One year on: MP vows to step up campaign against unpaid work
Posted on March 22 2019 at 12:13
SNP MP Stewart McDonald has vowed to ramp up pressure to ban exploitative unpaid trial shifts, one year on from when the Tory government talked out and blocked his Private Members’ Bill.
The SNP MP’s Unpaid Trial Shifts Bill sought to end the practice of employers asking job applicants to work for hours, days, or even weeks without any payment or guarantee of a job at the end of it. Unpaid trial shifts contribute to an estimated £3billion in lost wages in the UK every year.
Despite wide cross-party support for the Bill, a public petition with over 140,000 signatures, and the backing of leading organisations including the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), the Tory government blocked the Bill from going to a vote.
If passed, the Bill would have established in law what constitutes a trial work period, ensured that those on trial work periods are paid at least the minimum wage, and set requirements for employers, including making clear how many positions are available, providing a copy of the job description, and introducing a requirement for feedback. It would also have made provision to challenge those in breach of the law.
The MP for Glasgow South has now renewed calls on the UK government to change the law or devolve powers over employment law to the Scottish Parliament so that the SNP can change legislation and bring forward a progressive approach and a fairer working environment.
Commenting, Stewart McDonald MP said:
“One year on from when my Bill to ban Unpaid Trial Shifts was blocked by the Tory government, the culture of the exploitative and unfair practice continues to deny workers fair working environments and pay.
“Despite receiving cross-party backing and the support of leading organisations, including the Scottish Trade Union Congress, it was disappointing that my Bill did not make it through Parliament. It would have allowed for steps to be taken to change the lives of workers and levelled the playing field.
“Since the Bill was talked out, the Tory government has released new guidance on unpaid work trials, but it is not legally binding and is too vague in protecting workers should they fall victim to unpaid trials.
"As an MP, I am still hearing horror stories from constituents who are being asked to work hours unpaid, without knowing if they will even get the job – if there even is one available.
“People who do a fair day’s work deserve a fair day’s pay. I will continue to work with other MPs and organisations to ramp up the pressure on the Tory government to take urgent action.
“If the Tory government will not act, then it must devolve the powers to the Scottish Parliament so that the SNP can change the legislation and end such practices.
"Westminster is failing Scotland, and it is becoming clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect our interests is with independence."