Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 7th December 2016

On average, we spend a third of our lives at work, almost half of all the time we’re awake. We hear a lot about getting people into work, and the benefits of work can go well beyond the obvious financial ones, but much less gets said these days about the working conditions in which people are living out their lives.

Unions spent most of the last two centuries fighting for improvements at work. The more manageable hours, safer working environments and existence of benefits like holiday pay are testament to what people can achieve when they work together, no matter how hopeless things at first appear to be.

Tragically, far too many of us are now finding our rights at work, hard-won by our ancestors and passed down to us as part of our national inheritance, rolled back as unscrupulous employers are left free to do what they want by a Tory Government which doesn’t seem to care.

From working conditions at Sports Direct, to the BHS pension scheme, to zero-hours contracts, employment for many is becoming less stable and with poorer conditions. Just this week, new research has been released highlighting the high levels of abuse of agency workers, a form of employment increasing numbers are forced to take.

It’s the job of a Government to stick up for its people. Unfortunately, for all the lofty talk about sticking up for ordinary people when Theresa May became Prime Minister, the reality is things are getting worse.

The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate is the Government body responsible for protecting people’s employment rights, rights enshrined in law, but under the Conservatives the funding for the Inspectorate has been slashed, leaving the equivalent of nine full-time staff to cover the whole country. No wonder some companies think they can get away with breaking the law, they can.

Enough is enough. Things have to change for us to hold on to the quality of work we already have, never mind if we want to see it improve, and that change has to start with us selecting leaders who actually care about our lives.

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