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Thousands of Scots workers being 'exploited by rogue employers'

Many Scots are being ‘exploited’ by employers who feel they can treat their employees unfairly because of the recession, according to evidence published today by Citizens Advice Scotland.

The CAS report – Fair employment - details cases of unfair and illegal treatment brought to the Scottish CAB service by aggrieved workers. The issues include low pay, unfair dismissal and changes to terms and conditions.

CAS are today calling for the establishment of a Fair Employment Commission in Scotland, to guard against these abuses and protect workers rights.

Publishing the report today (Monday), CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee said:

“Scottish CAB advisers help thousands of people every year with problems in the workplace. The victims are often low-paid and low skilled, and many of them are un-aware of their rights, so are therefore vulnerable to unfair treatment by rogue employers.

“As a society we might have hoped that workplace exploitation was a thing of the distant past. Sadly, this report shows that many Scots are still being treated unfairly. Examples include illegal changes to contracts, unfair dismissal, low pay, with-held wages and victimisation of those who have tried to demand their rights.

“Most employers are fair, and there are many good organisations which fight for workers rights. But our evidence today shows that there are still some employers who are using the recession as an excuse to mistreat their employees. They feel they can get away with it because workers are terrified of losing their job.

“We all know that work is scarce and nobody who is in a job wants to lose it. But that doesn’t mean employers should be able to take liberties. Indeed, at times like these we feel its more important than ever that workers are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.”

Over the last two years, Scottish CAB advisers dealt with a total of 107,000 cases of unfair employment issues. That’s nearly 150 per day. However, CAS believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg, as most people affected by these issues are too frightened to report them.

Susan McPhee continues:

“The cases we see are bad enough, but we get a sense from talking to these clients that there are many more people out there who are suffering these problems but are too scared to come forward, because they fear they will lose their job.

“We would urge anyone who feels they have been mistreated at work to get advice from their local CAB. At the very least we can inform them of their rights, and help them decide if they want to pursue the matter. All CAB advice is free, independent and completely confidential.

“And to address the problem longer-term, we call today for a Fair Employment Commission – with powers to identify wrongdoing and to punish employers who flout the law and exploit their staff.

“Bad employers make life miserable for their workers, but they also distort the job market. By unfairly reducing their costs they put good employers at a disadvantage, and create pressure for them to adopt similar unfair and illegal practices. It is sad that such employers still exist in Scotland in 2012. They should be rooted out, and made a thing of the past.”