based in the Philippines by South Tees NHS Foundation Hospital Trust, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“I am very concerned by this development but, unfortunately, I suspect this course of action will become the norm for many trusts across the country. Nevertheless I will be raising the issue with the Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as soon as possible

“There are a number of issues that need resolving. I am particularly concerned by the risk to patient data because of the use of ‘any qualified provider’. We have a local admin unit that can easily be held to account, but I fear that control has now been lost.

“I feel that this use of resources has only come about because of the Health and Social Care Act and I fear a lot more local NHS services are going to disappear over the next 5 years of a Tory Government.”

Tom slams “unwanted job losses at James Cook University Hospital”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd January 2015) slammed the confirmation that nearly 40 jobs in the payroll department at the James Cook University Hospital have been rubber stamped for the axe by the South Tees Hospitals Trust which runs the hospital.

This follows an announcement just before Christmas that these jobs are being “outsourced” to a Lancashire Health Trust as part of a programme by the financially troubled Trust to save £90m over three years.

Tom said:
“It was recently confirmed that services provided by the trust’s payroll teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust based in Darwen, near Blackburn.

“This is a tragedy and worse, I believe it could have been avoided. I know that the staff have worked incredibly hard to put in costed counter proposals delivering, savings similar to that of outsourcing and delivering year on year savings. However, I gather the Trust was concerned that these counter proposal would still ‘leave the risk in house’ whereas outsourcing would ‘transfer the risk’. This begs the question of why the Trust only seemed to want to deal with a potential partner on the other side of the country, knowing few, if any, of the staff would want to move there.

“UNISION, the trade union representing the staff expressed the position that it is more easily managed in house and keeps jobs within the local economy. Even if the Trust still needed the savings, why did they not consider a partnership with any of our local borough councils, all of whom run their own payroll sections? This could have given the savings and would have  allowed staff to simply transfer to another local public service employer, keeping the jobs in the area and the wages benefiting the local economy.

“Again, this just shows how the Coalition Government’s programme of pushing for job cuts and privatisation in the NHS is still continuing apace.”

“Worrying rise in youth unemployment”

Commenting on Labour Market Statistics released today (21st January 2015), Tom Blenkinsop MP said:
“Many families who have young sons and daughters preparing to take their first step on the jobs ladder will be very concerned by the worrying rise in youth unemployment in today’s latest jobs figures.”

New figures show that youth unemployment increased by 30,000 to 764,000

Tom added:
“This contrasts with the overall fall in unemployment, which is to be welcomed. We cannot ignore that youth unemployment remains consistently higher than the adult unemployment rate. The government should bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people into work.”