The Prime Minister is living in a land of delusion if he thinks throwing money at the idling classes will get them back to work it's time to get radical.
The Prime Minister is living in a land of delusion if he thinks throwing money at the idling classes will get them back to work it's time to get radical.
England has a long and proud tradition of throwing up radicals who wanted to turn the established order upside down: Peasants' Revolt leader Wat Tyler, John Lilburn, pamphleteer for the Civil War Levellers’ sect and 18th century writer on politics Tom Paine. These days we’ve got Barbara Follett, Minister for Equality.
Blair babe Barb is a focal point for the struggle to bring equality to bear in employment, especially as regards pay. This week she spoke on it at a fringe event at the Labour party conference in Bournemouth.
A trip to the seaside is usually cause for relaxation, but down in Bournemouth this week it has been incredibly difficult to get away from work. As I left my hotel room yesterday morning, the first person I saw was none other than The Eyebrows himself, Alastair Darling.
Somehow resisting a sudden, compelling and admittedly very childish urge to shout "Northern Rock" at the top of my voice, I instead followed the chancellor down to the seafront and the Labour Party Conference.
For anyone who has seen him in the flesh, this might be hard to believe, or indeed take seriously. Short, tanned and immaculately coiffered, AD is about as threatening as a yapping poodle.
Nevertheless, in his speech to party delegates Duncan laid out what the Tories would do for business - without actually mentioning any specifics.
Dave Cameron said ‘bring it on’ in reference to the chance of a snap election. But what are the real chances of a general election this year? In the cold dismal, dark days of November?
If Gordon Brown has half a brain, then it should be zero. Does he really want to risk being the most short-lived incumbent of Downing Street? I don’t think so.
Or was all the talk of elections designed to get the Tories off the fence and spouting some policy ideas rather than the relentless drone of ‘look what you’ve done to our country?’ Alas, if it was, it didn’t work. However, they did come up with some ideas.
Will Labour nick any of the good ideas the Conservatives come up with, thereby removing any shred of unique selling point that Cameron and his chums have built up. Entirely likely.
Yet if Brown does call a snap election as the ‘rumour mills’ suggest (just whose mills are they – I suspect a spin doctor, in which case they should be called rumour windmills) he’s a bigger fool than he looks.
Why risk it, when he can risk it at the end of the current term of office? And not calling a general election would leave Mr Cameron kicking his heels and not coming up with any policies for a while yet.
It makes no sense to have an election so soon after the last one, but then, this is politics and politicians are not noted for their huge reserves of common sense.
Talking of looks, Cameron looks uncannily like a dark-haired version of old Channel 4 rabble-rouser Max Headroom – although BBC politics chief Nick Robinson thinks he's doesn't have it in him to rouse the rabble. Except rather than being a man pretending to be a robot, Cameron is clearly a robot pretending to be a man.
Of course, being half-man half CGI robot, his amazing ability to learn his speech off by heart should come as no surprise – he’s probably got a micro-autocue shining on the inside of his robot retinas.
I was fortunate enough to attend an event last night marking the 21st anniversary of the National School of Government's Top Management Programme.
The programme is for those in senior management positions, across the public, private and voluntary sectors, who have the potential to reach the very highest positions in their organisations.
The event was held at the historic Lancaster House, managed by the Foreign Office, where overseas dignatories are often wined and dined.
There is one equality issue - the most important of all - where men lose out: life expectancy. Is this on the Minister of Equality's, Barbara Follett's, agenda?
So migrant workers are taking up half of the new jobs created in the UK. So what?
Yet, you could be forgiven for becoming ‘concerned’ and a little ‘disturbed’ judging by the media frenzy surrounding the issue – with well-known home of reasonable reporting the London Standard berating the government for the ‘chaos’ the Telegraph getting thoroughly ‘outraged’ by Johnny Foreigner coming over here and taking all our jobs, and even the BBC’s normally mild-mannered economics editor
Prime minister Gordon Brown announced a review on how the current right to request flexible working can be extended to parents of older children, as part of the Queen's Speech yesterday.
And he has appointed a top HR director to lead that review.
Imelda Walsh, HR chief at Sainsbury's, has been tasked with garnering the views of employers, unions, parents groups and other interested parties.
Her main aim will be to consider how the right to request can be extended, over what timeframe, and the upper age limit of a child which should apply.
The government has been talking about setting up yet another skills agency, this time targeting low-paid unskilled workers that lurch between employment and benefits.
Skills secretary John Denham said yesterday that the government planned to create an "advancement agency" to help keep people off benefits and get them into work. The new agency would provide advice on subjects such as childcare and qualifications, Denham said in an interview with the FT.
However, that's when the details became sketchy. Denham said the agency would be set up by 2010-11, but there was no mention about extra money, resources or structure.
It's not often that the world of human resources gets a mention in the distinguished pages of Private Eye magazine.
But in the latest edition, Civil Service HR chief Gill Rider gets the treatment from the notorious hacks on the famous satirical magazine.
They have discovered that Rider allegedly still holds hundreds of thousands of shares in her previous employer, Accenture, and put the question as to whether this causes a conflict of interest.
The revelation in yesterday's national press that almost 2,000 people who are too fat to work have been paid £4.4m in benefits was shocking.
But while digesting (pardon the pun) the figures, it reminded me of a classic episode of The Simpsons in which Homer dreams up a plan so he can work at home.
Homer gets fed up of his company's exercise programme and decides to gain weight so that he can be classed as morbidly obese, therefore disabled and work from home.
Being summoned to appear before a cross-party group of MPs in the Houses of Parliament should be a fearsome prospect for any minister.
But secretary of state for business John Hutton had a secret plan to deflect any really tough questions from the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday.
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Britain slipped from eighth to 24th position for maths skills among 15-year-olds, and from seventh to 17th for reading.
Chinese Taipei ranked highest for pupils' performance in the maths tests, while Korea scored highest for pupils' reading skills. How many Korean authors have won the Pulitzer Prize or the Man Booker accolade for that matter?
Seriously though, how troublesome are these figures and what bearing do they have on the future economy?
According to London Mayor hopeful, Boris Johnson, the issue is a serious one and will indeed affect the economy, me old chum.
A new front has emerged in the political war between Labour and the Conservatives, namely who can be seen to act the toughest when shaking-up the benefit system.
Tory leader David Cameron has announced his party's plans to strip claimants of their benefits if they refuse to sign up to 'return to work' programmes.
A Conservative government would also test every person claiming incapacity benefit to see if they were too sick to get a job.
Of course we all know the lyrics to 'Time Warp'...er don't we?...It's astounding, time is fleeting.
Madness takes its toll!
Now I am not trying to create an image of Gordon Brown running around in drag as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, or that James Purnell is Riff Raff, but how on earth are we supposed to get behind ministers and believe in their decision making when they spend so little time in one post, before being swiftly moved on to a different portfolio.
Its not only a waste of resources, but also leads to a loss in public confidence. What’s the latest count on the election polls today? Well I am sure it will be enough to prompt David Cameron to wear that "look at me, the future prime minsiter" grin. (Click on the link to see what I mean)
Ministers barely have time to put their feet under their desks and get to grips with the real issues within that portfolio, before a replacement is announced and the process starts again at the cost of vital knowledge and experience gained.
What about the extra costs of printing new business cards and new literature as the new titles come and go quicker than Christmas? Can you imagine how long it would take to deliver presents to all the people in the world if someone were to replace Good old Saint Nick?
Was it an innocent mistake or a Freudian slip? Alistair Darling last night changed the name of a key government department, wiping skills off the map in one fell swoop by introducting John Denham as the head of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Science.
Without realising his mistake, the secretary of state for eyebrow growth and bank runs - sorry, chancellor - proceeded to implore business leaders to invest in the science - sorry, skills - of their workforces.
If I turn up at home drunk in the small hours of tomorrow morning asking to borrow money, I will probably be asked to justify it.
Imagine I then spend an hour or so rambling on about what a good state the household finances are in and how confident I am that we will whether the current storm of bills on the doormat; then take the money, return to the pub and send home a weighty report detailling my true intentions.
Well, I'd be staying in the pub for a long time, before returning to collect my belongings from the doorstep. Yet after following roughly the same course of action yesterday, Alistair Darling is now going about his normal life as though nothing has happened.
George Osbourne's remarks that a Conservative government would look to curb union power and change employment laws has provoked a storm of criticism.
Osbourne said the public sector unions had grown too powerful and led to widespread industrial unrest across public services.
Union leaders have lined up to criticise the Tory shadow chancellor following his comments after the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference in Liverpool. TUC chief Brendan Barber called it "a serious gaffe" and said Osbourne was "seriously out of touch".
Unite general secretary Tony Woodley said the comments showed the Tories were still intent on union bashing, with Unison leader Dave Prentis said the Conservatives had shown "their true colours".
The fact of the matter is that unions are never going to be in favour of a Conservative government and its traditional big business and privatisation agenda. So in effect, the Tories haven't lost any support they had in the first place.
Just what is the government’s position on increasing workplace rights for temps and agency workers?
Speaking to ministers, they will insist that the government is committed to finding a solution at European level through the Agency Workers Directive. But with negotiations having ground to a halt after years of little or no progress, Labour MPs – backed by the trade unions – have got fed up with waiting.
The Private Members’ Bill that aims to force employers to give these workers the same rights, such as pay and pensions, as permanent employees, reached committee stage in Parliament last week. Employment relations minister Pat McFadden and his cronies had the chance to ditch the Bill permanently by voting against it, but abstained, probably not wishing upset to Labour backbenchers anymore after the party’s rout in the local elections.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith took an absolute battering during her keynote speech at this morning's Police Federation conference.
Her decision to cut police pay from 2.5% to 1.9% in last year's pay deal was simply unforgivable in police officers' eyes - all four hundred pairs of them staring back at her on the lonely stage.
Abuse was hurled from officer after officer queuing up to ask her why she had cheated them out of the pay deal they had been expecting and had been agreed from the independent arbitration ruling.
Cheat! Fraud! Betrayed! As each word was shouted so cheers and jeers came from the rest of the delegates. All that was missing was the 'Ding Ding' of a boxing bell.
The Federation's chairman Jan Berry, who will retire at this week's conference, got in on the act too. Berry's opening remarks to the delegates included alluding to the fact Smith's role as home secretary was on the ropes.
"Home Secretary this is my sixth and last Annual Conference Speech. So much has happened. Two prime ministers and counting, four home secretaries [she left a massive pause here], four police ministers, five police bills..." and so on.
Earlier this month, I used this column to accuse Gordon Brown of dithering over what to do about the rights of agency workers.
Well, I send my apologies to the embattled prime minister, despite a rogue Bill making its merry way through Parliament which threatened to throw a huge spanner in the works, plans were obviously being drawn up in smoke-filled rooms to reach a compromise. The government has now struck a deal with the CBI and TUC to give agency workers equal treatment after just 12 weeks in a job.
Brown is in need of some kind words after the drubbing Labour suffered at last week's by-election in Crewe and Nantwich. But it is unlikely he will get any from the HR community.
Business secretary John Hutton's recent announcement that to introduce more employment legislation would be like "using a sledgehammer to miss a nut" has angered unions but has been largely welcomed by big business.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first of the Labour government's major employment law changes, the national minimum wage, Hutton essentially described the legislative framework for employment in the UK as nigh on perfect. And aside from the recent announcements on agency workers, rights to request flexible working and/or training and the new equality Bill, the Labour government has no plans to introduce any major new regulation.
Political pandering to the 'too much red tape' brigade? Perhaps. But HR professionals will certainly welcome news of any government plans to reduce its incessant meddling in employment legislation.
Of course, every silver lining has a cloud, and Hutton duly outlined some "initial thoughts" about what might come along instead of new laws.
One of these ideas was on more effective enforcement of current laws. Whether this will require a new force of government agents checking the minutiae of policies and procedures remains to be seen. With tighter immigration rules coming into force, there is a clear risk that HR could effectively become an unpaid border police.
So much for perfection.
Results, results, results
The new chief executive of the CIPD, Jackie Orme, is asking to be judged by her results. Will she succeed in making the CIPD "the credible voice for a credible and confident profession" as she declares is her aim? Orme says that HR at PepsiCo played a significant role in maximising competitive advantage. So all Orme has to do is show how significant a role the CIPD plays in maximising the worth of the whole profession.
Gordon Brown last week called for restraint and ordered the Cabinet and all ministers to forgo their pay increases this year as part of government attempts to control public sector wages.
The move was intended to set an example to the nation, and was swiftly followed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's stark warning to employers to keep pay rises in check, or risk further economic slowdown and a sharp increase in unemployment.
As average wage rises edge down closer to 3%, employers should be focusing their energies on improving staff benefit choices to avoid a surge in pay rise requests as inflation-busting fuel and food bills take their toll.
HR legal eagles will need to swap their summer read for some serious Equality Bill swotting, following the raft of controversial new measures announced last week.
The purpose of the Bill is to 'strengthen protection, advance equality and de-clutter the law'. However, far from being a definite move in the right direction, equality minister Harriet 'Harperson's' framework document has raised a few eyebrows - in particular with its moves to allow employers to give preferential treatment to female and ethnic minority candidates.
It lacks clarity as to how a business could positively discriminate in a lawful way and, by inconsistently referring to both 'equally suitable' and 'equally qualified' candidates in describing the positive discrimination test, it raises more questions than it answers.
Compare paid paternity leave levels with other countries and you'll find the UK has some of the worst rights for new fathers in Europe.
The speech made last week by Nicola Brewer, Equalities and Human Rights Commission chief executive, highlighted the fact that the UK's parental rights currently support the idea that fathers are "optional seasoning" on children's lives, while mothers are the main carers ('Maternity leave could damage women's careers', Personneltoday.com, 14 July).
The government has published its response to the consultation it held before drafting the Equality Bill.
The document can be downloaded here. Be warned - it's a weighty piece of work (more than 200 pages long) but the executive summary is useful.
It succinctly covers the government's plans on a new equality duty, gender pay, positive action, gagging clauses in pay deals, extending tribunals' powers, union equality reps.
The government also said it would be working with the Tribunals Service, employment judges "and other relevant stakeholders", to identify other ways of ensuring that lessons are learnt from tribunal judgments.
The losers it seems are the Welsh and Indian workers of lower castes. The government said it did not intend to introduced specific protection against caste discrimination or discrimination of Welsh speakers.
Trade unions have upped the ante ahead of their meeting with Labour Party chiefs at Warwick University this coming weekend. The policy forum/beano is where unions traditionally outline their demands to the government for new workers' rights.
Top of the list? Sack business secretary John Hutton. Reports in the press claim senior union official can't stand to be in the same room as him and want prime minister Gordon Brown to give him the boot.
An unnamed unionist said there had been a complete "breakdown in relations" with Hutton because of his perceived pro-business leanings. In a speech in May, he said the government was satisfied it had got the balance of employment legislation right.
This angered unions who accused him of "losing touch with reality", and pledged to fight for stronger laws.
The story has got political and union bloggers speculating as to what might happen.
Speculation is rife among the national press this morning on how much ground Gordon Brown conceded to the trade unions at Labour's National Policy Forum in Warwick over the weekend.
With no official announcements from either the government or unions, it is up to the political and industrial correspondents to fill in the rest of us as to what was agreed. Unions have been pushing hard for more workplace rights and saw the weekend as a chance to really back Brown into a corner.
Depending on what paper you read, the new rights seem to be:
I've heard of stage management, but this was ridiculous.
"Let me first take the question on NHS pay," said chancellor Alistair Darling, after being asked just one question, which happened to be on NHS pay.
"What I would like to say on the matter," he added. "Is this."
The Jackie Wilson song '(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher' has been covered by the likes of Dolly Parton and was used in blockbuster movie Ghostbusters 2 when the Statue of Liberty started walking. Now, it will be known as the song which launched prime minister Gordon Brown's comeback. Well, sort of.
Glued to the television in the busy Labour Party Conference press office (I couldn't get into the main auditorium as I didn't have the Purple Pass) I and loads of other journalists were waiting eagerly to see what Gordo would have to say. Would he wow the crowd? And more importantly for Personnel Today readers, would he touch on employment issues? Would he speak about the countless legislation that's been introduced recently, or perhaps the government's skills or flexible working agenda?
The atmosphere in the press office was perhaps just as tense as that on the main auditorium floor. For the press counter would not give out a printed copy of the PM's speech until he stood at the podium. When the 'Higher and Higher' music blared from our TV screens, signalling the start of something, hordes of journos began anxiously waiting at the counter to grab their first copy. The press officers had disappeared behind black doors. It was the calm before the storm. When Gordo finally took to the stand - after a 'personal touch' intro from wife Sarah - press officers finally burst through the doors with the all-important papers ready to serve at the counter.
But there was a problem. Press office had vastly underestimated how many journo's wanted a copy. Human dignity went out the window: people were literally scrapping for the speech, they risked arms and legs to be one of the first to grab a copy. They then literally ran back to their desks to type type type - this is the sheer physical effort that goes on behind the scenes to report the news first.
Personnel Today is supporting a campaign by the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) to force the government to commit to remove the default retirement age (DRA) in 2011, rather than merely reviewing it.
Ditching the retirement age will provide much needed clarity for both employers and employees and give organisations more than two years to prepare. EFA director Catharine Pusey outlines the arguments for scrapping the default retirement age in this week's magazine.
The EFA is working with a growing number of employers, including Co-op and Hertfordshire County Council, who are operating successfully without a fixed retirement age and is encouraging other employers to follow suit.
It is our view - and the EFA's - that it's inevitable the default retirement age will be removed altogether, whatever the final outcome of the Heyday legal challenge currently being considered by the European Court of Justice.
So now's the time for HR professionals to show leadership and make the decision to ditch the retirement age. You can register your support for our campaign by signing our petition on the Number 10 website.
"Employee engagement is not just a buzzword - it has a clear link to increased business success". Not the words of a leading thinker or top practitioner at the latest HR conference, but of a cabinet minister.
Recently resfuffled business secretary John Hutton's words upon announcing a government review into new ways of increasing employee engagement should be welcomed by the HR community.
The fact that the government has finally woken up to what the vast majority of us have known for years - that engaged workers perform better, stay in their jobs longer and boost profits - is a shot in the arm for the profession.
He launched a scathing critique labelling human resources a "necessary evil", and a term "that should strike fear into the heart of every self-respecting entrepreneur". He even compared HR's power within an organisation to that of the CIA and the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.
Well, he's back, but his musings in last week's FT was something HR professionals should read for different set of reasons. The vast number of employment regulations are "an intolerable burden on the private sector", he says.
Lord Mandelson's 'efforts' to cut red tape for firms will only serve to add to the feel-bad factor we're already experiencing as we spiral into recession. Business secretary Mandelson is making a huge faux pas if he decides to delay the flexitime reforms approved at the Labour Party conference last month.
HR professionals know only too well that the business case for flexible working is a well-proven argument, and many employers have, for some time, been granting requests to work flexibly and reaping the benefits of increased staff satisfaction as a result.
Plans for a 'Britishness Day' have been dropped by the goverment, probably to much relief from employers and anybody who doesn't like being told what, how and when to celebrate something.
The day was one of Gordon Brown's first ideas when he came to office and aimed to 'celebrate Britishness'. Whether that is actually something that us citizens should celebrate is another question altogether.
What is it to celebrate Britishness? A recognition of all things mediocre? A celebration of the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the developed world? To most it would be an excuse for an extra day off and a chance to rejoice in what we do best, sitting on our bottoms doing nothing.
The race for the White House has been an intriguing study of leadership, with every action and every word judged and analysed for its meaning.
Barack Obama has been described as a leader with vision, who ignites passion, brings people together and wins hearts and minds.
A survey conducted by the leadership network Leaders in London found that out of 1,024 managers nationwide, 85% backed Obama over his rival John McCain. There's no doubt that Obama has the passion and ability to engage an audience, but being visionary is as much a desirable leadership trait as it is risky.
NHS HR chief Clare Chapman - in the news today for the controversy over her salary and pay rises of NHS management - has started to become more visible to the rest of the profession.
When Chapman first joined the NHS back in January 2007 after several years at Tesco she was exceptionally hard to pin down, with several requests for interviews filed (and seemingly ignored), and the odd speaking engagement here and there.
Her argument was that it's only worth talking when you've got something interesting to say. Fair enough - and we are starting to see Chapman boost her public profile and tell the HR profession - and the NHS workforce - what her vision is.
Is being a member of a political party like the BNP compatible with the role of an HR professional? That, essentially, is the question the HR community is grappling with after it emerged a CIPD member was named as a British National Party activist "keen to help with resource management", on a leaked list.
Several HR directors contacted by Personnel Today insist the answer to the question is 'no' - and the institute must toughen up and be prepared to take action against members who hold such extreme views.
But others we spoke to stopped short of calling for the individual to be expelled as a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and that freedom of political choice should not be curtailed.
The government's announcement on Monday that employers would get £2,500 'golden hellos' to hire people out of work for longer than six months was widely covered.
But doesn't this all sound strangely familiar? Political blogger Guido Fawkes astutely points out that Gordon Brown's big announcement at the jobs summit looks remarkably like a Tory policy unveiled back in November.
Back then Conservative leader David Cameron offered companies a £2,500 National Insurance break for every new worker they take on who has been on the dole for more than three months. Employment minister Tony McNulty came out and attacked the plans as "desperate stuff".
Two months is obviously a long time in politics... long enough for a policy derided as "fantasy" to something ministers plan to spend £500m on. Shadow work and pensions minister Chris Grayling summed it all up, being quoted as saying: "It is ironic ministers are walking around saying the Conservatives are a do nothing party, then adopting our policies."
The current wildcat strikes hitting nuclear and power plants across the UK, in support of workers at Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire, have given the unions something new to focus their anger on.
Instead of being up in arms about firms cutting jobs, it's a case of brothers in arms with the labour movement angry that a contract to expand the refinery was sub-contracted to an Italian firm, which then decided to use its own workforce.
According to the unions, it's all down to how the UK applied something called the EU Posted Workers Directive which seeks to ensure companies cannot use foreign employees to get around domestic labour laws and pay rates.
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary and a man never knowingly underquoted, claimed overseas companies were refusing to employ Brits on projects in the UK because recent legal interpretations of the directive have effectively permitted them to do so.
Executive pay is firmly under fire again, with the prime minister and most of the country angered by the 'morally and economically outrageous' decision by RBS to even consider paying £1bn in bonuses after taking billions of public money.
And with the public mood around bank bonuses fuelling pressure for individuals to waive their payouts, the call to review and reassess pay structures (former bank chiefs admitted the bonus culture had contributed to the crisis) has rocketed up the agenda.
There's no doubt that banking pay in some areas of industry is way too high, yet the 'world's worst banker' Sir Fred 'the Shred' Goodwin warned that bankers would leave if they were not paid enough.
The decision by the permanent secretaries of government departments to give up their 'bonuses' this year has been hailed as "an act of leadership" by the FDA, the union for senior managers and professionals in the public service.
FDA chief Jonathan Baume said those in the Civil Service were working harder than ever because of increased pressure on departments and the services they run, such as Jobcentre Plus.
"This decision should be commended as an act of leadership by the heads of government departments at a time of economic crisis in the UK," he says. "The jobs of permanent secretaries are highly demanding and complex, and they are often paid a lot less than other comparable jobs in both the private and public sector."
That might be a fair point, but recent figures show these senior officials do enjoy their fair share of freebies. There were 1,800 example of hospitality received by 180 officials.
Sir Brian Bender, permanent secretary at the Department of Business, was one of the worst offenders, accepting invitations to 52 events, including the Proms, Premiership football and the Chelsea Flower Show.
So he might lose out on this year's bonus, but at least he's getting a few jollies along the way by way of compensation.
Sometimes the government just doesn't do itself any favours.
Last week work and pensions secretary James Purnell announced a target of getting a further 200,000 people back into work through Local Employment Partnerships - the scheme where employers join forces with Jobcentre Plus to help 'disadvantaged' jobseekers.
Personnel Today contacted the DWP press office in an attempt to find out the number of employers signed up to the scheme and the number of people that have been placed into work so far.
Not a difficult question you would think, but this is Whitehall press officers we are talking about. First we were told they didn't know, then we were told 30,000 employers had signed up, only for that to be revised to 'about' 18,000.
We eventually prised the figure of 90,000 people hired through LEPs. But five days later a press release arrives which claims more than 100,000 have benefited from the scheme.
Confused? We were. If the government is going to make such a song and dance about its efforts at getting the unemployed back into work, it should at least get its figures right.
The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has written to employment relations minister Pat McFadden to complain about the negative image of agency workers it is pushing in its new publicity campaign.
APSCo claims the poster campaign, which is running online, in local press and public places, shows three workers in manual occupations - one of whom looks "utterly miserable". This reinforces derogatory stereotypes of temps as exploited and poorly paid, it claims.
APSCo chief Ann Swain said: "[The campaign] fails to show the variety and diversity of temporary workers in the UK today. Government figures show that just 20% of temporary workers are unskilled, and therefore likely to be paid near the minimum wage, which this poster doesn't reflect at all."
What do we make of Gordon Brown's latest proposal to allow the public to 'rate' the services they receive from schools, councils, GPs and the police?
On the plus side it might mean a renewed focus on customer service in the public sector (I'm not for a moment suggesting that it's any better in the private sector). I'm sure we all have our own horror stories to tell when it comes to dealing with some jobsworth, so giving taxpayers the option of leaving EBay-style feedback for services is welcome.
But will it actually make any difference in the long-run? If your local authority is rubbish at, say, collecting your rubbish, then you might give them no stars or a one out of 10 rating. But unless you move to a different town or county then you're stuck with them.