07 November 2006

Last Chance For Labour To Meet Obligations To Student Worker



Office of Hazel Blears MP
Chair of the Labour Party and Minister without Portfolio
70 Whitehall

7 November 2006

Re: Mr Danny Dewsbury Employment - URGENT

Dear Ms Blears,

We are writing to you in respect of your engagement of Mr Danny Dewsbury as a film producer and cameraman in the weeks leading up to your Autumn 2006 Party Conference. As Danny had an interest in working in the media, he responded to your advertisement for this role, and it is reported that he liaised with your special assistant, Mr Emmet Regan. It is also reported that Danny incurred various expenses on his six days of site work with you, including £395 of travel expenses. We understand that even after a letter was sent to you by a lawyer, £145 of these expenses still have not been reimbursed to Danny by you. We urge you to settle this liability as soon as possible.

The remainder of this letter concerns the nature of the relationship between The Labour Party and Danny, which we assert constitutes an employer/employee relationship, and places on you various obligations that you must discharge.

The Nature Of The Relationship: Employment Not Voluntary Work

Based on information we have received, Danny might have expected to be shadowing an experienced film crew to pick up new skills. Instead, it appears that the role assigned to him was to act as a professional film producer, cameraman and editor gathering and editing footage which was used at your Party Conference. We understand that five of the seven films he made were in fact used.

Having read the 1998 National Minimum Wages Act introduced by your government and considered guidance from HM Revenue and Customs, it appears to us that Danny’s relationship with you constituted employment, not voluntary work. Specifically:

1. Volunteers should be free to nominate the hours that they work. In contrast, Party workers gave Danny a schedule of work, and he was expected to present himself at a variety of locations at allotted times.
2. Volunteers should not be under the direction of the employer. In contrast, Danny has made it clear that he was working under the direction of Emmett Regan, your special assistant.
3. Volunteers should not perform work that is normally performed by paid employees. In contrast, Danny’s work was not similar to any of the examples of voluntary work listed on your official website (such as delivering literature) . His was a professional role dependent on his personal skills. This type of role would normally be performed by a paid employee or contractor.

The Applicability Of The National Minimum Wage

We have already made the case that Danny should be considered to have been an employee; therefore, the National Minimum Wage should apply. Although Danny may have signed as a volunteer, this is irrelevant, according to Paul Sellers, the TUC's national minimum wage adviser, “…it is not possible to sign away the employer's duty to pay workers the minimum wage.” In addition, Chapter 28 of the National Minimum Wages Act 1998 presumes that an individual qualifies for protection unless otherwise proven:

“28. - (1) Where in any civil proceedings any question arises as to whether an individual qualifies or qualified at any time for the national minimum wage, it shall be presumed that the individual qualifies or, as the case may be, qualified at that time for the national minimum wage unless the contrary is established.”

As such, we have been persuaded that Danny qualifies for the National Minimum Wage, which at the time of the filming for workers aged 22 and over was £5.05 per hour. Danny worked 76 hours comprising six days of filming and three days of editing. As such we believe that Danny is entitled to a minimum of £385 from The Labour Party.

Engaging A Professional Cameraman/Film Producer

Of course the market rate for employing a professional cameraman or film producer far exceeds the minimum wage, as it reflects their personal skills, experience and training.

BECTU is an independent union for those working in broadcasting, film, theatre, entertainment, leisure, interactive media and allied areas who are primarily based in the United Kingdom. We have enclosed their recommended rate card for crew used on commercial productions (see Appendix 1). This obviously excludes equipment costs which may be up to £500 a day according to Simply Communicate, a website supporting internal communication professionals .

Honouring An Ethical Obligation

Considering the facts of the case and Danny’s situation as a highly indebted student, we consider that the Labour Party has at a minimum an ethical obligation to Danny to pay him a “fair wage for a fair day’s work”. We would like you to acknowledge this obligation and pay Danny for his work forthwith. Should you decline to undertake to remunerate Danny for his work by Monday 13th November, the signatories to this letter will pay Danny £385 to cover National Minimum Wage obligations. As of Tuesday 7th November, our signatories include unaffiliated UK voters and supporters of both the Liberal Democrat Party and the Conservative Party. Please feel free to visit www.praguetory.blogspot.com/2006/11/labour-party-rogue-employer.html and http://www.pledgebank.com/itisonlyfair for more information.

We look forward to your response by Monday 13th November.

Yours sincerely

Duncan Borrowman, Sam Coates, Croydonian, Dizzy, Alex Foster, Grace Goodlad, Guthrum, King Lear, Tom Paine, Praguetory, Rigger Mortice, Ellee Seymour,


SamuelCoates said...

I corrected the Emmett typo in point 2 btw ;)

Praguetory said...


Anonymous said...

Well at least David Boothroyd posting on Conservative Home will feed the info back in the system. The story has rolled past twice on UK Political Feeds having been posted on the Lib Dems Blog.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic work!

They absolutely won't get away with this one, it'll just get more and more embarrassing for the Labour party if they don't cough up, and soon.

And really - what is so complicated about the Minimum Wa\ge regulations that people don't get?!

Love to hear how this one ends..

Praguetory said...

Pat - welcoem to the site. We'll keep everyone informed, have no fear.

Anonymous said...

Well done for getting the ball rolling with this, let's hope you get a prompt response and can shame Labour into paying its dues.

Anonymous said...

fantastic work on these guys. Sorry I have not really been involved. Work has been crazy these past couple fo days.

Anonymous said...

Um... a letter to a minister signed by King Lear and Tom Paine might not receive the response it deserves.

Or then again, perhaps it will...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm pedantic, but it's the National Minimum *Wage* Act and it's section 28, not chapter 28.
I know these things don't matter in the grand scheme of things, but it's amazing how little mistakes like these affect how people view these things . . .

Praguetory said...

Anon - life must really be taking a toll on you. Maybe you can amaze me with how differently people will view these things.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Tom Paine is my legal name! Why shouldn't it be taken seriously? I will change it back again when Mrs Blears has paid. I am sure Mr Lear will too.

ThunderDragon said...

Excellent work!

Anonymous said...

Well done, and if there's anything I can do, you know where I am...