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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Thursday, December 08, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, December 08, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Britain's agency workers underpaid and exploited
Britain’s rapidly growing army of agency workers is as serious an issue as zero-hours contracts, with full-time agency staff earning hundreds of pounds a year less than employees doing the same jobs, according to a new report into the issue by the Resolution Foundation. Its report deplores that the “exploitation of agency staff remains unaddressed,” while the treatment of staff on zero-hours contracts at places like the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook has made headlines and prompted changes. Lindsay Judge, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “While zero-hours contracts are often in the news, agency workers are the ‘forgotten face’ of the modern workforce, despite being just as prevalent across the labour market. This fast growing group is not just made up of young people looking for temporary employment as some have suggested, but instead includes many older full-time, permanent workers.” Agency work is booming, but it means an average pay penalty of 22p an hour, equivalent to £430 a year for those working full-time, according to the report, entitled Secret Agents: agency workers in the new world of work. The loss of earnings rises to 45p an hour for permanent agency workers. Agency workers also lack basic employment rights: they are not entitled to sick pay or parental leave pay, have no notice period and little recourse in the event of dismissal. Despite the stereotype of agency workers being short term and temporary, half of all agency workers say they work on a permanent basis and three-quarters work full time. The number of office temps, bank nurses, fruit pickers, IT consultants and other agency staff has grown by 30%, or 200,000 people, to 865,000 since 2011 and is set to swell to a million by the end of the decade, according to the independent thinktank’s analysis of Labour Force survey data. Agency work is most prevalent in the healthcare and social sector, where 18% of all agency staff work, closely followed by manufacturing (17%) and business activities (17%). The latter includes conference organisers, credit rating agents, business consultants and literary agents. Nearly one in five agency workers are in London, but the East Midlands has the largest share of the local labour force working in this way (3.2%). GUARDIAN

Bank of England chief economist warns of regional growth inequality
Regional inequality in the UK is becoming more pronounced, Bank of England chief economist Andrew Haldane has warned. London and the South East are the only places in the UK where income per head is back above pre-financial crisis levels, he said. Net wealth has also fallen in places such as the North East of England. "The UK, I think, is towards the bottom of the league table within Europe in terms of its degree of difference across regions," said Haldane. He said that wage differences between regions of the UK could differ by as much as 50% and that the productivity gap between regions could be as much as 60%. Mr Haldane also said there had not been much evidence of those gaps shrinking over the past few years. "If anything these gaps, which are of long standing have nudged a little wider over the course of the UK's recovery," he said. There was no single reason why there were such big and persistent differences between regions, he said. But he thinks differing levels of skills and research and development could be partly to blame. "Very much more of the research and development occurs, as you might expect, in those high productivity, high income regions of the country," he added. Mr Haldane said regional inequality was among the most important issues facing the UK. Reducing the gap could open up considerable opportunities, he said. For example, he said that if the productivity levels of all companies could be brought up to the levels of those in the most productive parts of the UK it would boost productivity "by fully 20%". "It would take the UK right up there to rival the Germanies of this world when it came to efficiency and performance," he added. BBC NEWS

Manchester United manager Mourinho may face tax probe
The tax affairs of football manager Jose Mourinho should be investigated by British officials following allegations he used off-shore companies to reduce his tax bill, a UK MP has said. Mourinho is accused of moving millions of pounds of earnings to the British Virgin Islands to avoid paying tax. Further claims about the tax affairs of Mourinho - as well as other top international football stars - have been made in the Sunday Times and other European newspapers. The publications acquired leaked documents from the website Football Leaks, following a cyber attack on football agents earlier this year. Mourinho has been accused of using "a complex web of off-shore companies" to avoid paying tax in the UK and Spain. The allegations surround his time as manager of UK side Chelsea, between 2004 and 2007, and Spanish club Real Madrid, between 2010 and 2013. According to the reports, Portuguese-born Mourinho, 53, placed £10m (€12m) into a Swiss account owned by a British Virgin Islands (BVI) firm. The newspaper claims Mourinho and his advisers deducted substantial costs for a BVI company - which it suggests has no employees. The Sunday Times says Mourinho - as well as Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo - also used bank accounts and companies in Ireland, Switzerland and New Zealand to process substantial earnings for their image rights. BBC NEWS

Energy firms failed to return £4bn in customer overpayments
An investigation by Radio 4's You & Yours programme has found that some domestic energy accounts are thousands of pounds in credit. Energy suppliers are under no obligation to tell customers if their credit becomes excessive. However, they must pay back the surplus if homeowners request a refund. Direct debit energy payments spread the cost of gas and electricity evenly across the year. Many customers are often in debit during the winter and build up credit in the summer. Ofgem has previously calculated that a typical customer's credit balance peaks at a little over £100 each year. Figures obtained from energy regulator Ofgem through a freedom of information request reveal that, in October 2015, the UK's energy suppliers held a total of £3.98bn of credit on their customers' accounts. At that time, there were nearly 31 million energy customers in the UK, but the credit is not evenly spread among customers. David Flanagan, from Warrington, was shocked to discover that his energy supplier owed him £3,049. "I was quite annoyed that the supplier had not bothered to contact me. If I'd have owed them £3,000, would they have been so tardy in contacting me? I can't believe that companies are so incompetent that they don't know what's going on," he said. The energy regulator, Ofgem, said people should keep an eye on their account and ask for a refund, if their credit felt too high. Some energy suppliers provide annual automatic refunds. British Gas, EDF, Npower, SSE and E.On told You & Yours they automatically returned credits each year, if meter readings were up to date, as did Ovo, Green Star Energy and Flow. First Utility said they provided refunds on request. BBC NEWS

Pfizer hit with record fine after hiking price of NHS epilepsy drug by 2,600% - costing taxpayer £50m
Drug firms Pfizer and Flynn Pharma have been fined nearly £90m for "excessive and unfair" pricing to the NHS after hiking the cost of an anti-epilepsy drug by up to 2,600pc overnight. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said drug maker Pfizer and distributor Flynn Pharma broke competition law when they increased the cost of a medicine used by around 48,000 patients in the UK. The watchdog said their moves saw the cost to the NHS of phenytoin sodium capsules rocket from around £2m a year in 2012 to about £50m in 2013 - far more than Pfizer was charging in any other European country. Pfizer was handed a record £84.2m fine, while Flynn Pharma was fined £5.2m. The CMA has also ordered both firms to reduce their prices for the anti-epilepsy drug. The CMA said that before September 2012, Pfizer made and sold phenytoin sodium capsules to UK wholesalers and pharmacies under the brand name Epanutin and the prices of the drug were regulated. But Pfizer sold the UK distribution rights for Epanutin to Flynn Pharma in September 2012, which then saw the drug de-branded - or made generic - meaning that it was no longer subject to price regulation. Both firms then each ramped up the price of the drug, meaning that overnight the NHS saw the cost surge by between 2,300pc and 2,600pc, according to the CMA. It said the NHS at one stage saw the price of 100mg packs of the drug jump from £2.83 to £67.50. The NHS had no alternative but to pay, as epilepsy patients who are already taking phenytoin sodium capsules should not usually be switched to other products due to the risk of loss of seizure control. The fine comes after GlaxoSmithKline and a number of generic pharmaceuticals were hit with a £45m penalty in February after a "pay-to-delay" scandal surrounding blockbuster anti-depressant drug Seroxat. Glaxo was found to have made more than £50m of payments to companies making cheaper generic versions of Seroxat to delay them coming to market. TELEGRAPH

HSBC, JP Morgan and Crédit Agricole traders slapped with £413m fine after using chat-rooms to rig key bank rate
After a five-year investigation, the EU's anti-trust watchdog said the three banks colluded to manipulate the Euribor interest rate between September 2005 and May 2008 by exchanging sensitive information 'to distort the normal course of pricing'. JP Morgan was given the biggest fine at €337million. HSBC was handed a €33million penalty and Crédit Agricole was given €114million. The fines were based on the time each participated in the cartel and the value of products involved. In a statement, the European Commission said: 'The traders' aim was to distort the normal course of pricing components for euro interest rate derivatives... They did this by telling each other their desired or intended EURIBOR submissions and by exchanging sensitive information on their trading positions or on their trading or pricing strategies.' The case covers manipulation of financial contracts linked to the benchmark Euribor interest rate between 2005 and 2008. In 2013, anti-trust regulators reached a settlement with Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Societe Generale as part of the same case. HSBC, JP Morgan and Crédit Agricole did not agree to the 2013 settlement. DAILY MAIL

Spread-betting industry loses £1bn after City watchdog steps in
More than £1bn has been wiped off the stock market value of the spread-betting industry after the City regulator announced a clampdown to protect inexperienced retail customers from unexpected losses on complex trades. The Financial Conduct Authority said it was concerned about people opening online accounts with spread-betting providers without understanding the products they were trading. A representative sample of customer accounts found that 82% lost an average of £2,200 on the products, known as contracts for difference (CFDs). The regulator proposed a series of measures to protect consumers, including standardised risk warnings, compulsory disclosure of total profit-loss ratios across all clients, limits on trading using small amounts of capital and banning companies from using bonuses to tempt people to start trading. Shares in publicly traded spread-betting companies plunged after the announcement. Shares in IG Group, the biggest operator, plummeted by 32% to 532p, wiping more than £900m off its value. The FCA has been examining the industry since July 2015. In February, it told companies to do more to protect customers from losses after finding that checks on their suitability and warnings about risk were inadequate. GUARDIAN

British thinktank received £25m from Bahraini royals, documents reveal
A British thinktank that bills itself as a global authority on military and diplomatic affairs has been accused of jeopardising its independence after leaked documents showed it has secretly received £25m from the Bahraini royal family, which has been criticised for its poor human rights record. Confidential documents seen by the Guardian show that the country’s repressive rulers donated the sum to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) over the last five years. The documents also reveal that IISS and the Bahraini royals agreed to “take all necessary steps” to keep most of the donations secret. The Bahrain donations make up more than a quarter of IISS’s income. The confidential documents have been obtained by Bahrain Watch, an independent organisation that seeks to promote democracy and social justice in the country. The group believes the secret donations undermine the independence of IISS, which says it is a non-partisan organisation that provides objective information about the world’s security issues. IISS has rejected the accusation. IISS, whose headquarters are on the north bank of the Thames in central London, said its mission was to promote “sound policies to further global peace and security and maintain civilised international relations”. Its specialists are often quoted in the media. Campaigners have criticised Bahrain’s rulers for dissolving the main political party, jailing and torturing activists, and persecuting opposition supporters and clerics. GUARDIAN

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