Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. What does China want with Britain's nuclear industry? (Guardian)

The Chinese state is not philanthropic, writes Isabel Hilton. Questions about safety, sovereignty and cost should be asked before we take its money.

2. America and Europe go their own way (Financial Times)

The close calls experienced by both sides will influence their relationship, writes Philip Stephens.

3. We need Help to Build before Help to Buy (Times)

Why should taxpayers guarantee 95 per cent mortgages? They’’ll have to pick up the pieces if it goes belly up, writes Matthew Oakeshott.

4. Another Tory-Lib Dem coalition in 2015? It's no done deal (Guardian)

ith £40bn of fiscal misery still to come, talk of another Tory-Lib Dem coalition predicated on possible tax cuts seems far-fetched, says Gavin Kelly.

5. How upward mobility went down the drain (Times)

It’s a depressing picture: Britain is now a country where it is extremely hard to break out of poverty, writes Philip Collins. 

6. It's recovery – but not as we want it (Daily Telegraph)

Low interest rates and rising house prices are not what we need, writes Jeremy Warner.

7. The police have been exposed over plebgate. Now give Mitchell his job back (Independent)

It's fortunate that the former Chief Whip recorded his police interview, writes Steve Richards.

8. One dud free school is not a broken system (Daily Telegraph)

The Al-Madinah fiasco must not be allowed to usher in a new era of dead-hand bureaucracy, says Isabel Hardman. 

9. If Britain's charities are gagged, who will stop this lobbying bill? (Guardian)

Often charities' job is to be a thorn in the side of government, writes Polly Toynbee. But now they're being co-opted and coerced into silence.

10. The young pay a heavy price for the support given to the elderly (Daily Telegraph)

Over-65s have every advantage - and the coalition is bent on giving them even more, says Fraser Nelson.

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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.