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MINISTERS must end the delay and bring forward a long-promised employment Bill, unions have urged.
They warned that without such legislation, the government’s newly announced workers’ rights watchdog is at risk of being toothless.
The new body, created by combining three existing agencies, will be tasked with tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers.
Merging the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s national minimum wage enforcement responsibilities into a single watchdog would achieve better results through greater co-ordination and pooling of intelligence, ministers claimed.
Business Minister Paul Scully said it would help to crack down on rights abuses in supply chains while providing a “one-stop shop” for employees and businesses concerned about their rights and obligations.
But unions warned that the watchdog must be backed up by legislation. An employment Bill, first promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019, was again missing from the Queen’s Speech last month.
Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said that the urgently needed Bill must include protections to support flexible working.
“The world of work is changing fast and we need to ensure workers’ rights and enforcement keep pace with those changes,” he said.
Unite slammed ministers for failing to include any measures to address bosses’ brutal fire-and-rehire tactics, “[confirming] that the government is not serious about stopping the widespread assault on the wages of tens of thousands of workers by big business employers.”
General secretary Len McCluskey also warned that the watchdog proposals are simply “a reheating” of former prime minister Theresa May’s discarded plans.
“This is just not good enough,” he said. “We’re fighting day and night to protect workers from raids by their employers that could see them lose their jobs or thousands in wages. …
“The government has no right to posture about protecting workers while it stands by as the wages and conditions of decent people are being ripped away.”
New GMB general secretary Gary Smith called for any new enforcement regime to allow unions to complain on behalf of members, ensuring that whistleblowers cannot be identified by bosses.
Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain general secretary Henry Chango-Lopez gave the new watchdog a cautious welcome but stressed that it must be truly independent and respect unions’ voices.
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