Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The phone-hacking trial will be dream territory for the PM’s rivals (Daily Telegraph)

Under siege, Cameron will find it hard to resist the proposed state controls on the media, says Peter Oborne. 

2. The relentless school disaster movie is win-win for Michael Gove (Guardian)

The deficiency narrative cunningly attached to state education is the Tories at their brightest, says Zoe Williams. But do parents really buy it?

3. Newspapers are ignoring the reality. Our press will still be free (Independent)

The reaction of some newspaper executives conveys a lofty sense of power, writes Steve Richards. 

4. More than jihadism or Iran, China's role in Africa is Obama's obsession (Guardian)

Where America brings drones, the Chinese build roads. Al-Shabaab and co march in lockstep with this new imperialism, says John Pilger.

5. Beware: a dangerous new generation of leakers (Times)

The threat to security services from tech-savvy young anti-government ‘libertarians’ looks to be serious, says David Aaronovitch. 

6. Malala rises above east-west tensions (Financial Times)

It is a cop-out to conflate her case with legitimate Pakistani grievances against the west, writes David Pilling. 

7. The paper that helps Britain's enemies (Daily Mail)

The Guardian, with lethal irresponsibility, has crossed a line by printing tens of thousands of words describing the secret techniques used to monitor terrorists, says a Daily Mail editorial. 

8. Forget fiscal policy – supply matters (Financial Times)

When we understand the issue better, it will determine how much more austerity is needed in the UK, says Chris Giles.

9. It's not sexy, but frailty in old age is a feminist issue too (Guardian)

We talk about Botox, dating and Miley Cyrus, but we should be far angrier about the crisis over long-term care of the elderly, writes Gaby Hinsliff. 

10. Brown's mud-slingers eat humble pie (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Balls is turning to a once-reviled figure in an effort to win back public trust for his fiscal plans, says Sue Cameron. 

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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.