Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Don't underestimate Obama and Merkel. These are serious leaders for perilous times (Independent)

Their recent joint appearance showed how much these two leaders have in common, but this introspection is often seen as dithering, writes Mary Dejevsky. 

2. Brazil is saying what we could not: we don't want these costly extravaganzas (Guardian)

From the World Cup to the G8, many countries are paying an extortionate price for hosting these pointless displays, writes Simon Jenkins.

3. British bank reform needs to go further (Financial Times)

An industry that has taken the public for a ride must be made to change its ways, says Martin Wolf.

4. Tories are fighting for people Labour has abandoned (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Miliband’s policy on welfare reform and free schools is to leave the working classes to their fate, argues Fraser Nelson.

5. I argued for the arts – and won. We will keep the philistines from the gates (Guardian)

I love Britain's creative industries, but as culture secretary I make no apology for making the economic case, says Maria Miller. 

6. A US bomb will not stop an Iranian one (Financial Times)

No one imagines the change of president offers a get-out-of-jail card, but it does open a door, writes Philip Stephens.

7. Food Fight (Times)

Europe’s refusal to embrace GM crops is hypocritical, anti-scientific and potentially disastrous for the developing world, says a Times editorial.

8. As the US soars, the eurozone slumps (Daily Telegraph)

François Hollande is deluding himself if he thinks the crisis in the eurozone is over, writes Jeremy Warner.

9. Ian Brady is bad, not mad. Let him die if he wants (Times)

Insanity is difficult to define, writes Philip Collins. But we should not keep the Moors murderer alive just to prolong his punishment.

10. Why NSA surveillance is a threat to British doctors and lawyers (Guardian)

Professionals using cloud services will have to guard against patients and clients being snooped on, writes Ross Anderson. 

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.