Archive for Employment

Declining apprenticeship figures branded “shameful” by local Labour Party

Tom Blenkinsop (Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland), Anna Turley (Labour candidate for Redcar) and Louise Baldock (Labour candidate for Stockton South) have today (7th January 2015) branded new figures revealing almost 1,300 fewer young people starting apprenticeships as “shameful”.

Across Teesside constituencies (Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Redcar, Stockton North and Stockton South) Secondary School Apprenticeships (SSA) starts were 8040 in 2012-13. This has now dramatically fallen by 1290 to 6750 in 2013-14.

Responding to these figures Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Despite claims by the Coalition Government we are seeing the numbers of apprenticeships falling These new figures show a worrying drop in apprenticeship starts for young people across Teesside. To grow the number of high-skilled, better-paid jobs we need more apprenticeship opportunities – particularly for our young people. It is shameful that under this Government the opportunity for a brighter future for our young people is fading away.”

Anna Turley added:
“Across Redcar we have seen a massive decrease of over 20% in young people starting apprenticeships. Lib Dem and Tory ministers should be embarrassed by their clear failure to provide opportunities for our young people, who will make up the next generation of workers.

“One of the first acts of a Labour Government would be a drive to transform technical and vocational education ensuring all apprenticeships are at Level 3 or above – the equivalent of A-levels – and aimed at young people. We particularly need to rebuild careers advice services, which have been decimate by this Government.

“When high-skilled, better paid jobs are available it is only right that local young people are in a position, with the appropriate skills, to be able to apply for them. Under this Government, this is shamefully not the case.”

Louise Baldock said:
“Despite the Conservatives trying to persuade us that things are improving hugely across Teesside, local people are not fools. We know how tough it is for our young people to find a job or get a start. 250 fewer apprenticeships in Stockton South means 250 youngsters with lost opportunities.

“Condemning young people to the scrap heap is very wrong. Helping put this right is one of my top priorities.”

‘Osborne’s Autumn Statement is a road to nowhere for Teesside’

Reacting to the final Autumn Statement before the General Election next year by Tory Chancellor George Osborne, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Budget after budget, statement after statement, Teesside and East Cleveland residents and businesses have been failed by this Tory-led Government.

“On the big issues holding back the area – the lack of rail electrification to Teesside and the uncertainty surrounding the steel industry – we heard nothing from the Chancellor. In his own words earlier this year he vowed to create a “Northern Powerhouse”, but from today’s statement it is quite clear he doesn’t have the policies or ideas to deliver that pledge.

“On the NHS – the Chancellor has not found an extra £2 billion for the NHS, as he claims, but instead is proposing to recycle funds already in the Department of Health budget. This is crisis cash because of the fragile financial state of the NHS after the Government’s £3 billion reorganisation. Our local NHS alone is facing £90 million cuts over the next few years.

“And on the cost-of-living crisis being faced by households across Britain and on Teesside it is complete failure. George Osborne and David Cameron promised living standards would rise but since the last election, wages have fallen behind prices month after month. Working people are now on average £1,600 a year worse off since the Tories got elected, while millionaires have been given a huge tax cut and new figures show full-time workers are now £2,000 a year worse off under David Cameron.

“This cost-of-living crisis is why the Chancellor is set to break another promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year. When wages aren’t rising and too many are stuck in low-paid jobs, the tax revenues we need to get borrowing down don’t come in. So the Tory failure to deliver a recovery that works for the many and not just a few is the reason why they’re failing on the deficit too.

“Labour has a better and fairer plan. We’ll raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, freeze energy bills, reform the banks and we’ll cut business rates for small firms, boost apprenticeships, tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and expand free childcare for working parents.

“Today we heard more of the same – an economic plan that is failing everyday working people, old announcements dressed up in the Emperor’s new clothes and one that is leaving Teesside – and the North East – on a road to nowhere. By delaying this Autumn Statement until a few weeks before Christmas, George Osborne has ensured that people know who the real Scrooge is.”

Response to Foundry closure announcement

Responding to today’s (2nd September 2014) announcement by ESCO Corporation that the Guisborough Foundry will close by the end of November affecting 65 employees, local MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“I am extremely disappointed at this announcement. This closure will be a huge loss for East Cleveland and my priority will be to support those employees who have been hit by this announcement any way I can.

“Since hearing the news I have written to the firm offering whatever assistance I can give to help the workforce. We cannot write off any possibility at this moment, and I’ll be making my own enquiries into how we can help in conjunction with the workforces elected trade union representatives. It is vital that we ensure that opportunities are provided for the retraining of the employees, so that they will have a chance to apply for jobs elsewhere.”

Coalition ‘Youth Contract’ has been a “complete failure”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (25th July 2014) labelled the Coalition’s ‘Youth Contract’ a “complete failure” following the decision to abandon the ill-fated policy.

Tom said:
“Over 4 year since he entered Downing Street, David Cameron’s Government still hasn’t got a clue how to get our young people into work. Just two years after the launch of their flagship Youth Contract, the £1 billion programme is being abandoned by ministers.

“The Youth Contract has been a complete failure from start to finish. Ministers promised it would get every unemployed young person working or learning, but only a tiny fraction of Youth Contract employer wage incentives were ever used to get young people into work. On Teesside almost 5,000 young people are still unemployed.

“The Youth Contract has proved to be a waste; we urgently need a new plan to get young people back to work. The Government should introduce Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get young jobseekers off benefits and into work.”

Miliband power devolution ‘a tonic for Teesside’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ton Blenkinsop today (1st July 2014) welcomed proposals made by Labour’s leader Ed Miliband, promising a devolution of spending powers from Whitehall to England’s regions and councils in order to reduce the inequalities between the north and London and the South East, and to boost local economic growth.

Ed Miliband pledged that under a Labour government councils would be encouraged to join forces to create regional “economic powerhouses” to attract more jobs and boost growth. They would be allowed to keep any extra business rates income generated by growth to invest locally. The plan would be “revenue neutral” – it would not cost taxpayers anything – but would hand more control over how money raised locally is spent in that area.

In addition he called for releasing up to £30bn in government funding for regional housing, transport and employment schemes, creating a new national funding framework for innovation policy and setting a target of 25% of all government contracts being awarded to small firms.

Tom said:
“If put in place this could the tonic Teesside needs to develop jobs and industry for future generations. Teesside has massive economic strengths which are simply being ignored by this Coalition government.  Our core industries of steel, chemicals and engineering are not only vital to the UK as a whole but, with proper support, are capable of fast growth.

“The infrastructure of Teesside consists of crucial and unique features vital for many of the industries that could be developed –  a direct supply of North sea gas feedstock; major effluent-treatment facilities;  a well-developed logistic capacity, including a deep-water port whose operators have experience of handling many different products; the best water supply in the United Kingdom;  a good supply of new sites for the industry that are already hooked into services and capable of producing cost and time savings for incoming producers; and above all, a mature support network of suppliers, process engineers, and an adaptable, skilled workforce.

“With help, these vital factors can help Teesside become an industrial powerhouse for the future. A powerhouse that can create new local jobs in both big and small Teesside businesses and new locally based growth – a concept that is in stark contrast to the penny-pinching, Whitehall dominated approach that has been imposed on Teesside by today’s feeble coalition.”

‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ argues Tom Blenkinsop over Chancellor’s comments about future investment in the North

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland commenting on Tory Chancellor George Osborne’s speech regarding investment in the North has claimed that ‘nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the North of England’.

Tom said:
“You will be hard pressed to find many people in the North of England, and in particular in the North East, anybody who would give the Chancellor’s comments more than a short shrift. We’re always the area at the sharp end of disastrous Tory policies be that disproportionate cuts to funding for local councils, the way above-average long-term unemployment or serious underinvestment in local transport infrastructure.

“The North-South divide has certainly widened again under this Tory-led government. The Tories scrapped Labour’s successful regional development agencies, failed to implement Lord Heseltine’s growth report and are planning to cut infrastructure investment next year

“Ever since I entered Parliament I have been campaigning for the electrification of the railway lines across Teesside – something I believe would be a huge boost to the local economy that would allow better links to our neighbouring cities.

“And with these plans – and I use that term loosely – there is little detail about how they would be funded, there is no timescale and all he really wanted was, and I quote, “to start a conversation”. This simply isn’t good enough.

“Nobody will believe the Tories can deliver the jobs, growth and investment we need for the North of England. If the Chancellor is serious about tackling the uneven economy that leaves the North at a disadvantage then I would certainly welcome the investment. However, I will believe it when I see it.”

Teesside Labour representatives call for ‘urgent action’ to tackle women’s jobs crisis

Two Teesside Labour representatives have called for urgent action to be taken following figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that showed huge increases in long-term unemployment amongst women in the area.

The call for action came from Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop and Redcar’s Labour Parliamentary candidate Anna Turley.

Shocking ONS show that since the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition formed in May 2010, in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland long-term unemployment amongst women has increased by 76%, whilst Redcar the figure is frighteningly almost double that at 136%.

Tom said:
“These figures should be a huge concern for everyone. They are clear sign that more proactive approach needs to be taken to ensure that women on Teesside are afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts where unemployment figures are nowhere near as stark.

“Cuts to the public sector and in particular local government and the NHS have had a huge impact on female unemployment because women make up two-thirds of the jobs in the public sector.”

Anna said:
“It’s a very serious issue and I have previously been in touch with the Local Enterprise Partnership to see what action they have taken to tackle the issue. However, that process is far too long and there is a serious risk that all of the talent and skills these women possess will just go to waste.

“It is particularly disappointing that, compared to the national average, women here in Redcar are finding it so much harder to find work. Any talk of growth from this Tory-Lib Dem Government is not the reality for people here in Redcar, particularly if you are a woman.

“A 136% increase in long-term unemployment is a shocking figure by anyone’s standards and it is clear that, under this Coalition Government, women in Redcar are bearing the brunt of their economic policies. Only Labour is serious about tackling the scandal of long-term unemployment and providing secure work and wages for local people.”

Tom urges the Tory-led government to “come clean” over apparent zero-hours jobs U-turn

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today (6th May 2014) urged the Tory-led Government to clarify the circumstances in which someone will be forced to take a zero-hours job following reports of sanctions for jobseekers refusing zero-hours contracts.

Tom said:
“Only last month Employment Minister Esther McVey said that Jobcentre Plus guidance meant that claimants could not be mandated to apply for a zero-hours job and no sanctions would be taken against the claimant. Now we are hearing the complete opposite. The way the Department for Work and Pensions is being run is shambolic. The government urgently need to come clean over this and state what their position actually is.

“Furthermore, it only further highlights the confusion within the Coalition Government. On the one hand you have Lib Dem Vince Cable apparently saying no one would be forced onto zero-hours contracts, yet we have these reports saying that they will under Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit. What is the point of the Lib Dems?

“The huge increase in zero-hours contracts under the Tory-led government is another sign of their failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and deliver a recovery that works for everyone. I am very pleased that Labour has pledged to outlaw zero-hours contracts where they exploit people, as well as improving opportunities for jobseekers by reforming the failing Work Programme.”

Trebling of zero-hours contracts ‘reveals the truth of Coalition jobs plan’

New data obtained from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) by Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP reveals that the number of employees on zero-hours contracts has increased more than threefold since 2010 and is more than double what the government has recently claimed.

The newly-revised estimate, based on the ONS’ Labour Force Survey, shows that there are 583,000 people currently employed on zero-hours contracts, up from 183,000 in 2010.

Commenting on these figures Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, said:
“Under David Cameron people at work have been hit by rising job insecurity as zero-hours contracts – once a type of contract that was once privy to a niche job type – are fast becoming the norm. In many cases full-time public sector jobs are being replaced by multiple part-time, temporary and insecure private sector jobs. In my opinion, it is become a source of backdoor privatisation for many of our public services, and is also artificially inflating job figures. This is the true nature of job creation under the Tory-led Government.

“Whilst I accept that these types of contracts may be suitable for certain types of professionals who enjoy the flexibility, unfortunately for most workers it makes family life impossible to manage and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

“I’m very pleased that Labour has committed to tackling the growing exploitative use of zero-hours contracts that provide so much uncertainty for both businesses and employees.”

‘Double whammy’ for Teesside as reports circulate of npower call centre closure

Commenting on reports that energy giant, npower, is closing its Teesside based call centre with the loss of over 500 jobs has been branded a ‘double whammy’ by Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (27th November 2013).

Tom said:
“With recent reports that npower is about to close the call centre on Trenchard Avenue – which employs 549 workers. This followed the company saying official that a “major review of sites, operations and people across the UK was underway.”

“It is quite simply outrageous that these jobs look set to be outsourced abroad whilst simultaneously UK customers will face a hike in their energy bills this coming weekend – on average adding £139 to the annual dual fuel bill. It is a double whammy for Teesside and local communities. For the affected workers and their families this is the worst Christmas present that they could ever have expected and it is a disgrace that this information is coming to light before staff have even been told.

“The ripples from such job losses will also hit other business across Teesside through the loss of 500 pay packets which would otherwise have been traded with local companies and shops.

“The area is already suffering crippling long-term unemployment – most stark is amongst women where, since May 2010, it has increased by 144% in my constituency and over 200% in Stockton South, where the call centre is based.

“To make this worse, the company is an incredibly profitable one. Last year it saw profits rise by £77m to £390m. Whilst much of this increase is down to successive price rises, part of it has to be down to the loyal efforts of the local staff – who have been rewarded with a kick in the teeth for their dedication.”

Tom has submitted Parliamentary Questions asking what steps the Government are taking to support call centres on Teesside and what discussions have taken place with npower.