How much MPs really think they should be paid

A private survey of 100 MPs by YouGov found that 69% thought they were underpaid with an average salary of £86,250 recommended.

While you'll struggle to find an MP prepared to publicly defend the 11% pay rise proposed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which would take their annual salary to £74,000, many take a different view in private. An anonymous survey of 100 MPs conducted by YouGov on IPSA's behalf found that 69% thought they were underpaid, with an average salary of £86,250 recommended. On average, Tory MPs proposed a salary of £96,740, the Lib Dems £78,361 and Labour £77,322. A fifth suggested that they should be paid £95,000 or more. But don't expect many to say so. 

With MPs powerless to prevent the increase unless they strip IPSA of its responsibility for setting pay (which, ironically, it was awarded following the expenses scandal in an attempt to increase trust), it seems likely that many will either refuse to accept the rise or donate the money to charity. Danny Alexander said yesterday: "I think it would be wholly inappropriate for MPs to get such a large pay rise at a time when every other public sector worker sees their pay rises capped at 1 per cent. I have said in the past that, personally, I wouldn’t accept it" His Conservative cabinet colleague Philip Hammond said: "I suspect the Prime Minister would want cabinet ministers to make a clear, collective statement about what they would do. I suspect there will be a strong mood in the Cabinet that we all need to say the same thing." 

For Labour, Ed Balls said: "How can they possibly be saying we should discuss pay comparability when everybody else is seeing their pay frozen or falling?" When the proposed increase first emerged in July, Ed Miliband pledged to scrap it if Labour is elected and simultaneously called for "new limits" on MPs' earnings from second jobs and "new rules" on conflicts of interests, declaring that "the British people must be reassured that their MPs are working for them". 

Elsewhere, reflecting the line that many MPs will take, Nick Boles tweeted: "If MP pay rise is imposed I'll give to local charities anything above average wage rise at time. IPSA plan is wrong when people struggling."

The Houses of Parliament on August 29, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.