Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Even Labour supporters don’t think that Ed Miliband’s up to it (Daily Telegraph)

The Labour leader is seen as out of his depth, and the Tories can sense a route towards general election victory in 2015, writes Fraser Nelson.

2. A Labour win is still on – if alienated Tories and Lib Dems play ball (Guardian)

Miliband has the prospect of becoming an unpopular leader, by fluke of greater conservative forces split three ways, says Polly Toynbee.

3. Merkel’s stealthy plan for the euro (Financial Times)

The German chancellor grasps that there is more to leadership than rhetoric, writes Philip Stephens.

4. Liberalism triumphs while Lib Dems sink (Times)

Nye Bevan, Roy Jenkins, Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher advanced liberalism more than Clegg’s party, says Philip Collins.

5. We’ve let a good financial crisis go to waste (Daily Telegraph)

The financial system remains unchanged – banks are still too big to be allowed to fail, writes Jeremy Warner.

6. Royal Mail sale is vandalism and must be stopped (Guardian)

Privatising Royal Mail will destroy a cherished institution, says Billy Hayes. Labour must commit to renationalise it.

7. So, should you have a flutter on the Royal Mail? (Daily Mail)

The government could be very disappointed if it expects a rush of retail investor interest, writes Alex Brummer. 

8. Nick Clegg can tell his party to hold their nerve (Guardian)

The Lib Dem leader never said it would be easy, but the economic crisis is being resolved, writes Menzies Campbell.

9. Meet Abdulrahim Elmi, a Somaliland Dickens hero who personifies his new nation (Independent)

Educated, successful young Somalis from the diaspora are flocking back to Somaliland to contribute, writes Peter Popham. Now the only thing the country lacks is international recognition.

10. I’m ending this scandal over children’s care (Daily Telegraph)

No longer will the quality, policies and location of care homes be kept a secret, says Michael Gove.

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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.