CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. Bloody Sunday: Saville missed the chance of deeper healing -- seeing killers admit the truth (Guardian)

Northern Ireland's justice system now must try to balance priorities of peace and justice. But, says Jonathan Freedland, that dilemma would have been avoided if the inquiry had been less more like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

2. For many, Saville has fallen short (Independent)

The report addresses some of the demands of the victims' families, says Henry Patterson. But there will be disappointment that the terms "murder" and "unlawful killing" don't appear.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. The truth. And anything but the whole truth (Times)

Yes, says Daniel Finkelstein, soldiers were guilty on Bloody Sunday. But the price of peace is that they must get the same leniency as the IRA.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. A programme to horrify politicians, but save Britain (Daily Telegraph)

Simon Heffer makes the case for extreme measures on the economy, endorsing a specimen Budget by the think tank Reform that calls for VAT on food and severe NHS cuts.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

5. We need new means to control deficits (Independent)

What is happening here is an attempt to recast government decision-making on fiscal policy, Hamish McRae explains. We're moving towards an extra-democratic body taking a long view of fiscal responsibility.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

6. Oil addiction is suicidal. It's also pointless (Times)

BP's real crime is wasting billions on risky exploration when new technologies are obviously the future, says Anatole Kaletsky.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. We should all have a say in how banks are reformed (Financial Times)

John Kay maintains that the value of banks lies in what they do for the rest of the economy, not for themselves. The separation of retail from investment banking would be a prelude to addressing the conflicts within investment banking itself.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Football: a dear friend to capitalism (Guardian)

Terry Eagleton argues that if the Cameron government is bad news for those seeking radical change, the World Cup is even worse. The opium of the people is now football.

9. Too many forms to fill in? Welcome to our world, MPs (Times)

MPs are complaining about the hassle inflicted on them buy the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Alice Thomson points out that we've put up with bureaucracy and incompetence for years.

10. Merkel's paralysis (Guardian)

Sabine Rennefanz describes how Germans are awaiting the fate of their hopeless coalition -- similar to Britain's, though it never had a honeymoon period. The obituaries are in.

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.