Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband has great strengths – but can he convince the voters in time? (Independent)

He may not look prime ministerial, but his background gives him more experience of power than Blair, Brown, Cameron, Osborne and Clegg had when they came to office, writes Steve Richards.

2. Germany: the Age of Merkel (Guardian)

Angela Merkel has not so much clung on to power in Germany, as she did in 2009, as hugely increased her grip on it, says a Guardian editorial.

3. The American dream has become a burden for most (Guardian)

As wages stagnate and costs rise, US workers recognise the guiding ideal of this nation for the delusional myth it is, writes Gary Younge.

4. What Labour must do to win power (Financial Times)

Policies must make sense for business, job creation and investment, says Peter Mandelson.

5. Into the Minotaur’s cave of diplomacy: how Russia became Syria’s deterrent (Independent)

The Syrians, who often memorise poetry, like Lavrov: they believe he writes it in his spare time, writes Robert Fisk.

6. At last, we see Ed in his true colours, waving the red flag (Daily Telegraph)

The Labour leader wants more socialism, an idea that has failed all over the world, writes Boris Johnson.

7. In my opinion politics needs columnists (Times)

It’s hard to divert the supertanker of voters’ views, but we scribblers can help to navigate the waters, writes Tim Montgomerie.

8. How Labour can win (Guardian)

Ed Miliband must bury his party's tribalism and forge links with union members and Lib Dems, says Chris Huhne.

9. Ed must clarify Labour’s muddled message (Times)

Supporters hope that this conference will provide the confidence they crave, writes Jenni Russell.

10. Congress is putting the dollar in peril (Financial Times)

Fresh evidence of US self-harm would hasten diversification to other currencies, writes Edward Luce.

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