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Minister Visits Vulnerable Workers Project

Minister for Employment Relations Pat McFadden MP will today (Tuesday) meet with local workers at the TUC’s Vulnerable Workers Project (VWP) in East London.

The VWP, based in Whitechapel, is a £400,000 project funded by the Department for Business and delivered by the TUC. It aims to improve the plight of vulnerable workers in London’s labour market by helping them and their employers better understand their rights under the law.

The pilot focuses on workers in the cleaning, security and building services sectors working in the City of London and Tower Hamlets. It offers support, advice and training for workers in these sectors who are experiencing problems, and free training on employment rights for local employers.

So far, the project has:

  • given advice and support to nearly 100 workers;
  • run two groups for workers who have made enquiries to VWP, providing discussion and training on their main issues;
  • run 13 employment rights training courses raising awareness and providing advice to 122 workers;
  • uncovered three potential minimum wage claims;
  • developed and run the first stage of a training course for employers, training supervisors in employment rights and handling employment relations;
  • developed training for voluntary sector organisations to train as community employment advisers;
  • developed training for cleaners to provide employment rights advice to other cleaners.

During the visit, which will also be attended by senior representatives from the TUC, Pat McFadden MP will meet with:

  • vulnerable workers who the project has supported;
  • cleaners and union reps from Unite;
  • staff from the Workers Education Association which is developing an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course for the project based around employment rights;
  • staff from Primus Personnel, an agency developing a profile in ethnic minority community;
  • representatives from Carlisle Security and Acas, who provide training for employers in the area.

Pat McFadden said: “The Government has brought in employment rights like the National Minimum Wage, extra paid holidays, health and safety regulations, statutory maternity and paternity leave and sick pay.

“Most employers do the right thing and implement these rights fairly, but there are dark corners of the labour market where rogue employers try to exploit people, so it’s vital we enforce the law to protect vulnerable workers’ rights.

“That’s why we’re doubling the number of agency inspectors to investigate abuses and boosting penalties for those who break agency laws or don’t pay the national minimum wage.

“This pilot is providing vulnerable workers with better access to support and information. It’s also benefiting business, by making employers more aware of the advice available to them and of their legal obligations.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “The VWP has heard from workers in London who are working excessively long hours, have no contract of employment, are receiving low pay or are not being paid for all the hours they work, and are not getting any health and safety training.

“Unions are keen to help workers stop rogue employers from using an ignorance of UK employment law or a poor grasp of English or as an excuse to treat people badly.

“The VWP is looking at practical measures that can be put in place to deliver support for vulnerable workers, in particular following up on the recommendations of the report of the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment earlier this month.”

The Department for Business, TUC, CBI, and other partners are currently considering evidence on the type and extent of abuse of worker rights and other employment legislation as part of the Vulnerable Worker Enforcement Forum. The findings of the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment report are being considered by the Forum. The forum, to report back in the summer, is also looking at the enforcement regime and whether improvements can be made.

The East London Vulnerable Workers Project is one of two Government-funded pilots; the other is in Birmingham and focuses on vulnerable workers in the hospitality industry.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. To attend the visit or interview workers please contact Elly Brenchley in the TUC press office on 020 7467 1337 or Alex Thompson, Department for Business Press Office, 020 7215 5964
  1. The visit is from 1-3pm on Tuesday 20 May at the VWP, 214 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1BJ.
  1. The short report of the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment is available at: www.vulnerableworkers.org.uk/media
  1. All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
  1. Register for the TUC’s press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Department for Business press office: Alex Thompson 020 7215 5964

TUC press office: Elly Brenchley    T: 020 7467 1337    M: 07900 910624      E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

if you have any queries, please contact the Touchbase team at intranet@tuc.org.uk

© Trades Union Congress 2007