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Workplace inequality affects economy

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Workplace equality: Could grow economy by 10%

INFLEXIBLE workplace structures, gendered assumptions about childcare, and wide-scale discrimination mean mothers are more likely to be trapped in part-time, low-paid work with fewer opportunities for career progression.

Those are the findings of a National Assembly committee which has been looking at the issue.

The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee believe such factors are key causes of gender inequality and represent a loss to the economy.
The UK Government’s Women’s Business Council estimates that equalising the employment rates of women and men could grow the UK economy by more than 10% by 2030.

The employment rate for women with dependent children in Wales is 75%, compared to 91% for men with dependent children.

The gender pay gap between men and women in Wales is 15% for all employees (full and part time).

A 2016 survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that Welsh employers lag behind England and Scotland in offering flexible working.

The same survey found that 87% of employers in Wales feel it is in the best interests of organisations to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave. But it also found that 71% of mothers reported negative or discriminatory experiences as a result of having children.

Employment law isn’t devolved to Wales but the Committee focused on the levers at the Welsh Government’s disposal including employment of public sector workers and businesses and organisations in receipt of public funding,

“During the course of our inquiry we heard some shocking individual experiences: women who lost their jobs during maternity leave, careers derailed because of the lack of flexible work, and fathers prevented from taking on caring responsibilities because of cultural attitudes,” said John Griffiths AM, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

“These stories have directly influenced our conclusions and recommendations.

“Preventing a large proportion of the population from contributing their skills and experience to the workforce is not fair and does not make economic sense.

“In light of technological, social and economic changes, now is the time to modernise workplaces so that they are fit for the future for everyone, not just parents.

“We believe the Welsh Government can set a standard in promoting flexible working, ensuring organisations in receipt of public funding are flexible by default and by reassessing its new childcare offer.”

The Committee makes 34 recommendations in its report, including:

  • That the Welsh Government should advertise public sector jobs (including teaching posts) as ‘flexible by default’, and lead the way by allowing senior roles like Ministers and councillors to be job-shared;
  • Strengthening the obligations on organisations receiving public funding to provide flexible working and report on the retention rates of staff returning from maternity leave;
  • The Committee heard that the Welsh Government’s new Childcare Offer was unlikely to achieve its main aim of increasing maternal employment in the most effective way. It recommended the Government reconsider the target age group and the income threshold; and,
  • the Welsh Government improve advice services in Wales, and that information about rights and obligation at work should be provided to women at an early stage of pregnancy.

The report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

Business

Easing the pressure on households with free broadband for six months

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OGI, Wales’s home-grown broadband company, has announced a new broadband and voice deal, which offers its full fibre services free for six months, in a bid to help ease pressures on household bills this winter.

The Ogi Max deal, available across the towns and villages where Ogi is rolling out its new Gigabit-capable network, provides households that sign-up to 24 month contracts with the fourth utility free for the first six months.

The broadband provider, which has also reduced its overall package prices by over 10%, fixing them until at least April 2023, estimates customers could save up to £390, depending on the package they choose.

The deal is designed to offer people Ogi’s fibre services in full, which is unique in many of its roll out areas, without immediately adding to already strained household outgoings. With strong customer satisfaction scores consistently exceeding 95% – well above the 85% industry standard – the Wales-based provider is steadily building a positive reputation for its home-grown services and customer support.

Ogi’s Chief Revenue Officer, Sally-Anne Skinner, said: “We’re all feeling the squeeze right now, and here at Ogi we want to help people manage the pressure with a no-strings-attached offer. Not only will households be saving on their broadband utility costs; but fast, reliable broadband can also drive down other household costs too: helping us work from home without having to commute; bringing us better entertainment without having to pay to go out; even enabling us to manage our electricity and heating bills through smart, connected technologies.

“Offering our services to new customers for free for six months feels like the right thing to do, and allows people to try out our services, with a peace of mind they won’t pay anything until Springtime next year. What’s more, we’re confident once people sign up, they’ll stay on board and become Ogi champions for the long run!”

Chief Executive Officer, Ben Allwright, added: “Ogi is the internet company made and rooted in Wales. We’re driving a digital revolution in communities from Pembrokeshire to Monmouthshire, embedding next-generation connectivity – and the possibilities that come with it – into the very fabric of our towns and villages.

“With other utility companies pushing up their prices, as a fourth utility provider, we’re proud to be in a position to support Welsh customers in this way, bringing a service that has the potential to make a big difference to many more people this winter and beyond.”

The catch? There isn’t one. As with all broadband providers, customers just need to enter into a 24-month contract. Once the offer period comes to an end, customers continue with a fixed rate on one of Ogi’s competitive tariffs for the duration of the agreement [18-months].

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Grand Union Trains promises five daily trains between Carmarthen and London

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A NEW train service between west Wales and London could be launched within three years.

Prospective operator Grand Union Trains (GUT) said it wants to run five daily return services between Carmarthen, south-west Wales and London Paddington from 2025.

It has applied to the regulator, The Office of Rail and Road, for permission to run the services on an open access basis in competition with Great Western Railway.

The Government issues contracts for most train services on Britain’s railways, but there are four open access operators, which do not receive subsidies from the Department for Transport.

GUT’s bid involves building a new station at Felindre – next to the M4 motorway to the north of Swansea – which would reduce journey times from Carmarthen and Llanelli to Cardiff and on to London by around 20 minutes.

A fleet of new bi-mode trains which can be powered by electricity or diesel would be used.

Passengers would benefit from “best experience in the market” with bigger seats, more legroom, increased luggage space and a buffet car on every service, according to GUT.

The project is being developed in partnership with European investment company Serena Industrial Partners and Spanish train operator Renfe.

GUT managing director Ian Yeowart said: “We have been pleased to work on promoting this important service which will, for the first time, deliver significant new infrastructure as part of the application process.

“For this goal, we have been proud to work alongside colleagues at Serena and Renfe whose vision for improved services is close to our own and has enabled us to put forward this ambitious project to the ORR.”

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Cost-of-living crisis: Workers have gone without meals or pawned posessions says Union

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Hundreds of public sector workers in Wales have pawned possessions to survive while more than 1,000 have gone without meals says UNISON

A heart-breaking survey by UNISON Cymru/Wales, which represents tens of thousands of public sector workers in Wales, has revealed the devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis on those providing vital public services.

The news comes as the union is preparing to host a major rally against the crisis in the centre of Cardiff as well as launching a ballot of health workers for industrial action following a derisory pay award.

UNISON’s latest survey, which was completed by more than 6,000 workers including 1,555 NHS staff, found 46% of those who took part said their monthly living costs had increased by up to £300 while 1,188 people had asked for financial support from family or friends.

It also revealed 404 people had pawned possessions to survive while 1,025 have gone without meals and 274 workers had used a food bank.

UNISON heard first-hand from public sector employees facing the full force of the crisis.

Vanessa, a kitchen assistant in Torfaen, said: “My son is disabled with cerebral palsy on benefits and lives in a bungalow on his own.

“His gas and electric have gone up from £85pm to £185pm and he’s asked me when he should put the heating on.

“I am worrying how I will keep subsidising him on the money I earn. It’s not feasible. If it wasn’t for Universal Credit, I wouldn’t be able to live in my flat, but I am contemplating moving in with him.

“The government doesn’t understand the cost-of-living crisis. They don’t seem to care and are deceitful. It is heart-breaking to see my son in this position.”

Alison, a public service worker in Powys, said: “Coming towards the end of each month, I have gone without meals and made do with water, a cup of tea or hot chocolate.

“The family supermarket shop used to cost £60, now the same shop costs me £90. I’m technically disabled and I hoped to save for a bathroom adaptation, but there’s absolutely no money to put away.

“So long-term, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stay in my home. I’m hoping for a change of government.

“The Conservatives don’t care about working class people.”

Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Cymru/Wales regional secretary, said: “Our latest survey has tragically revealed the threat of homelessness, hunger and in-work poverty is now an every-day reality for public service workers and their families in Wales.

“Thousands of UNISON-organised workers across all public services in Wales are feeling undervalued, underpaid and overwhelmed.

“We are living under a Tory Westminster government whose ‘mini’ budget overtly benefits the richest members of society at the same time as undermining the needs of the vast majority of people.

“There is now a stark division between them and us and a pressing need for a broader trade union and labour movement led socialist response.”

Wales TUC general secretary, Shavanah Taj, will be speaking at the UNISON rally and said: “Workers in Wales are facing huge uncertainty this winter.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are unsure about what their energy bills are going to look like.

“It’s more important than ever that workers stand together to defend their pay and conditions at work. Everyone has a role to play in this fight.”

Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter conducted her own survey into how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting her constituents and will also address the rally.

She said: “The cost-of-living report I completed in Cynon Valley earlier this year shone a light on the level of fear and suffering in our communities.

“Over 80% of people reported that finances were having a negative impact on their mental health while 40% of people said they are simply not going to put the heating on at all in the next year.

“One person even said they felt guilty for bringing their children into the world.

“Westminster holds the purse strings, but working people can’t afford to wait around for a Labour government to get into power, we need to organise now.”

The UNISON Cymru/Wales cost-of-living crisis rally takes place at the Radisson Blu Hotel on Thursday October 6 from 5:30pm to 7pm.

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