Archive for Employment

Fight for Ayresome Industries “more important than ever”

Following the announcement today (6th December 2012) that the Coalition Government are set to close at least 10 more Remploy factories and a further five have been put at risk, local Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, claimed that it was “more important than ever” that Ayresome Industries is spared the chopping block.

Similar to Ayresome Industries, Remploy factories provide specialist disability employment for disabled workers allowing them to earn a living, gain confidence and independence.

Tom said:
“The way this news has come to light is shameful – Ministers sneaking out a written statement the day after the Autumn Statement – and it is awful news for hundreds of disabled workers who are now at risk of losing their jobs. It’s comparable to what could happen if Ayresome Industries was to be shut down. 90% of those made redundant during the last round of Remploy factory closures are still out of work, yet the Government have made this lamentable decision to close even more. So what would happen to Ayresome Industry employees if they lost their jobs in an area that already suffers from high unemployment?

Anna Turley, Labour & Co-operative candidate for Redcar said:
“Middlesbrough and Mayor Mallon now have a great opportunity to prove the government wrong and show Iain Duncan Smith and David Cameron that protected work places for the disabled are viable and that people depend on them for their livelihoods. I hope Mayor Mallon takes this opportunity to hold out against this national decline and ensure this priceless resource isn’t lost.”

Comet collapse ‘both threatens Teesside jobs and shows extent of the recession’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said today (November 2nd 2012) that the news that electrical retailer, Comet, was being placed into administration, both threatened local jobs and also showed the depth of the recession and unemployment on Teesside.

Tom said:
“I gather that Comet has today told its workforce that it is to enter administration early next week and is “urgently” working to try to secure its future. The firm is in trouble and is trading without credit insurance, which protects suppliers against the failure of a retailer. If Comet go under they will be the 29th high street retailer to go into administration since the turn of the year.

“This threatens local jobs. Comet have a large Teesside outlet on Teesside Park, and there are other outlets in Hartlepool and Yarm Road, Darlington. Local people there are how in suspense, and do not know their future, just two months before Christmas.

“It also shows how bad the depths of the recession are here on Teesside. It has to be hard for any retailer to survive when 41,300 people are jobless on Teesside and when jobless figures are still remorselessly increasing month by month. The Government have to heed all the warnings – not least from their elder grandee, Michael Heseltine – that they have to adopt a plan B for growth – and not decay.”

Tom Blenkinsop ‘concerned’ over Government classing unpaid workers as “employed”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today expressed his ‘concern’ over the revelation that the Government and the Office of National Statistics (ONS) include people undertaking unpaid work experience as “employed” in its unemployment statistics.

Tom asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office in a written Parliamentary question, answered yesterday, whether the ONS define people in “unpaid workfare-style programmes” as being “employed” in its Labour Market Statistics. A Government Minister, Nick Hurd, confirmed that the Government and ONS consider those in “government-supported employment and training programmes”, alongside “employees, the self-employed and unpaid family workers”.

Tom said:
“Although unemployment on Teesside has increased, the Tories and Lib Dems have recently been celebrating ONS figures that show a drop in unemployment nationally. However, this revelation by the Cabinet Office shows that some of this decrease may well be down to unemployed people being forced into unpaid work, when there are in fact barely any paid jobs available. Their definition really risks artificially inflating the statistics of people who are employed, and risks the Government further losing sight of the jobs crisis that regions like the North East face.

“Whilst the Government argues their definition complies with International Labour Organisation guidelines, as far as I’m concerned, someone who is not being paid is quite simply not in employment.

“I will be asking the Cabinet Office whether the ONS further breaks down employment statistics into those who are in paid employment and those who are in the Government’s unpaid work programmes. If they do not, there is a real need for them to do so, otherwise businesses, trades unions, and the Government itself will end up forming policies on what I, and most other decent people, would consider to be highly questionable statistics.”

Government failing Teesside by their refusal to grant RGF money to Durham Tees Valley Airport

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today “slammed” the decision made by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to not award RGF round 3 funding to Durham Tees Valley Airport to develop its freight capacity.

Tom said:
“It is no secret that Durham Tees Valley Airport have been struggling for some years now, but I have always thought it has potential to develop its freight operations. As such, it is really disappointing that Whitehall mandarins and Tory and Lib Dem Ministers have decided not to award the Airport the £6,000,000 it needed to create up to 1,500 jobs.

“It is such a shame that these decisions are not being made regionally, as they were under Regional Development Agencies, but instead by people in London who fail to understand our sub-regional economy’s unique needs.

“This is just another instance where Teesside is missing out in terms of vital infrastructure spend at the hands of this Government, with them previously having failed to announce any electrification of railway between Northallerton and Middlesbrough, despite their planning to electrify the vast majority of the TransPennine route.

“It appears that the Tories and Lib Dems have little interest in investing in our infrastructure on Teesside, something that I consider vital for our economy to grow. Next week, I will be asking Transport Ministers in Parliament what discussions, if any, they had with the Business Ministers responsible for RGFs about supporting this bid, and will be urging the Government to give Durham Tees Valley Airport the funding and support it needs.”

‘Alarming Teesside unemployment figures need to be addressed’ – Tom Blenkinsop MP

Tom Blenkinsop MP today (17th October) highlighted alarming figures from the Office of National Statistics that showed a “massive” increase in unemployment by nearly 10,000 in the Teesside since this Government has entered office.

Tom said:
“Whilst the Government is today celebrating a slight drop in unemployment nationally, it is disappointing–but no surprise–to see that the exact opposite has occurred on Teesside.”

During the year between July 2009 and June 2010, 32,900 people on Teesside were unemployed, yet newly released figures show that during the year between July 2011 and June 2012, 41,300 people on Teesside were unemployed, an increase of 8,400. Claimant counts tell a similarly depressing story, with 28,501 JobSeekers’ Allowance claimants in September 2012, a figure higher than that it was in September 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Tom added:
“An increase in claimants and in the number of unemployed people does not suggest that we are experiencing the ‘green shoots’ of an economic recovery, but suggests that the Government’s decision to target the North East with the harshest cuts is having truly catastrophic consequences.

“I would urge my Tory and Lib Dem colleagues, both nationally and locally, to have a good look at these figures. They should be asking themselves whether they need to call for the Government to reform their Regional Development strategies, and whether they need to suggest that their Government reconsiders the unfair  distribution of cuts.”

A copy of the data is available online

‘Positive headline employment figures fail to recognise the need for full time work’

Commenting on employment figures released today (12th September 2012), Tom Blenkinsop MP said:

“The headline fall in unemployment is obviously welcome news, but I feel it is nothing more than a distraction from what people are truly experiencing. In my constituency of Middlesbrough and East Cleveland we have 23 people chasing every job vacancy and unfortunately, the national figures show that the growth is primarily down to the increase in part-time workers to 8.12 million – the highest amount since records began in 1992. What people really want are full-time jobs so that they can afford to support themselves and their families, a difficult prospect in any case as real wages are still falling.

“Worryingly youth unemployment remains over 1 million and is up 7000 from the previous quarter. This just confirms that the Youth Contract – that 32% of firms haven’t even heard of – is having minimal impact on this growing issue.”

Failing funding scheme is hampering businesses

Commenting on a report that described the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) as a “scandalous” failure released today (11th September 2012) by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Tom Blenkinsop MP labelled the scheme an ‘evidently poor replacement for Regional Development Agencies’.

The report claims that only 2400 jobs have been created so far by the £1.4 billion scheme with only £60 million of that reaching the frontline projects.

Tom said:
“This scathing report into the performance of RGF brings to the front the incompetence of the Government when it comes to generating the growth needed to get the economy back on track. They are failing businesses who could be the sparks that get people back into work and getting us out of this double dip recession.

“It is particularly depressing news for North East firms who are not getting the support they require to succeed after the Regional Development Agency – One North East (ONE) – was abolished. Whilst the RGF is a centrally run scheme ONE was a well-established agency with local knowledge and expertise and had strong links to North East businesses and industry.

“Hopefully this report, by a committee that has two Teesside MPs from the Coalition as members, will act as a catalyst for the Government to get a grip of the scheme and ensure that the funding is getting to businesses that require it. If not the economy will continue to fail.”

Coalition cuts to shop health and safety checks ‘will put workers and customers at risk’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (10th September 2012) hit out at a government announcement that routine safety checks to many small businesses – and including shops, bars and cafes – “will put both workers and customers at risk”.

The new rules to be introduced in April 2013 will mean checks by the Health and Safety Executive will no longer be routinely carried out on premises like shops, pubs, offices and clubs.

Tom said:
“This announcement has been slipped out quietly on a day when the news will be dominated by the Olympic parade. It is nothing less than a devastating attack on safety which will impact on workers and the public alike.

“We all know that the retail and leisure industries are amongst some of the laxest sectors of the economy, with many low paid, part time and casual workers and this announcement raises serious questions. For example, with many supermarkets now open round the clock, will that mean expectant pregnant mothers are forced to work night shifts at certain small outlets now?

“What of some of the occupational hazards in bar and retail work – such as standing for long periods or the dangers of working alone and facing attack – common in 24 hour stores and betting shops – as we saw on Teesside recently? The cash pressures to make a profit will equally put the general public at higher risk.

“This is yet another example of a government blinded by ideology putting ordinary people in second place – and this time with possibly lethal consequences.”

Direct Line have a “public duty” to save 500 jobs on Teesside

Reacting to the news that Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary Direct Line Insurance is proposing axing up to 500 jobs at its Thornaby call centre Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“This is clearly awful news. It is especially devastating when there are so few job vacancies on Teesside, with there being 9.5 jobseekers per vacancy in the Tees Valley, which is more than twice the national average.

“I really would have hoped that prior to Direct Line making these proposals that they would have considered quite how dire the job situation on Teesside is, and the real difficulties their employees will face in getting new jobs and paying their mortgages.

“Whilst these redundancies are being made as part of the re-privatisation process by separating the Direct Line Group from the Royal Bank of Scotland, I think these companies have a public duty to help people here on Teesside. When they were struggling, the public bailed them out to avoid economic collapse. Now, when the public on Teesside are struggling, they are making 500 people redundant.

“That duty is even more stark when you realise that they are not a poor company. Only last year, Direct Line’s pre-tax profits were over £100 million, whilst their operating profits from continued operations rose 7 per cent to well over £200 million. I would have thought this would have made them an attractive investment as they float on the Stock Exchange, even if they did not make 500 people here redundant.

“There is still time for Direct Line and RBS to rethink this decision. I really hope they do. When they were in need, taxpayers here helped them, but now when we are in need, they are failing to return the favour.

“I intend to raise this matter in Parliament. I need an assurance that George Osborne and Vince Cable are doing all within their power to urge Direct Line and RBS to change their mind. If worst comes to worst and these proposals go through, I would also like to gain a promise by the Government that they would provide additional support to those made redundant here on Teesside.”

‘Hidden unemployment figures must not be ignored’

Reacting to new figures that suggest unemployment in Middlesbrough is almost double official statistics local MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (4th September) urged the Coalition Government to look seriously at the ‘real unemployment’ figures and to ‘rethink their economic policies that are having a disastrous effect on jobs and growth’.

The study from Professor Steve Fothergill at Sheffield Hallam University considers not just the official ‘claimant count’ but also those diverted onto other benefits or out of benefits system altogether.

The report claims that unemployment in Middlesbrough is 16.1% and not 8.1% as thought – placing it in the top 10 districts with the highest unemployment. Whilst in Redcar and Cleveland it’s 13.2% not 6.7%.

Tom said:
“Today, the highly reputable Sheffield Hallam Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research have released a report which, for the first time, digs deeply into the real jobless figures for the UK – and the findings are shocking.

“In Middlesbrough, the official Claimant Count figure is 7,580 but this new research puts that figure at 15,100 are idle. In Redcar and Cleveland the Claimant Count is 5,740 – but the total jobless in fact number some 11,400. The figures should act as a wake-up call for the Government. Clearly not enough is being done to create jobs so people can get into work, whilst a lot of effort is being put into hiding the true scale of the problem by splitting the figures into various groups.

“Ministers wouldn’t have to worry about their own jobs if they looked seriously at policies that could get a grip of the scandalous rate of unemployment. This includes actions such as bringing forward infrastructure investment and tax incentives for businesses taking on extra workers.”