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Unions welcome Labour’s ‘game-changing’ proposals to end poverty pay and insecure work

Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

UNIONS welcomed Labour’s “game-changing” proposals to tackle poverty pay and insecure work on the eve of the party’s annual conference today.

The TUC said the plans, which include sector-wide fair pay agreements where ministers work with worker reps and bosses to agree minimum rates and set working conditions, would help to ensure “hard work pays off for everyone.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner is set to open the party’s annual meeting in Brighton tomorrow by stressing that improving wages, job security and rights at work is the only way to boost productivity and improve worker health.

She will launch a green paper on employment rights, which will include proposals for a Labour government to legislate, within its first 100 days, for a “new deal for working people” — a proposal first put forward by the CWU union and adopted by the TUC.

The plans include a return to sectoral collective bargaining, starting in social care, as part of a “fundamental change” to the economy.

Three quarters of front-line care workers in England are paid less than the living wage, Labour pointed out, while 375,000 are employed on zero-hours contracts.

The party said its pay agreements would empower all workers in the fragmented and partly privatised social care sector to negotiate better pay, terms and conditions.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the proposals “would stop a race to the bottom, rebuild the [social care] workforce and bring about investment in a vital public service.”

Other measures include an immediate increase to the minimum wage to at least £10 per hour, the creation of a single status of “worker” for all but the genuinely self-employed, the right to flexible working for all workers from day one, and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour also pledged to increase Statutory Sick Pay and make it available to all workers, extend statutory parental leave, and end fire-and-rehire attacks on workers.

At conference, Ms Rayner is expected to say that the “driving mission of the next Labour government to end the poverty wages and insecure work that blights millions of lives and is holding back our economy.”

Shadow employment rights and protections secretary Andy McDonald slammed the Tories for ushering in an employment model that results in a “race to the bottom on the backs of working people.

“It is high time that the key workers who got us through [the Covid-19 crisis] are given the dignity and security they deserve,” he stressed. 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the plans are a “game-changer for millions of working families.

“Giving workers and their unions more power to bargain collectively is the best way to improve pay and working conditions across Britain.”

And TSSA transport union general secretary Manuel Cortes added: “The pandemic has exposed existing deep divisions within our society and no more so than in low-paid sectors of our economy. 

“Labour’s New Deal for working people will benefit every worker in our country.”

The party also revealed “groundbreaking plans” to build more affordable housing and give first-time buyers dibs on new developments. Additionally, foreign buyers would be outlawed from gobbling up new builds and leaving them empty, Labour said. 

Speaking ahead of conference, shadow housing minister Lucy Powell said: “Labour is the party of home ownership, the Tories are the party of speculators and developers. 

“They treat housing as a commodity, not the bedrock of stable lives and life chances.” The policy moves away from Corbyn-era commitments on council housing, despite a popular shift to building new council houses in Labour-run authorities including Salford and Greater Manchester.

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