Friday, June 28, 2013

Direct Line Job Losses: Connected to Coalition legislation?

Direct Line workers in Liverpool: Echo photo
500 people lost their jobs at Direct Line’s Thornaby call centre this week, along with 700 at two other sites. And earlier this week the firm announced a further 500 job losses in Liverpool together with 1500 in Leeds, London and elsewhere.

We know the firm isn’t in the red - it recently revealed £94.3 million profits for the first three months of 2013 - up 47% on a year earlier so what is the explanation for these cuts described by Unite the Union as “savage”?

One possible part of the answer is that these job losses may have been impacted by recent Conservative Liberal Democrat legislation.

The Legal Aid Bill passed earlier this year was heavily criticised for the disastrous effects it will have on the ability of people to take cases to court, and on the ongoing work of the CAB and other advisory organisations. But there was another item included in the bill which has gone largely unremarked.

A couple of years ago the Coalition brought in legislation to limit the fee earned by lawyers to £1600 per case for accident injury claims on behalf of their clients where the damages did not exceed £25,000.

This saw a review of business cases for many small law firms and a general tightening up of the Claims industry. However in April the fees were furthered limited to £500 through the Legal Aid Bill.

If you have had an accident and are seeking compensation, you will now only be able to make a claim, where the damages are not expected to top £25,000 if you can find a lawyer prepared to take your case on for a fee not exceeding £500.

And good luck with that! The simple fact is that even a pretty desultory attempt at seeking damages on your behalf is likely to cost any firm more than £500 to process so the bottom has completely fallen out of the injury claims market over night.

An end to ambulance chasing? That is a good thing surely?

Indeed it sounds like a great headline doesn’t it, but let’s examine two potential consequences.

Firstly the effect on the injured: If you were in a car crash, broke both legs and were laid up for 6 months your claim might well come in at £25k – but you will now struggle to find anyone to take your case on for you. If you had a bad back as a result and were off work for 6 weeks you might have been able to claim for £1500 of damages -  but you probably wont be able to now unless you can take the case yourself. Some people simply aren’t that confident.  

So – legitimate claimants will now suffer as the Government’s attempts to tackle bogus whiplash claims has backfired.

The other consequence of this badly thought through legislation is that because the injury claims market has dried up, so too have the number of claims being made. They simply aren’t coming forward.

And it has been put to me that Direct Line – the UKs largest Insurance Company, may have found itself handling fewer claims.

Could that be a part of the reason for the thousands of job losses – and will other insurance companies find themselves in the same boat?
EDIT: Direct Line staff tell me that the Liverpool office has never been busier although definitely not with injury claims. Obviously my original source has only got half of the story so I have toned this piece down from its original assertions.  Whatever the explanation, it is a puzzling tragedy that thousands of people have lost their jobs in a profitable company. And I remain concerned about the impact of the legislation on legitimate victims of accidents.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Support the Shrewsbury 24 : Campaign for Justice

Message from Ricky Tomlinson

There are signs that the online petition to support the Shrewsbury 24 has been derailed by the estabishment - and if you have ever read "A very British Coup" by Chris Mullin you will know exactly what I am talking about.

So if you have signed the online petition and thought you had made your support clear, please be advised that it is possible that your contribution was not recorded.

I am therefore calling upon all TU supporters and those who support these brave men to download the PAPER petition, sign it and share it with friends, neighbours and work colleagues so that your name can be properly added and will count.

You need to send your completed forms to P O Box 92 Liverpool L19 3WD Any problems or queries please ring 07927 937773

I know it is a bit harder but if you REALLY CARE about this issue then you will find the time.

Please see below for an official statement from the campaign team.

URGENT – Paper Petition Launched.
The Shrewsbury Campaign have decided to launch a paper petition calling for the release of Government documents.
We have found that the Downing Street e-petition site is not properly recording all the signatures of supporters who have signed Ricky Tomlinson’s e-petition.
Please download a copy of the paper petition and encourage as many people as possible to sign it.
DOWNLOAD the petition here.

Our campaign committee was set up by several of the convicted Shrewsbury pickets with local trade union activists following a meeting in Liverpool in 2006. We are supported by many national trade unions, local branches and trades council as well as by individuals. We welcome further affiliations and support.

Our campaign is seeking to overturn the unjust prosecution of 24 building workers who were charged following the first ever national building workers strike in 1972. They picketed building sites in Shrewsbury during the dispute and were prosecuted in Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1973. They became known as the “Shrewsbury 24”.

The main focus of the campaign at present is an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to have the cases of the 24 referred to the Court of Appeal and for these miscarriages of justice to be overturned. It was submitted on the 3rd April 2012. Watch this site for further news on the progress of the application.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Cricket back at Newsham

"The sound of leather on willow will once more resonate across Newsham Park". 

A big thank you to Pamela Boardman for sending me this cutting from the Liverpool Echo