We're quite obviously closer to the classical liberalism of the Observer's past than the progressive liberalism of their present so disagreements over policy are going to happen. But we shouldn't find that we've got disagreements on fact for unless we can all both discover and agree upon those we're never going to get anything right.
Sadly, we do so disagree:
The first task is to end the absurdity of bogus self-employment. This employment category is plainly being abused by some companies whose workers continue to be told how to behave like regular employees for all practical purposes – their work can be directed down to exact details, including time, hours, place and uniform. The only real difference is that the employer is able to avoid paying employers’ national insurance and pension contributions, and offering protections such as maternity and sick pay. It’s a scam. Massive benefits accrue to the employers and very few to the workers.
We agree entirely that all of those things are lovely for the workers to have. If they desire them of course. But we would insist that it's not the employers paying for them, all such benefits are incident upon the wages of the workers. No, really, even Richard Murphy agrees with us here.
There is an amount which employers are willing to pay for the labour being used. Whether this is sliced into wages and tax, or wages and tax and a pensions contribution and national insurance doesn't matter, the amount is the amount. Increasing the amount that must be paid in not-wages thus decreases the amount paid in wages, not the total amount being paid.
The absence of these "benefits" does not benefit the employer therefore, it raises the workers' wages. And imposing these costs will, over time at least, lower said workers' wages even as their compensation stays static.
We might wonder why there has been this explosion of jobs paying wages only, no benefits. And then we might look at the minimum wage, which insists that wages must be at a certain nominal level. To keep total compensation at the amount that the employers are willing to pay the non-wages part shrinks as the law insists that there's a floor to wages themselves.
What else did anyone think was going to happen? As cash wages have risen the non-wage part of compensation has fallen to compensate. And note what will happen next if we insist that those non-wage benefits must exist. That minimum wage floor of cash wages will start to bite and we'll get that unemployment as we raise the total compensation above what the job is worth.
All of this stemming from the simple fact that employers' NI, like any other non-wage cost of employment, is incident upon the workers, not the employers. And we really do think that a national newspaper, however progressively liberal it is, should be able to grasp this simple fact.