Employment agency watchdog fails to make any arrests of unscrupulous employers as funding cut by 50%
VULNERABLE workers are being exploited because Tory cuts have paralysed the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate.
The government watchdog dedicated to cracking down on bosses’ exploitative practices failed to make a single arrest last year, according to shocking new statistics published today. The government has slashed its funding by more than half since 2010.
Complaints to the inspectorate have risen by 21 per cent in the past five years as companies like Sports Direct, Asos and Deliveroo have faced condemnation from politicians over their treatment of precarious workers.
But the body’s targeted inspections have fallen by 52 per cent and the issuing of warning letters has dropped by 54 per cent in the same period.
Labour’s trade unions spokesman Ian Lavery said: “This Tory record is a scandal. This analysis demonstrates the Tory government’s unwillingness to stand up for working people.
“Despite the government’s rhetoric on irresponsible capitalism and tackling unscrupulous employers in the wake of the Sports Direct inquiry, it is clear that they have undermined the work of the very agency charged with investigating breaches in employment agency practices.”
The figures, revealed in a series of parliamentary questions put by Labour, also reveal that the inspectorate’s staff dropped from 30 to just nine between 2009-10 and 2015-16. In November 2013, staffing levels hit a low of just two. Its overall funding is now only £500,000 a year.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, who led the campaign against Sports Direct’s “Dickensian” treatment of agency workers, told the Star: “Once again we see the Tories failing to act to protect even the most vulnerable workers in Britain.
“Deliberate government cuts undermining the work of enforcement by bodies like the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and Health & Safety Executive leave bad bosses free to exploit at will.
“The extent of these cuts not only identifies the real agenda of the Tories when it comes to workers’ rights. It also demonstrates that rights are worthless to those working in fear without strong, effective trade unions.”
In its Workplace 2020 programme, Labour is consulting workers and unions to come up with a new set of positive employment rights to put into law if the party wins the next general election.
Mr Lavery said: “The Tory government is leaving too many workers at the whim of unscrupulous employers. Only Labour will take the necessary action to build a fairer economy that works for all.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “This government is committed to having an economy that works for all. That includes ensuring workers and work-seekers are treated fairly in the labour market.
He said a new labour market enforcement chief and a “new overarching and collaborative approach” would “continue to guarantee workers have a level playing field and ensure the most vulnerable in society are protected.”