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Working people want action on employment rights – TUC

Poll reveals huge majority for raft of rights for all

THE government must “stop dithering” and deliver on its promises to boost employment rights, the TUC said yesterday as a new poll revealed that Britain’s workers want urgent action.

On the eve of International Workers’ Day, the union confederation published a survey showing that a huge majority of working people want the same basic rights for all — and that most want an end to the scourge of zero-hours contracts.

The poll of more than 2,500 workers, carried out for the TUC by GQR Research, suggests that 84 per cent want to see a raft of basic rights applied to all.

Many workers, especially in the gig economy, are not covered even by the limited existing safeguards such as minimum notice periods, protection against unfair dismissal and the right to request flexible working.

Fifty-four per cent favour the outlawing of zero-hours contracts and 70 per cent want workers to have the right to 28 days’ notice of shift changes.

Eight in 10 also want big companies to be forced to take responsibility for the workers in their supply chain, giving them the right to take action on unpaid wages, holiday pay or sick pay against the commissioning or buying company as well as their immediate employer.

A disproportionate number of workers on zero-hours or agency contracts are black or from ethnic minorities, making action against insecure work a necessary step towards ending discrimination, the TUC said.

The Tories’ 2019 election manifesto included a promise to improve workers’ rights and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised to “protect and enhance” them — but has since been more inclined to rip them up, the body said.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves dignity at work. But too many still go day to day without knowing what hours they’ll be working or whether they’ll even earn enough to put food on the table for their family.

“The pandemic exposed the terrible working conditions and insecurity that is the reality of many of our key workers in retail, care and delivery. This has to be a turning point.

“It beggars belief that the government is still dragging its heels on an employment Bill that was first announced a year and a half ago.

“It’s time the government stopped dithering and delivered on its promise to boost workers’ rights.”

Institute for Employment Rights (IER) director Carolyn Jones said: “The IER has a ready-made Manifesto for Labour Law that is popular with the public, supported by the labour movement and would deliver the policy demands reflected in the TUC survey.

“But the Westminster bubble isn’t listening, preferring instead to restrict the right to protest. The government needs to be called out on its political priorities, by popular protest if need be.”

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis pointed to the retail union’s New Deal campaign, which includes demands for job security, employment rights from day one and an end to rogue employers refusing to engage with trade unions.

Mr Lillis said: “There needs to be lasting and fundamental change to the way society views workers.

“We need a new deal for workers: a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour, an end to insecure employment, respect for shopworkers and action to ensure that retail jobs are no longer underpaid and undervalued.”

GMB acting general secretary Warren Kenny said: “This is yet more proof working people have had enough of this government failing to take action on workers’ rights. 

“For years, ministers have preached about ‘levelling up’ on rights at work — now is the time for the government to finally act.”

Communist Party trade union organiser Andy Bain said that unions and their members would have to be prepared to fight together to win better workplace rights, despite Mr Johnson’s promises.

Mr Bain said: “Mobilisation of members and unity of trade unions will be needed to win these demands and the necessary investment to achieve what should be considered basic rights: jobs and housing for all.”

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